Special Education Law in Michigan, Indiana, & Texas

Dorene Philpot is an attorney who represents children with special needs and their parents in Texas, Michigan and Indiana.

Often this means going to a due process hearing in order to force the schools to comply with the federal and state protections afforded children with special needs.

Parents frequently do not know what their children's rights are in terms of the education and services offered by the schools, and they frequently feel intimidated by school staffs during case conference committee meetings and feel that they have little input into the child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

These problems can have serious impact and their children's progress can be hampered by that lack of knowledge.

"What we have is what you get" is NOT what the federal and state laws provide.

The schools are required, by law, to devise an INDIVIDUALIZED education program for a child, based on that child's individual needs (not on the school's staffing or budget problems) that is reasonably calculated to confer MEANINGFUL educational benefit.

Anything less than that doesn't comply with the law, and is actionable through a due process proceeding.

A child's right to due process can be violated either procedurally or substantively -- sometimes it's both.

Examples of how the schools commit procedural violations:

  1. Failure to devise an appropriate IEP based on the child's individual needs.
  2. Failure to implement the IEP as written.
  3. Failure to allow the parents to meaningfully participate in the IEP development process.
  4. Failure of proper personnel to be present during the case conference committee meetings.
  5. Failure to give notice of rights, planned meetings.
  6. Failure of the school to prevent punishment of the child for actions or inactions that are manifestations of the child's disability (caused by the child's disability).
  7. Failure to train staff and aides in the child's areas of disability.
  8. Failure to train parents in the child's areas of disability.
  9. Failure to maintain proper records.
  10. Predetermining placement and services before the case conference committee meeting.
  11. Failure to conduct necessary evaluations of the child.
  12. Failure to provide education and services in the least restrictive environment, based on that child's individual needs.
  13. Failure to offer extended school year services to the child, resulting in regression of skills during the summer vacation that cannot be recouped quickly.
  14. Failure to convene a case conference committee meeting.
  15. Failure by the school to notice that the child was one in need of special education or services, despite evidence that the child was struggling academically or behaviorally.
  16. Failure to provide records within 45 days when requested by parents.
  17. Failure to allow the special needs child to participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as his non-disabled peers when the child could participate with accommodations provided by the school.

Michigan Special Education

The Michigan Department of Education (MDE) 2019 performance data for students with an individualized education program (IEP) are now available, as required by the IDEA.

These data provide districts and communities an opportunity to see what is working well in special education for children and students from ages 3 through 21, and to identify what aspects need improvement. Reporting areas include Graduation, Dropout, Statewide Assessment, and Parent Involvement.

It can be seen at this website:

The Michigan special education rules, which are called Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE) can be viewed and downloaded at this website:

Dispute Resolution Options

When a dispute arises between two parties, typically between parents and school districts, there are several options available to try to resolve the issues.

Collaborative Problem Solving Resources

When parents and schools work together on an issue, both parties are more likely to be satisfied with the solution. Direct, early, and meaningful communication between parties helps create a positive working relationship.

  • Special Education Problem Solving Process [PDF] - This document includes details about various problem solving options and provides additional resources.
  • Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS) - SEMS provides free meeting facilitation and mediation services.
  • Michigan Alliance for Families: Communication - The Michigan Alliance for Families provides resources to help you effectively communicate your child’s needs.
  • Facilitated IEP Meetings and Mediation

    A neutral third party can help parents and schools discuss issues at special education meetings.

    Special Education Mediation Services (SEMS)

    SEMS provides free facilitation for IEP meetings and special education mediation in Michigan.

    IEP Facilitation: IEP facilitators support the full participation of all parties at IEP team meetings. For issues of disagreement, mediators assist with the discussion in a safe and neutral environment.

    Mediation: At mediation, the parties explore options to meet student needs. Any decision reached must be agreed on by the two parties.

    SEMS has a toll-free number (1-833-KIDS1ST) for requesting a facilitated IEP meeting and mediation. An intake coordinator can explain the process and discuss the different options available.

    SEMS website

    Phone: 1-833-KIDS1ST (1-833-543-7178)

    State Complaints

    A parent, interested party, or other entity may file a state complaint if they believe a school or other public agency has violated the IDEA, Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education (MARSE), or the Michigan Revised School Code as it pertains to special education.

    The State Complaint process must be completed within 60 days and includes the following:

    1. The complainant (the person or organization filing a State Complaint) submits the allegation in writing to the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education (OSE). The complaint must be signed.
    2. The OSE notifies the involved parties of the State Complaint and then conducts an investigation.
    3. The OSE issues a final report with a finding of compliance or noncompliance. In the event of noncompliance, the OSE issues the school district a corrective action and requires proof of compliance.

    Request a State Complaint Investigation

    Request for a State Complaint Investigation Model Form [PDF] - Complainants do not have to use the model form but must submit a written request that includes the same information required by the model form.

    State Complaint Process

    Special Education Problem Solving Process [PDF] - This document explains how to file a state complaint and provides other problem solving options.

    State Complaint Investigation Process [PDF] - This document outlines the OSE process for investigating state complaints.

    Corrective Action Process for Noncompliance With the IDEA and MARSE [PDF] - The OSE may issue a corrective action plan if the OSE determines a district is noncompliant.

    Due Process Complaints

    A Due Process Complaint may be filed by a parent or public agency. The complaint must allege the other party made an improper decision for a student with a disability regarding:

  • Identification
  • Evaluation
  • Educational placement
  • Provision of a free appropriate public education (FAPE)
  • The Due Process Complaint process includes the following:

    1. The complainant (the person or organization filing a Due Process Complaint) submits the complaint in writing to the Michigan Department of Education Office of Special Education (OSE) and the respondent (the party that is the subject of the complaint).
    2. The OSE forwards the Due Process Complaint to the Michigan Administrative Hearing System (MAHS), and a Due Process hearing date is set.
    3. The complainant and respondent enter a meeting called a resolution session to attempt to resolve the dispute before the hearing. The parties may agree in writing to waive the meeting or go to mediation.
    4. The Due Process hearing is held in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). Lawyers may represent each party. The ALJ issues a decision.
    5. If the ALJ rules that the respondent is in violation of the IDEA, the ALJ issues the respondent a corrective action. The respondent must provide proof of compliance to the OSE.

    If either party disagrees with the final decision, they may pursue a lawsuit in state or federal court.

    Request a Due Process Hearing

  • Special Education Due Process Complaint/Request for Hearing [PDF] - Complainants do not have to use the model form but must submit a written request that includes the same information required by the model form.
  • Special Education Due Process Complaint Procedures [PDF] - This document includes the Michigan Department of Education procedures regarding special education administrative due process hearings.
  • Due Process Hearing Decisions

  • Special Education Due Process Hearing Decisions - Due process hearing decisions in Michigan are available through an online database.
  • Michigan special education hearing decisions are available at this website:


    Michigan MEMO #093-19

    Michigan Mandated Reporter Requirements

    In accordance with section 3(a) of MCL 722.623 – the Child Protection Law – teachers, school counselors, and school administrators are required to report suspected child abuse and/or neglect as mandated reporters. The Mandated Reporters’ Resource Guide states: The Child Protection Law requires mandated reporters who have reasonable cause to suspect child abuse or neglect to make an immediate oral report to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.