U.S. Dept. of Ed, Office for Civil Rights finds MI Dept. of Ed in Violation of ADA & Section 504!

On February 18, 2014 I filed an online complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights and alleging that the Michigan Department of Education’s webpage for a one-month public comment period on potentially devastating revisions to our special education rules was inaccessible. Sixteen months later and after a thorough investigation and lengthy dialogue and negotiations with the MI Department of Ed, the OCR has found this renegade State Educational Agency in violation of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. I have attached links to the OCR’s Final Report, their letter to me, and the Voluntary Resolution Agreement signed by Mike Flanagan, our former State Superintendent.  Anyone that thinks I am happy about the OCR finding our MI Department of Ed in violation of our nation’s disability laws would benefit from a 48-hour psychiatric hold. This is a sad day in another sad chapter of my tireless and almost thankless advocacy and activism on behalf of our State’s children with special needs.  The State I have called home for my entire life does not value children or adults with disabilities. The MI Department of Ed proposed a devastating package of revisions to our Michigan Administrative Rules for Special Education and denied adults with various disabilities with access to the webpage that had all of the information on the rule promulgation process. The end of “this” story is lovely and involves eighteen months of David and Goliath advocacy with the support of the Chairs of our Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and our Lt. Governor Brian Calley.  We showed the MI Department of Ed what real due diligence, advocacy and commitment are and that we will go to the mat in our quest to see our “special” kids receive a free appropriate public education.  All that said, had I not successfully sounded the alarms on a package of rule revisions that the MDE were doing a masterful job of hiding, they would have been pushed through even while the civil rights of adults with disabilities had been violated during a paltry one-month public comment period.  So to the MDE, I say this. Had our collective effort to stop your proposed revisions not been successful I would have seen you in Federal Court with the OCR’s Final Report in hand.  My hope? My dream? Our collective effort with the full support of Lt. Governor Calley will lead to changes to our laws, rules, policies and procedures, and our children with special learning needs will see improved educational opportunities and outcomes.  Our children deserve nothing less!

MDE-OCR Voluntary Resolution Agreement June 5 2015OCR Final Report on Complaint Against MDE Website June 2015OCR letter to Marcie Lipsitt pursuant to MDE Website Complaint June 2015

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