In examining one aspect of the achievement gap yesterday, I took a local approach. I’m going to do so again today, but I hope you’ll think about the universal ramifications of this situation…
A recent article in The Huffington Post reported that the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is suing the Highland Park (MI) school district and the state of Michigan on behalf of several parents of Highland Park students.
The lawsuit alleges that Highland Park schools have consistently failed to teach children to read and write and failed to adequately support students with literacy needs. According to the article:
Section 380.1278(8) of Michigan’s revised school code mandates that students not scoring satisfactorily on 4th or 7th grade state assessment tests must be given reasonable assistance to bring them up to grade level within 12 months.
Apparently the ACLU feels that Highland Park isn’t doing this…under 10 percent of Highland Park High School juniors and seniors scored “proficient” in reading and math on state tests. The same is true for 3rd through 8th graders. This isn’t a new problem either. The schools in Highland Park have been in crisis for years. In fact, things have gotten so bad that Michigan’s governor appointed an emergency manager for Highland Park schools. So, essentially, they’ve been taken over by the state. And are still failing. On top of all this, the schools are in a physical state of emergency, as well. At the ACLU’s press conference announcing the lawsuit July 12, their representatives also alleged “lack of up-to-date textbooks, a shortage of counselors and vice-principals, inadequate heating, filthy bathrooms and improperly secured buildings.”
My last two posts took more of an outraged “How can this happen?” angle. So I will spare you from that here (even though it’s called for). Instead I’m wondering if the ACLU might be on to something. What if this tactic works? What if the state and city spring into action to avoid a huge settlement or a guilty verdict? They can’t possibly just wait for this to “blow over” or hope that it will be an isolated lawsuit, can they? I’ve got to think that this lawsuit has districts and states everywhere shaking in their boots. If not, it should.
Highland Park is just a small town, but there are many more just like it all across the country. Yes, it has problems with more than just its schools. But, I think it’s critical that we think about the forces at work here. And at the potential for legal action to bring about reform. For decades, we’ve ignored poor children and relegated them to second-class educations. The cycle of poverty has, in part, been sustained by the educational system. That’s my opinion at least. And if litigation is the way to stop it, I’m all for it. What about you?
It will definitely be interesting to see how this plays out. I would love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment. And please think about subscribing to our blog so you never miss another post.