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ACLU sues state, local educators for failing to provide "meaningful education" in Flint

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
ACLU-Michigan executive director Kary Moss announces federal class action lawsuit calling for improvements to Flint's special education programs

The American Civil Liberties Union today filed a federal class action lawsuit to force fixes to Flint’s problem-plagued school district.

Flint’s public schools struggled even before the city’s lead-tainted tap water threatened to negatively affect the development of its students.

The lawsuit claims the state of Michigan and local educators are in violation of federal law by not screening to identify students who need special education services, and failing to provide all students with a “meaningful education.”

The ACLU’s Kary Moss says there has been little done to help the struggling school district recover from the Flint water crisis and its own financial problems.

Moss says state and local educators are failing Flint school children.   

“Litigation is a last resort,” Moss told reporters. “We have filed this case…because we see nothing else working.”

The suit is seeking more access to special education, and the appointment of a special monitor.

State officials are saying little about the lawsuit.

“We do not comment on pending litigation,” says Martin Ackley, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Education.

Flint Community Schools or the Genesee Intermediate School District are also named in the lawsuit.

"The Genesee Intermediate School District is reviewing this lawsuit, and as a general practice, will not comment on pending litigation," says Steven Tunnicliff, Associate Superintendent, "The GISD has been, and remains, deeply committed to the needs of all students and families in Flint and Genesee County."

Flint Community School district officials also declined to directly comment on the lawsuit. 

"The health and well-being of Flint Community Schools students remains a top priority," says Bilal Tawwab, Flint's superintendent, "A number of additional wrap around services, support programs and initiatives have been implemented to support students and their families."

There are more than 400 Flint water crisis-related lawsuits awaiting action by the courts. 

Moss says she's hopeful a federal judge will act soon on their request for an injunction, so the process of dealing with the problem can move quickly.    

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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