When news broke that drinking water in Flint, Michigan was contaminated with lead—and that officials had failed to take action for more than a year—the outcry was swift. In January of 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency, and US President Obama authorized assistance from federal agencies.
The water crisis continues to affect the people of Flint—especially the youngest among them. School-age children who experience exposure to lead are likely to face cognitive and behavioral challenges into adulthood.
This litigation is one of the most pressing educational civil rights cases in the country, and we are doing all we can to vigorously represent the interests of these children.
Associate, New York
Few would deny that these children are in need of special services to which they have a legal right. Yet Flint's schools have not met their duty to provide such services. Budgetary pressures are partly to blame; even before the water crisis, Flint's schools had cut teachers and staff in the face of a US$10 million deficit.
In 2016, in large part thanks to the proactive efforts of New York partner Greg Little, White & Case joined forces with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the Education Law Center, a public interest law firm, to file a class action complaint on behalf of Flint children who suffered lead exposure. As noted in The Washington Post, one of several outlets that covered the suit, the complaint alleges these children have been denied the special education services that are their right under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and Michigan state law.
The 133-page complaint sounds an urgent note. "In the wake of the Flint lead crisis, Flint children face an unprecedented educational and civil rights disaster," the complaint states. "It is impossible to overstate the resounding effects of the failure to provide meaningful educational opportunities, and to provide them now."
"We feel a tremendous sense of urgency about this case," says associate Lindsay Heck, who has spearheaded our work on the case under the supervision of partner Greg Starner. Joining Lindsay are more than ten associates including Walter Ciacci, Dominique Forrest, Laura Grai and Michael Lu. "The adverse effects of lead exposure on health and functioning are beyond dispute, and 30,000 school-age children in Flint have been put at risk. Education and special services are the only potent antidotes. This litigation is one of the most pressing educational civil rights cases in the country, and we are doing all we can to vigorously represent the interests of these children."
UN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
GOALS ADVANCED BY THIS WORK
03 | Good Health and Well-Being
04 | Quality Education
06 | Clean Water and Sanitation
10 | Reduced Inequalities