University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name S.S. v. State of Michigan ED-MI-0002
Docket / Court Case No. 12-009231-CZ ( State Court )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Education
Attorney Organization ACLU Chapters (any)
Michigan ACLU
Case Summary
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 ... read more >
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

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Affected Gender
Elementary/Secondary School
Communication skills
Failure to train
Individualized planning
Language/ethnic/minority needs
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action State law
Defendant(s) Emergency Manager of Highland Park
Highland Park School District
Michigan Department of Education
State Board of Education
State of Michigan
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Plaintiff Description Students in the Highland Park School District ("HPSD") who have been denied the instruction necessary to attain basic literacy skills and reading proficiency expected of all students by the State of Michigan.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU Chapters (any)
Michigan ACLU
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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Case Studies Courts and Kids: Pursuing Educational Equity Through the State Courts
By: Michael Rebell (Columbia University, and Campaign for Educational Equity)
Citation: (University of Chicago Press, 2009)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

CASE NO. 12-009231-CZ (State Trial Court) 07/01/2013
ED-MI-0002-9000 PDF | Detail
State Court Website
General Documents
Complaint and Petition for Writ of Mandamus 07/12/2012
ED-MI-0002-0001 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Press Release 07/12/2012
ED-MI-0002-0002 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Amended Complaint 08/08/2012
ED-MI-0002-0003 PDF | Detail
Document Source:
Opinion and Order 06/27/2013
ED-MI-0002-0004 PDF | Detail
Judges Stempien, Marvin R Court not on record
Ziolkowski, Robert L Court not on record
ED-MI-0002-0003 | ED-MI-0002-0004
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chaney, Nakisha N. (Michigan)
Fancher, Mark P. (Michigan)
Guggenheim, Steven D. (California)
Haberman, Rick A. (Michigan)
Macey, Edward Alan (Michigan)
Moreno, Catherine Eugenia (California)
Moss, Kary L. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0002-0001 | ED-MI-0002-0003 | ED-MI-0002-9000 | ED-MI-0002-9000
Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California)
Salvatore, Jennifer B. (Michigan)
Sapp, David B. (California)
Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)
Defendant's Lawyers Fowler, Darrin F. (Michigan)
Martone, Jonathan Michael (Michigan)
Pelton, Eric J. (Michigan)
Shekell, Brian David (Michigan)
Other Lawyers None on record

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