ACLU files federal lawsuit on behalf of Flint families - WNEM TV 5

ACLU files federal lawsuit on behalf of Flint families

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A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of tens of thousands of schoolchildren in Flint.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced Tuesday, Oct. 18 the class-action lawsuit naming 15 plaintiffs and documenting ongoing violations of federal education laws by the State of Michigan and local school authorities. 

“Today we filed a federal class-action lawsuit because nothing short of a lawsuit will do what is needed to help children in public schools,” Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan said.

There are 30,000 children in Flint, 42 percent which live in poverty, who have been affected by the lead tainted water, Moss said. Lead is a known neurotoxin that causes developmental delays in children.

For the last ten months, officials with the ACLU said they have been investigating the situation in Flint.

They found the state has no standard developmental testing for children 3 to 26-years-old.  They also found students are not receiving vision or hearing screenings upon entering school.

Moss said when kids are evaluated, sometimes after months or years of request by their parents, they may not be found eligible for help – or there is not enough speech or hearing teachers to help them.

"All children can learn but the ongoing water crisis in Flint creates urgent problems for Flint students, parents and teachers," said Moss. "Tens of thousands of families in Flint have been exposed to toxic lead in their drinking water. Given the permanent damage that lead can do to children, the water crisis can only exacerbate educational woes in Flint where children are already being denied their right to a quality public education. That's why this legal action is necessary."

Jeree Brown is a mother who lives with her family on the west side of Flint. She has two children, ages 5 and 6. Brown said schools are supposed to protect her children, but her son has autism and still has not received an Individual Education Plan.  

Her daughter was also bullied for months with no intervention from her school, she said. 

“When we send our kids to school, the staff is the parent. They’re supposed to protect our children,” Brown said. “We were told the water was safe, but it wasn’t. We’re told our schools are safe, but they’re not. They gave us bad water, but the least they could do is provide good education and good schools for our kids.”

Moss said the city cannot come back from the Flint water crisis without a strong education and school system. She said Flint was already struggling with an education deficit, but the water crisis has put families in an impossible situation. 

To read more on the lawsuit, click here

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