By: Sharon Franklin
New York Times Reporter, Erica L. Green recently reported on November 6, 2019 that Flint’s Children Suffer in Class After Years of Drinking the Lead-Poisoned Water. She reported that Angy Keelin’s son Averey, was exposed to lead, and had to repeat kindergarten, and Ms. Keelin now fears a Michigan law that calls for students to repeat third grade if they are more than one grade level behind in reading. She stated “I don’t want him to be continuously held back.” Ms. Keelin says that she wanted to stay in Flint Community Schools, where her blind son, was progressing in a program for visually impaired students, but then it ended abruptly and she was forced to follow the program 10 miles from her home to Genesee County.
Ms. Green reported, that now, five years after the Flint, Michigan Water Crisis the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems — real or feared — are threatening to overwhelm the education system.
Nearly, 30,000 of Flint Michigan school children have been exposed to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Katherine Burrell, Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence Associate Director said the percentage of the city’s students who qualify for special education services has nearly doubled, to 28 percent, from 15 percent the year the lead crisis began, and the city’s screening center has received more than 1,300 referrals since December 2018.
For other Flint parents, there is consolation, because they have the opportunity to send their children to Educare a 36,000-square-foot early childhood center, which opened in December 2017. It is funded largely by private money in response to the Flint Water crisis. It serves 220 students ages 0 to 5 years with lead exposures. Educare is part of a national network that uses research into early childhood education, brain development and the achievement gap between rich and poor to shape its approach.
Today, Pediatrician, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha remains optimistic. She is the doctor who used science to prove Flint kids were exposed to lead in 2015, when she went public with her research. She says that because of the Flint Water crisis, the fallout has created a road map to assist other cities like Newark, New Jersey that are experiencing a similar crisis. Dr. Hanna-Attisha further stated “We’re leaning on the science of trauma and resilience,”… “because kids across this country are waking up to the same nightmare.” She went on to say that “toxicity” existed here long before the water crisis.
…Photo Credit: Brittany Greeson for The New York Times