Student Rights and Responsibilities in Michigan

Know your child’s rights (and your own) in the public education system.

Girl smiling in the classroom


According to the Michigan Department of Education, all students have the following rights and responsibilities.

Right to …

  • an education free from discrimination, harassment, and bullying
  • due process
  • protection from the use of any unlawful corporal punishment by school staff
  • freedom of expression
  • freedom from unreasonable searches and seizure

Responsibility to …

  • be in school on time each day unless a tardy or absence is excused (students with more than 10 unexcused absences per school year may be considered truant)
  • participate fully in the learning process
  • reasonably avoid any behavior that is detrimental to their or another student’s educational goals
  • respect school staff and respect other students
  • identify themselves upon request

Students experiencing homelessnes

Children who are displaced have the right to enroll and remain enrolled in their school, per the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987 (reauthorized by Title X, Part C of ESEA). Schools must ensure access to transportation and academic supports as deemed necessary.

All public schools should have a designated homeless liaison.

By law, “homelessness” covers a variety of circumstances, from youth who lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence to those who live in a motel, hotel, trailer, or emergency shelter to youth in migratory or foster care situations.

Students with special needs

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), students with special needs will receive a “free appropriate public education” tailored to their needs. All public schools must serve students identified for special education.

Parents have the legal right to request an evaluation of their children for special education services at any time. Districts must get parents’ informed consent before providing such services for the first time.

All students should be educated in the “least restrictive environment,” whether in general education classrooms with extra supports or, in some cases, self-contained classrooms or center-based programs.

Services are provided for a wide range of disabilities, including cognitive, emotional or visual impairment, autism, and specific learning disabilities.

Services include social work, psychological testing, speech and language therapy, occupational and physical therapy, assistive technology, and more.

Parents have the right to an “independent educational evaluation” of their child at public expense if they disagree with a school district’s evaluation.

Services can be provided to children as early as infancy and up to age 26.

Other special populations

These populations include over-age youth, youth returning from incarceration, English Language Learners, etc.

Under the State School Aid Act, all students have the right to be educated by the district where they reside if they meet age requirements, haven’t graduated, and haven’t been suspended or expelled.

Principals, counselors, and other school or transitional staff may be available to support families in connecting students to education programs.

Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974, public schools must ensure that English Language Learner (ELL) students can participate meaningfully and equally in educational programs.

“I need help!”

If you have concerns about your child’s rights and/or the services that they are receiving, contact the following parties for guidance and resources to mediate the situation.

  1. School leadership (listed in the school profiles)
  2. The district/authorizer that oversees the school (listed in the school profiles; click here to find district and authorizer contact information)
  3. The Michigan Department of Education. Call (888) 320-8384 with questions related to special education.
  4. A community agency (click here to find contact information of helpful community organizations)
  5. United Way’s 211 Service. Talk to a community care advocate by dialing 2-1-1 to find referrals for food, shelter, medical assistance and more. This service is available 24 hours per day, 365 days per year.