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Flint MI: Lead in water, 20% of kids in SPED; 'surge in the needs of its students'

Oct 16, 2018, Detroit News: Lawsuit alleges state failing Flint special education kids Attorneys for Flint schoolchildren allege the Michigan Department of Education is systemically failing to meet the needs of special education students in the wake of the city’s lead crisis. Flint's special education population is growing at a time it lacks 25 percent of its special education teaching force, according to a motion filed Monday on behalf of Flint schoolchildren by the ACLU Fund of Michigan and the Education Law Center. Both legal teams allege that Flint Community Schools, in which nearly 20 percent of students qualify for special education, lacks a quarter of its special education teaching force "let alone the additional staff that may be needed to serve the growing numbers of students with disabilities," attorney Lindsay M. Heck said. The statewide special education rate is 13.6 percent. The percentage of special education students in Flint schools has increased by from 14.88 percent in 2014-15 to 19.77 percent in the 2017-18 school year. … "Stated differently, in a district with 902 special education students as of the 2017-18 school year, between one-fourth and one-third of these students have been left with no special education teacher," the suit alleges. … The lawsuit also alleges that in 2014 when Flint’s water source was changed and lead from the city’s deteriorating pipes began leaching into the city’s water supply, the district faced a deficit of $21 million in its budget…. "The severe budgetary shortfalls trapped FCS in a dilemma of the state’s making. Its resources were unduly constrained at a time when ... the district urgently needed to prepare for a surge in the needs of its students," the suit alleges. Attorney Greg Little, with the Education Law Center, said the state needs to provide the financial resources to hire the additional staff or provide the staff to meet the needs of Flint's growing special ed population. … Flint's water was contaminated with lead when officials used corrosive river water from April 2014 to October 2015 that wasn't properly treated. In children, lead exposure can result in serious effects on IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.

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