University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name D.R. ex rel. Richardson v. Michigan Department of Education ED-MI-0007
Docket / Court 2:16-cv-13694-AJT-APP ( E.D. Mich. )
State/Territory Michigan
Case Type(s) Education
Environmental Justice
Attorney Organization ACLU of Michigan
Case Summary
On October 18, 2016, families in Flint, Michigan filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case was assigned to Judge Arthur J. Turnow. The plaintiffs sued the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Flint Community Schools (FCS), ... read more >
On October 18, 2016, families in Flint, Michigan filed this putative class-action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The case was assigned to Judge Arthur J. Turnow. The plaintiffs sued the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), Flint Community Schools (FCS), and the Genesee Intermediate School District (GISD) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1400, § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. They alleged that the state of Michigan and local educators violated federal law by not screening to identify students who need special education services. They further argued that the defendants had violated the rights of students with disabilities in the imposition of school discipline, including illegal suspensions and expulsions. The Flint parents and children were represented by the ACLU of Michigan and private counsel.

Specifically, the plaintiffs alleged that children attending these schools were at risk of developing a disability due to their prolonged exposure to lead. Despite that risk, the schools had a pattern and practice of systematically failing to provide ongoing screening and timely referrals for evaluations to identify qualifying disabilities. Also, the schools systematically failed to provide students with disabilities with safeguards and had a pattern of using unduly harsh disciplinary measures with students with disabilities, including physical restraints and seclusion techniques.

On December 8, 2016, FCS and MDE each filed a motion to dismiss, alleging that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. On December 15, GISD moved for judgment on the pleadings, using the same reasoning. On July 7, 2017, the defendants moved to stay discovery pending these motions, and the court granted this request on August 24, 2017. 2017 WL 3642131. On September 29, 2017, the court denied GISD and MDE’s motions to dismiss, in their entirety. The court granted FCS's motion in part and denied it in part, granting dismissal of the plaintiffs' claim regarding universal preschool but denying the rest of the motion.

On October 16, 2017, the plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction requiring the defendants to comply with their child-find obligations (their obligations to identify and evaluate children with disabilities) under state and federal law.

That same day, the defendants appealed the denial of the motion to dismiss to the Sixth Circuit. (Docket Number: 17-2255). On October 24, the defendants moved to stay District Court proceedings, arguing that the District Court now lacked jurisdiction because the defendants had filed an appeal. The court denied this request on November 2, 2017, because denials of motions to dismiss are generally not appealable, so the defendants’ appeal would likely be dismissed. 2017 WL 5010773.

On November 28, 2017, as predicted by the district court, the Sixth Circuit dismissed the appeal. 2017 WL 6947900. The panel of judges was made up of Judge Richard Suhrheinrich, Judge Raymond Kethledge, and Judge Denise Hood. In district court, the parties moved forward with discovery and settlement discussions.

On April 9, 2018, the parties reached a partial settlement agreement as to the plaintiffs’ child-find claims. This mooted out the plaintiffs’ October 2017 motion for a preliminary injunction. This settlement required the defendants to implement a screening and assessment program for the next five years and report its progress back to the plaintiffs every six months for at least the next two years. On April 12, 2017, at the request of the parties, the court incorporated this settlement agreement into a court order and dismissed the plaintiffs’ child-find claims with prejudice.

As of June 2018, the case is ongoing. The partial settlement only resolved the child-find issues; all of the plaintiffs’ other claims are still in dispute. The court put out the latest discovery schedule on May 29, 2017, and the pretrial conference is set for May 16, 2019. The court retains jurisdiction to enforce the partial settlement agreement until April 2023.

Ginny Lee - 02/02/2017
Rebecca Strauss - 06/06/2018

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Issues and Causes of Action
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Content of Injunction
Develop anti-discrimination policy
Discrimination Prohibition
Provide antidiscrimination training
Remedial education
Required disclosure
Student assignment
Elementary/Secondary School
disability, unspecified
Disability (inc. reasonable accommodations)
Aggressive behavior
Assault/abuse by residents/inmates/students
Assault/abuse by staff
Classification / placement
Communication skills
Failure to discipline
Failure to supervise
Government Services (specify)
Individualized planning
Pattern or Practice
Records Disclosure
Restraints : physical
Special education
Medical/Mental Health
Intellectual disability/mental illness dual diagnosis
Intellectual/Developmental Disability
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Causes of Action Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq.
Indv. w/ Disab. Educ. Act (IDEA), Educ. of All Handcpd. Children Act , 20 U.S.C. § 1400
Section 504 (Rehabilitation Act), 29 U.S.C. § 701
Defendant(s) Flint Community Schools
Genesee Intermediate School District
Plaintiff Description Children (and parents of children) in Flint who have a disability or who are at risk of developing a disability due to prolonged exposure to elevated lead levels in the drinking water.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations ACLU of Michigan
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted Pending
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Plaintiff
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief Injunction / Injunctive-like Settlement
Source of Relief Settlement
Form of Settlement Court Approved Settlement or Consent Decree
Order Duration 2018 - 2023
Filing Year 2016
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  Flint Water Crisis: Settlement to Launch Groundbreaking Program to Assess Impacts on Flint Children
ACLU of Michigan
Date: Apr. 9, 2018
By: ACLU of Michigan
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

2:16−cv−13694−AJT−APP (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 05/29/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Class Action Complaint [ECF# 1]
ED-MI-0007-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 10/18/2016
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Opinion and Order Granting Genesee and MDOE's Motions (DE 35 and 37) and Granting in Part and Denying in Part Flint's Motion to Stay Discovery (DE 36) [ECF# 46] (2017 WL 3642131) (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-0002.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/24/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendant MDE's Motion to Dismiss [23]; Denying Defendant GISD's Motion for Judgment [25]; Granting in Part and Denying in Part Defendant FCS's Motion to Dismiss [ECF# 48] (2017 WL 4348818) (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-0003.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 09/29/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order Denying Defendants' Motions for Stay of Proceedings [64,65,68]; Denying Defendants' Motion to Adjourn [ECF# 75] (2017 WL 5010773) (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-0004.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/02/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [ECF# 94] (2017 WL 6947900) (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-0005.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 11/28/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Settlement Agreement [ECF# 115-1]
ED-MI-0007-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 04/09/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Judges Patti, Anthony P. Court not on record [Magistrate]
ED-MI-0007-0002 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Tarnow, Arthur J. (E.D. Mich.)
ED-MI-0007-0003 | ED-MI-0007-0004 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Plaintiff's Lawyers Ciacci, Walter A. (New York)
Heck, Lindsay M. (New York)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Korobkin, Daniel S. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0001 | ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Levin, Jessica Alexandra (New Jersey)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Little, Gregory (New York)
ED-MI-0007-0001 | ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Moss, Kary L. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0001 | ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Sciarra, David G. (New Jersey)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Starner, Gregory M. (New York)
Steinberg, Michael J. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0001 | ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Totten, Kristin (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0001 | ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Bennett, Katherine J. (Michigan)
Berg, Frederick A. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Bettenhausen, Margaret A. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Comstock, Travis M. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Gambill, Nathan A. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Haynes, Timothy J. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Kuhl, Richard S. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Larsen, Zachary C. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Miller, John L. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Miller, Brett J. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Miller, Donald B. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Mullins, Timothy J. (Michigan)
ED-MI-0007-0006 | ED-MI-0007-9000
Richotte, Joseph E. (Michigan)

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