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The legal basis for special education 

The federal and state laws that help students with disabilities attend school include the U.S. and state constitutions, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Michigan Mandatory Special Education Act. Each of these laws independently protects students with disabilities. Chapter 1 explains the different laws, the rules that explain what they mean and how to interpret the laws.


All laws that help students with disabilities attend public school share common themes. The intention
behind these laws is to help students with disabilities overcome the historical barriers to attending school.
Public schools must provide services and supports that:
1. Are free of charge;
2. Are designed following the proper process and take into account information from all people who
know the student; and
3. Are reasonably calculated to help the student learn.

The school’s duty to provide services in this way is known as a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE.


Many kinds of evaluations take place in school. Some evaluations, including the initial evaluations that help
determine eligibility and subsequent similar reevaluations are carried out by a team. These evaluations are
called Multidisciplinary Evaluation Team (MET) evaluations in Michigan.

While the law requires that MET evaluations occur periodically, it also requires that the school provide
other, less extensive evaluations on an as needed or requested basis. When the student’s parents or
teacher request evaluations, they must be provided. This kind of evaluation might be used to determine
whether an additional service is needed or may help in designing individualized programs.

Students in special education must also have access to evaluations, such as the Michigan Education
Assessment Program (MEAP), given to general education students, or an alternative. If the student has
behavior difficulties, evaluations may be provided to determine how best to write a behavior intervention

Evaluations are not just standard tests, or checklists. The Individualized Education Program Team (IEP
Team) can design a specific evaluation process to determine the need for any kind of special education
service, including services like extended school year services, or an individual aide.

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