ACLU suing schools for failing to teach students to read

The Michigan chapter of the US civil rights group, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLY), announced 12 July 2012 that it has filed a class action suit on behalf of children in Highland Park, Michigan, who the local public schools have failed to teach to read. The suit alleges that the schools’ failure to teach students to read violate Michigan laws.

“The capacity to learn is deeply rooted in the ability to achieve literacy. A child who cannot read will be disenfranchised in our society and economy for a lifetime,” said Kary L. Moss, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan. “Highland Park students want to be educated. However, their hopes and dreams for a future are being destroyed by an ineffective system that does not adequately prepare them for life beyond school.”

The ACLU contends that this is a first-of-it’s-kind lawsuit, and it may be a true assertion, depending on how one defines “kind.” It’s a class action, which is the first of that theory that I’ve seen—and the class-action approach may be a very good path to pursue because the injury is more clearly widespread than it is for an individual, and the harm to society is easier to show. There have, however, been previous suits alleging that schools failed to discharge a duty to teach reading. Alert readers of Teach Effectively will recall a post about “J.K.” suing his schools for failing to prepare him for post-secondary education (“Ex-Student sues school“) and may also recall that in that post I listed notes about the Peter Doe case from the 1970s as well as some other resources about educational malpractice that have discussed this topic.

Let’s see what happens. For right now, here’s a cheer for the ACLU for raising this important issue. Too many students are being neglected, shunted aside, left for lost. Students who can read and write (and compute and do science as well as sing and do other things, too) will have a better chance to make more and more lasting contributions to society than they would were they if they are left ill-educated, as is happening too often in our public schools. So hooray for the ACLU shining a light here.

Meanwhile, here is as the press release from the ACLU, entitled “Highland Park Students File Class-Action ‘Right to Read’ Lawsuit” (follow the link embedded in the end of the release that points to many additional material) as well as a list of selected examples of coverage of the current story in various press sources:

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