University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
new search
page permalink
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 Affiliates (any)
ACLU of Michigan
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

compress summary

- click to show/hide ALL -
Issues and Causes of Action
click to show/hide detail
Affected Gender
Elementary/Secondary School
Communication skills
Failure to train
Individualized planning
Language access/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 Affiliates (any)
ACLU of Michigan
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status outcome Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party None Yet / None
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None yet
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 07/12/2012
Case Ongoing Yes
Court Docket(s)
State Trial Court
CASE NO. 12-009231-CZ
ED-MI-0002-9000.pdf | Detail
Source: State Court Website
General Documents
State Trial Court
Complaint and Petition for Writ of Mandamus
ED-MI-0002-0001.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
not recorded
Press Release
ED-MI-0002-0002.pdf | Detail
Source: ACLU
State Trial Court
Amended Complaint
ED-MI-0002-0003.pdf | External Link | Detail
Source: ACLU
State Trial Court
Opinion and Order
ED-MI-0002-0004.pdf | External Link | Detail
show all people docs
Judges Stempien, Marvin R Court not on record show/hide docs
Ziolkowski, Robert L Court not on record show/hide docs
ED-MI-0002-0003 | ED-MI-0002-0004
Plaintiff's Lawyers Chaney, Nakisha N. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Fancher, Mark P. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Guggenheim, Steven D. (California) show/hide docs
Haberman, Rick A. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Macey, Edward Alan (Michigan) show/hide docs
Moreno, Catherine Eugenia (California) show/hide docs
Moss, Kary L. (Michigan) show/hide docs
ED-MI-0002-0001 | ED-MI-0002-0003 | ED-MI-0002-9000 | ED-MI-0002-9000
Rosenbaum, Mark Dale (California) show/hide docs
Salvatore, Jennifer B. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Sapp, David B. (California) show/hide docs
Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Defendant's Lawyers Fowler, Darrin F. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Martone, Jonathan Michael (Michigan) show/hide docs
Pelton, Eric J. (Michigan) show/hide docs
Shekell, Brian David (Michigan) show/hide docs

- click to show/hide ALL -

new search
page permalink

- top of page -