The Flint Water Crisis May Be Taking a Horrifying Toll on the City's Students


Third grade reading proficiency in Flint has plummeted nearly 75% since the start of the city’s ongoing water crisis, according to a new report by the Detroit Free Press.

In 2013, the year Flint’s water system became tainted, the city’s third grade reading proficiency level was at 41.8%. Last year, that number dropped to just 10.7%.

Flint school board vice president Harold Woodson put it bluntly: “We’re in crisis mode”

While third grade reading proficiency in Michigan has dropped across the board in recent years (from 70% in 2015 to 44% last year) thanks in part to new progress metrics imposed in 2015, Flint’s particularly extreme plummet comes as the community there grapples with the ongoing fallout from the water crisis and the state’s blasé response.

Last January, a group of Flint students brought a lawsuit against state and local officials, claiming that they weren’t doing enough either to identify children affected by lead poisoning or to give those children extra help in school. As the Metro Times noted in its coverage of the suit, “lead exposure during childhood can lead to limited IQ, attention span, and behavioral problems.”

But it’s not simply direct exposure to filthy water that may be affecting Flint’s children.

“I certainly think that some of the [plummeting proficiency numbers] could be due to [lead poisoning],” Michigan Superintendent of Education Brian Whiston told the Free Press. “But some of it could be stress. I’m certainly disappointed that it’s at that level. These families have gone through a lot of stress. So I wouldn’t be surprised to hear things dropped considerably.”

According to the paper, Gov. Rick Snyder—who has already been accused of sorely mishandling Flint’s water crisis—declined to return two attempts for comment on its reporting.

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