Students in Flint, Michigan, are beginning to receive high quality screenings and evaluations through the Flint Registry and Genesee Health System/Hurley Children’s Hospital Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence (NCE) to identify disabilities that may entitle them to special education services. The screening and evaluation program is the key component of an April 2018 settlement agreement reached in D.R. v. Michigan Department of Education, a class action lawsuit to enforce the rights of Flint children impacted by the lead crisis under federal and state special education law.
The Flint students are represented by Education Law Center, the ACLU of Michigan and White & Case LLP. The defendants in the lawsuit are the Michigan Department of Education, the Genesee Intermediate School District and the Flint Community Schools (FCS).
The partial settlement agreement resolved the lawsuit’s “child find” claims challenging the defendants’ failure to appropriately identify and evaluate Flint students with disabilities. Key commitments contained in the settlement agreement included over $4 million provided by the State of Michigan to get the screening and evaluation program up and running.
The Flint Registry, which had hundreds of children pre-enrolled, is now fully operational. Through the Registry, children will be screened to determine the need for further evaluation. The settlement commits the defendants to continuing efforts to encourage and assist families to participate in the Registry.
The NCE has begun receiving referrals for in-depth evaluations by its highly-trained staff, including a full-time pediatric neuropsychologist and related specialists. Neuropsychological testing is a key component of properly evaluating children who have been exposed to lead, because it is uniquely able to pinpoint impairments of cognitive functioning that may be caused by lead exposure. Schools can then target educational interventions and supports to the student’s specific needs.
“We are committed to ensuring that Flint students receive the full benefits of the Registry screening and evaluation program led by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha and her team of highly-skilled professionals dedicated to the care of Flint children,” said Greg Little, ELC’s Chief Trial Counsel and lead attorney in the case. “We are carefully monitoring the progress on implementing the Registry program and, most importantly, defendants’ compliance with the mandate to evaluate students with suspected disabilities and properly determine their eligibility for special education services.”
The legal team representing the Flint students continues to press forward on the claims remaining in the lawsuit. These include the failure to provide appropriate special education programs and services to children with disabilities and to provide essential procedural safeguards to students with disabilities in the school discipline process. A major issue in the case is the lack of qualified, well-trained teachers, support staff, related services professionals and other essential interventions and resources in the Flint Community Schools resulting from inadequate support and special education funding from the State Education Department and County Intermediate School District defendants.
Protecting the rights of Flint children with disabilities is critically important as over twenty percent of FCS students are currently classified to receive special education and related services. It is anticipated that additional students will be identified as in need of special education, and current students with disabilities will have their special education plans revised through the Registry’s screening and evaluation program.
Policy and Outreach Director
973-624-1815, x 24
Director of Policy, Strategic Partnerships and Communications