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ACLU argues Flint schools are failing students impacted by lead poisoning

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A federal judge has 30 days to determine if Flint schools and the Michigan Department of Education are violating the law by failing to provide students impacted by lead poisoning with an adequate education.

The Michigan Department of Education moved to get the case dismissed, saying administrative methods for solving the problem had not been exhausted.

But the ACLU argued this case required federal oversight, because it represents a systemic problem in Flint schools.

Kristin Totten is with the ACLU of Michigan. She said the suspension and expulsion rates for Flint students have dramatically increased since the crisis.

“So if you look at the 2012-13 state numbers it was at 2.2% state, Flint was 2.8%. But then in 2015-16 we have state numbers of 2.48% and Flint at 13.9%.”

Totten said rather than support students suffering educational and behavioral disabilities related to lead poisoning, schools have been expelling or suspending them.

“Under the law children children with disabilities are entitled to protections such as identification of their needs, accommodation of their needs, and also that they will not be disciplined when their disability or related need causes them to misbehave or cause behavior that is disruptive in the school environment.”

Totten said Flint schools need a better system for identifying and supporting students impacted by lead poisoning.

“So we’re seeing how this is adversely impacting the children and the worst scenario is playing out right now. Because a punitive model is being put in place without a therapeutic understanding of the trauma that the children have experienced and also how the lead is manifesting in their lives.”

A spokesperson for Michigan Department of Education said the department could not comment on pending litigation.