Is a 'right to read' a civil liberty?

Last week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed an unprecedented “right to read” lawsuit against the Highland Park School District claiming that the district deprived students of an opportunity to “attain basic literacy.”

The lawsuit cites Michigan education law which states that a school district must provide special assistance to 4th or 7th grade students who don’t score satisfactorily on reading tests. The expectation is that with help, students will bring their scores up to grade level in 12 months.

Eight students are part of the class action lawsuit which the ACLU says was filed on behalf of students with extremely low test scores. The lawsuit states that the school district is destroying the “hopes and dreams” of students since it does not adequately prepare them for the future. As evidence, the ACLU points to the lack of textbooks, unheated classrooms, computer classes with no instructors, libraries that don’t allow students to check out books, and class sizes of 50 students.

The school district is facing an $11 million deficit. Similar to Muskegon Heights schools, the state-appointed Emergency Manager for Highland Park announced plans to privatize the entire school district. She, along with the state of Michigan and the state Department of Education are also named in the lawsuit.