ACLU sues Highland Park school district over students’ poor reading skills

Third grade students in summer school in Chicago on July 2, 2003.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is suing the Highland Park, Mich., school district for failing to teach its students to read at grade level, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

The ACLU filed its lawsuit on behalf of the Highland Park district’s 969 students, nearly 100 percent of whom are African American, in Wayne County Circuit Court on Thursday, the Detroit News reported.

According to the lawsuit, two-thirds of the district’s 4th graders and three-quarters of its 7th graders are unable to read at a proficient level on state tests, and 90 percent of its 12th graders fail the reading section of their state exams, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

While state law requires districts to provide extra reading instruction to students who do not score satisfactorily on state reading tests in 4th or 7th grade, the ACLU alleges the district has failed to supply additional instruction, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The lawsuit also argues that the district’s substandard school buildings – described as having filthy bathrooms, leaky ceilings, and inadequate heating – as well as a lack of books and little effort to track student performance have impeded students’ academic progress, the Detroit News reported.

"This case, simply put, is the right for children to read," Kary Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, said, according to the Detroit News. "This case is about fulfilling the constitutional mandate of this state at the most fundamental level.”

The lawsuit wants the court to force the district to improve school conditions and work to improve students’ literacy, the Christian Science Monitor reported.

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