In what could be a groundbreaking action with national implications, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a “right to read” lawsuit in Michigan, charging that the state and its agencies that oversee public education have failed to ensure that students are reading at grade level as required by state law.
“This is a first-of-its-kind lawsuit asserting a child’s fundamental right to read,” said Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, in a statement. “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,” she said.
The complaint names the Highland Park school district as a defendant, and looks to the court to force the state and the school district to enforce a Michigan law that says “a pupil who does not score satisfactorily on the 4th or 7th grade reading test shall be provided special assistance reasonably expected to enable the pupil to bring his or her reading skills to grade level within 12 months.”
The complaint also cites the state constitution, which lists education as an important state function and says that the legislature will maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools.
According to the state Department of Education, the Highland Park school district is one of the worst performing in Michigan, with its high school ranked in the bottom 1% statewide, CNN reported. Less than 10% of the district’s students in the third through eighth grades are proficient in reading and math, the ACLU said.
A spokeswoman for Michigan Governor Rick Synder told CNN, “Everything we have done and are doing is to ensure that the kids of Highland Park schools get the education they need and deserve.” The spokeswoman didn’t comment directly on the suit. The Department of Education also had no comment.
“This is not about pro- or anti-charter (schools), it’s not about funding, or pro- or anti-emergency managers,” Ms. Moss said to the Detroit News. “It is about the right guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and laws of this state.”