"Nothing but damaged kids left:" We can only hope that Kevin Drum will spend some time on this New York Times front-page report.
That said, has there ever been such an unfortunate muddle? Early in this massive report, are we being told that the Flint water crisis has produced a lot of new disabilities among the children of Flint? Or are we being told that it's all pretty much an illusion?
GREEN (11/7/19): Five years after Michigan switched Flint’s water supply to the contaminated Flint River from Lake Huron, the city’s lead crisis has migrated from its homes to its schools, where neurological and behavioral problems—real or feared—among students are threatening to overwhelm the education system.Under any circumstance, we think that quotation about all the damaged kids is heinous. In our view, the Times should never have run it.
The contamination of this long-struggling city’s water exposed nearly 30,000 schoolchildren to a neurotoxin known to have detrimental effects on children’s developing brains and nervous systems. Requests for special education or behavioral interventions began rising four years ago, when the water contamination became public, bolstering a class-action lawsuit that demanded more resources for Flint’s children.
That lawsuit forced the state to establish the $3 million Neurodevelopmental Center of Excellence, which began screening students. The screenings then confirmed a range of disabilities, which have prompted still more requests for intervention.
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. The results: About 70 percent of the students evaluated have required school accommodations for issues like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, also known as A.D.H.D.; dyslexia; or mild intellectual impairment, said Katherine Burrell, the associate director of the center.
“We have a school district where all that’s left are damaged kids who are being exposed to other damaged kids, and it’s causing more damage,” said Stephanie Pascal, who has taught in Flint for 23 years.
Medical experts say there is no way to prove that the lead has caused new disabilities. Pediatricians here caution against overdiagnosing children as irreparably brain damaged, if only to avoid stigmatizing an entire city. The State Department of Education, in battling the class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and the New Jersey-based Education Law Center, enlisted an expert who testified that the real public health crisis was not the lead-contaminated water but the paranoia of parents, students and teachers exposed to it.
But Dr. Burrell said that proving the cause of the students’ problems was not the point. Many of the problems uncovered by the lead testing could certainly have existed before.
It's especially heinous if the alleged new disabilities aren't actually real.
So how about it? Are these alleged new disabilities "real" or are they just "feared?"
Are those disabilities actually new? Or are they pre-existing disabilities being turned up by extensive new testing? Is this whole thing "paranoia?"
This report goes on at massive length, but it makes little attempt to address these basic questions. "Medical experts" are quoted in that one paragraph, and that's pretty much where it's left.
For various reasons, this report strikes us as incompetent, thoughtless work. It's tremendously winning, though, as a modern novel.
Concerning Kevin Drum: Drum has done a lot of work on the effects of lead. He has reported, again and again, that the likely effects of the water in Flint were massively overstated.
Also quite striking: His work on what blood lead levels were like, all over the country, when today's adults were kids.
Unfortunately, Drum kept citing basic statistics and the like as he discussed these topics. Perhaps for that reason, his work was ignored by C-minus orgs like the New York Times.