On July 12, 2012 the Michigan ACLU and 12 students filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the County of Wayne (Michigan) against the Highland Park School District ("School District"), the State of Michigan, and related officials. The Plaintiffs alleged that the School District had violated its ...
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On July 12, 2012 the Michigan ACLU and 12 students filed this lawsuit in the Circuit Court for the County of Wayne (Michigan) against the Highland Park School District ("School District"), the State of Michigan, and related officials. The Plaintiffs alleged that the School District had violated its duty under MCL 380.1278(8), which requires that "a pupil who does not score satisfactorily on the 4th or 7th grade Michigan educational assessment program [MEAP] 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 Plaintiffs also alleged that the State had failed to enforce the statute, and to fulfill its obligations under Article 8 of the Michigan Constitution, which in § 1 declares "schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged" and in § 2 requires that the legislature "maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law." In the School District, two thirds of all students lacked the basic literacy skills required to pass the MEAP exam, and the special assistance mandated by MCL 380.1278(8) was not provided.
The Plaintiffs also claimed that the State had violated the equal protection clause of the Michigan Constitution, arguing equal protection of the law required equal access to basic educational opportunities for children in all Michigan public school districts. The Plaintiffs sought declaratory, injunctive, and equitable relief from the conditions imposed by the Defendants.
The Defendants filed motions to dismiss the plaintiffs' allegations, and several hearings were held on this motions between January and June of 2013. On June 27, 2013, the Court (Judge Marvin R. Stempien) issued an Opinion and Order in which it held that, although the Statute does not explicitly create a private cause of action, it did imply a cause of action. The Plaintiffs therefore did have standing to bring the case under MCL 380.1278(8). The Judge also held that the Legislature's decision to delegate its Article 8 responsibilities to local authorities did not divest the Legislature and the State government from their duty to ensure that the State's public schools provided an adequate level of education. He held that the education of children could not be "abandon[ed] ... to the vagaries of local school finances." Judge Stempien also denied the Defendants' motion to dismiss the entirety of the complaint on the grounds that the Plaintiffs had not exhausted their administrative remedies, finding the existing administrative remedies insufficient to cure the alleged violations. The Defendants' motions to dismiss on the grounds of government immunity, mootness, and lack of ripeness were also dismissed. The Judge did dismiss the Plaintiffs' equal protection claim, finding that the Plaintiff's complaint did not state facts that could show that the students in the Highland Park School District were treated unequally as compared to students from other districts. S.S. v. State of Michigan, 2013.
This "right to read" lawsuit is the first of its kind in Michigan, and the Clearinghouse will follow it as it develops. The case is ongoing.Alex Colbert-Taylor - 07/12/2013