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State to pay $4 million to screen kids in Flint for learning problems

Apr 9, 2018

State will pay $4 million to screen schoolchildren in Flint for learning disabilities after city water crisis
Credit Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan will provide more than $4 million in partial settlement of a class-action lawsuit to help school children exposed to high lead levels in Flint's drinking water.

The money will pay for screening to determine special educational needs among children who lived in Flint during the time the city's water supply was tainted with lead, due to state oversight failures.

The screening will aim to find "red flags," that could indicate cognitive deficits or learning disabilities, such as ADHD, autism, or behavioral problems. Those children with such red flags will be referred to further neuropsychological testing at a center run by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, the physician who was one of the earliest whistleblowers about the crisis.

Greg Little is with the Education Law Center, one of the groups that filed the lawsuit. He says all kids will benefit, whether or not they had lead poisoning.

He says Flint schools failed to adequately screen for special needs long before the water crisis.

"The lead in the water took an already difficult, bad situation and made it significantly worse," he says.

Parents will need to opt in to get their children screened. The lawsuit will also seek more money from the state later, to pay for services for kids diagnosed with disabilities – although Little emphasized that that services for a diagnosed learning disability are required by state and federal law anyway.

Hanna-Attisha says the earlier a child can receive treatment for problems caused by lead poisoning, the better. She says Flint schools may need to provide decreased class sizes, reading specialists, and paraprofessionals in the classroom, among other steps.