HIGHLAND PARK (WWJ/AP) - 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 getting the tools needed to learn to read.
ACLU of Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss told reporters at a news conference Thursday the lawsuit is about “a right of children to read.”
“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,” said Moss. “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 suit against the state and others seeks class-action status. It claims that students in the district have received poor education.
“No case ever filed anywhere in the U.S. has addressed a school system in such dire straits. The Highland Park School District is among the lowest achieving school districts in the nation, let alone Michigan,” said Mark Rosenbaum, University of Michigan Law School Professor and ACLU cooperating attorney. “How the State responds to this lawsuit—whether it opposes a right to read for the two-thirds of Highland Park schoolchildren who score below proficient on the Michigan reading assessment test—reveals its concern for the fate of these children and their community. The destiny of these children will be the destiny of Michigan.”
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. The state has advanced Highland Park Schools several state aid payments to meet teacher payroll.
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