Systemic Discrimination: Flint Sued For Denial Of Special Education Services

The A.C.L.U. has filed a lawsuit against the Michigan state and the Flint school districts for an alleged systemic discrimination against children with special needs.

Coupled with the deplorable living conditions residents of Flints are faced with, educational services to school children have also been curtailed. Due to the joint effort of The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and some affected families, the systemic discrimination against the Black dominated city has been brought before the law.  A lawsuit has been filed against the State of Michigan, Flint Community Schools and the Genessee International School District. We furnish you with the full story from the following reliable sources:


Special needs students in Flint have been short-changed for years and those problems were compounded by the city’s water crisis, the ACLU said in a lawsuit filed today.

The class-action suit, filed on behalf of 15 named children between ages 3 and 17, asks the federal courts to find that the state Department of Education, the Genesee County Intermediate School District and Flint Community Schools are violating the law by failing to ensure that Flint school children “receive access to a free appropriate public education and freedom from disability-based systemic discrimination.” Read more.


After Jeree Brown’s five-year-old son, Jabaro, was diagnosed with autism in 2014, the Flint public school refused to acknowledge the condition, let alone address it, she said, even as the city was mired in a lead contamination crisis that could have had a dramatic impact on kids with special needs.

“I requested for him to have speech therapy – he was denied for that,” she said.

The proposed class-action lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and the Education Law Center, alleges that students enrolled in special education services in Flint’s school district – about 16% of the total enrollment – are systematically being denied “a right to a free and appropriate education” as a result of the state failing to allocate sufficient resources. Nearly 30,000 children under 19 years old lived in Flint during the recent school year, according to the complaint, a quarter of whom were younger than five years old.

“We’re asking for systemic change, so not monetary damages or anything like that,” said Kristin Totten, education attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “We want structural reforms in the education system to address the needs of the children of Flint.” Read more.


As the lawsuit and statement note, the school district is already dealing with high suspension and expulsion rates for students with special education needs. The claim seeks several remedies including appointing a special monitor, implementing university preschool for children ages three to five in Flint and preventing unnecessary and illegal suspension and expulsions. Read more.


Flint parent Nakiya Wakes said it was her 7-year-old son who was suspended 50 times last year, during which she said she was begging the school to evaluate him for special education classes.

I kept pleading with the school that he needed an IEP — individualized education plan. But they were still suspending him,” Wakes said.

Her son, now 8, and his sister both tested for high levels of lead last year, Wakes said. “They were not willing to work with me.”

Wakes said there was one time her son had fingerprints on his arms from being held down by school staff.

“The response was negative discipline policy,” she said. “One person held one arm, the other person had an arm, then another had a leg. It doesn’t take four adults for a first-grader. They held him down so hard he had fingerprints on his arms. That’s too tight.”

“These schools are not providing the services they’re supposed to be. We need positive discipline policies. These kids are going to need help through college. Lead is irreversible — they’re going to need help the rest of their lives.” Read more. 


The lawsuit alleges ongoing violations of three federal laws: the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

The extensive lead poisoning in Flint has combined with the lack of essential special education resources in the Flint schools to create a tragic crisis,” said Gregory Little, a partner at White & Case and a board member of the Education Law Center. “By insisting on a positive learning environment for all students, this lawsuit will help all children and families in Flint.”

Remedies requested in the lawsuit include:

■ Steps to identify the academic and behavioral needs of all Flint students in the school district.

■Implementation of positive behavioral interventions, in every school, with training and support to all personnel interacting with students.

■ Prevention of unnecessary suspensions and expulsions.

■ Requiring all Flint schools to provide special education services and accommodations for children with disabilities.

■ Oversight and monitoring of corrective measures needed to meet the educational needs of all students.

■ Convening of a panel of experts to evaluate current special education services in Flint.

■ Appointment of a special monitor to oversee implementation of the remedies.

Flint Community Schools Superintendent Bilal Tawwab said as with all legal matters he was unable to provide specific comment on pending litigation. Read more.

This is a clear case of systemic discrimination against Black people. Firstly, their water was poisoned with lead and now that their children are suffering from the consequences of that contamination, officials have refused to provide them with the needed educational services. America simply doesn’t care about the city of Flint just because it is predominantly Black. This is inhumane and unacceptable by all standards. They want to destroy the future of Black people knowing that children are the future; they want to employ all means to make life difficult for them. Those found culpable for this wicked act of negligence must be made to face the law.


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