The ACLU of Michigan and the Education Law Center filed a class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court today (October 18) against the Michigan Department of Education, the Genesee Intermediate School District and Flint Community Schools.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 15 named plaintiffs and thousands of other schoolchildren in Flint, Michigan, whose drinking water supply was tainted by lead—something government officials were aware of and did not immediately act to remedy. The lawsuit alleges that the state and local authorities violated three federal education laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
While childhood exposure to lead can not be cured, schools can provide students with the tools they need to combat the learning disabilities that follow harmful lead exposure.
The statement the ACLU released states:
Sixteen percent of the more than 5,400 children enrolled in the Flint Community Schools are currently eligible for special education services. The lawsuit documents that these children are being systematically denied their right to a free and appropriate education. The legal action also shows that [Flint Community Schools], [Genesee Intermediate School District] and the State of Michigan are failing to provide a safe learning environment, allocate sufficient resources, ensure the availability of necessary personnel or adequately prepare for a likely increase in special education cases as a result of widespread exposure to lead.
As the lawsuit and statement note, the school district is already dealing with high suspension and expulsion rates for students with special education needs. The claim seeks several remedies including appointing a special monitor, implementing university preschool for children ages three to five in Flint and preventing unnecessary and illegal suspension and expulsions.
Find the ACLU’s complete statement and lawsuit here.