In one black district of Michigan, 75% of students fail basic proficiency tests. The ACLU says the failure of black students is the fault of the state.
In the first case of its kind, the American Civil Liberties Union is charging that the state of Michigan and a Detroit area school district have failed to adequately educate children, violating their “right to learn to read” under an obscure state law.
The ACLU class-action lawsuit, to be filed Thursday, says hundreds of students in the Highland Park School District are functionally illiterate.
“None of those adults charged with the care of these children . . . have done their jobs,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “The Highland Park School District is among the lowest-performing districts in the nation, graduating class after class of children who are not literate. Our lawsuit . . . says that if education is to mean anything, it means that children have a right to learn to read.”
The complaint, to be filed in state court in Wayne County, is based on a 1993 state law that says if public school students are not proficient in reading, as determined by tests given in grades 4 and 7, they must be provided “special assistance” to bring them to grade level within a year.
But at Highland Park, a three-school district bordering Detroit, most of the struggling students are years behind grade level and never received the kind of assistance required by law, the ACLU said.
Sara Wurfel, press secretary for Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R), said it was “impossible and imprudent to comment on a lawsuit that we haven’t been served or read yet.”