TODAY was a pretty good Monday for anyone who cares about our children with special needs and their parents. I received a written response from the United States Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS). This written response was to notify me that in fact OSERS has found the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in violation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and for failing to issue a Final Report and Findings of Fact pursuant to a special education complaint that I drafted and submitted with a parent on January 8, 2014 (Yes the wheels of justice are so slow, there are no wheels on the Yellow School Bus!).
Sometime in the middle of the 2013-14 school year the MDE decided that they no longer had to fully investigate IDEA Part B and MARSE Part 8 special education written complaints. The Department decided that they could enter into a covert and convoluted resolution agreement with the Southfield Public Schools (and other school districts), and around my back, and the back of my parent. Further, the MDE drew a dangerous line in the sand and boldly pronounced that they did not have to issue Final Reports and Findings of Fact. I filed a complaint (14-00270) against the MDE over their outrageous actions, or lack of action, and they found themselves in 100-% compliance. The MDE shared with school districts and ISDs across MI that they no longer had to issue Final Reports and Findings of Fact, and encouraged districts to submit resolution agreements. So I did what I have had to do on several occasions over the past ten years. I sent OSERS a formal question pursuant to my belief that the MDE had violated the IDEA by not investigating my state complaint and issuing a Final Report and Findings of Fact.
Had OSERS not found the MDE in violation of the IDEA and allowed this precedent to stand,, parents, advocates and concerned citizens would have lost a vital procedural safeguard and right to file special education complaints. OSERS’ position on special education state complaints is that they are an important mechanism for holding school districts responsible and without expensive and litigious due process administrative hearings. OSERS policy letter will be entered into the Federal Register and should be helpful to not only MI families and advocates, but to families across the U.S. Feel free to email me for further information or clarification at firstname.lastname@example.org.