07 July 2021

Ann Arbor Students Seek Class Action Suit, Allege Inadequate Special Education Services

Last week, families of Ann Arbor Public Schools (AAPS) sued the school district, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE), and Washtenaw Intermediate School District (WISD), claiming special education services to which their children were entitled were not adequately provided during the pandemic.

Specifically, the action contains assertions that four AAPS students between the ages of 7 and 12 allegedly lost prior learned academic skills after AAPS schools migrated to virtual learning.  The complaint also provides claims that the children’s Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) were modified without written notice or parental participation, and that MDE, AAPS, and WISD misused federal special education funding for non‑special education related purchases, such as personal protective equipment for staff.

Plaintiffs request an order requiring evaluations to determine the level of learning loss and to certify the suit as a class action claim to represent all Michigan students entitled to, and receiving, special education services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Plaintiffs also seek a declaratory judgment providing that the MDE failed to properly oversee and distribute resources to AAPS and other districts during the pandemic.

Similar complaints have been filed in other states.  Such cases will presumably be found to lack merit due to the unique circumstances of the pandemic, but school districts are advised to stay apprised of the AAPS suit as it unfolds.