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ACLU sues on behalf of Highland Park Schools students' 'right to read'

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The American Civil Liberties Union is suing on behalf of more than 950 Highland Park Public Schools students and their parents, claiming children aren't receiving an adequate reading education.

ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss told reporters at a news conference Thursday the lawsuit is about the "right of children to read."

The suit against the state and others seeks class-action status.

In a press release from ACLU of Michigan released today, Moss said,

“This is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit asserting a child’s fundamental right to read. The capacity to learn is deeply rooted in the ability to achieve literacy. A child who cannot read will be disenfranchised in our society and economy for a lifetime. Highland Park students want to be educated. However, their hopes and dreams for a future are being destroyed by an ineffective system that does not adequately prepare them for life beyond school.”

The ACLU says that the Highland Park Schools are violating a 1993 state lawthat ensures students the right to learn to read at grade level.  The law says, excluding those with special needs, students who do not score proficiently on their fourth or seventh grade Michigan educational assessment program (MEAP) reading test shall be provided special assistance reasonably expected to enable the pupil to bring his or her reading skills to grade level within 12 months.

According to the ACLU press release, an independent evaluation of the school district found that many students' reading proficiencies tested between four and eight grades below their current grade level.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the lawsuit names the State of Michigan, the state Board of Education, state Superintendent Michael Flanagan, Highland Park Schools and its Emergency Manager Joyce Parker.

So far, none of those mentioned in the lawsuit have issued a comment.

This lawsuit comes after Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency manager in May to fix Highland Park Schools' budget deficit, which rose from $6.6 million to more than $11 million. Last month, the district decided to charter all of its schools next year, due to the deficit.

-Elaine Ezekiel, Michigan Radio News

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