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2/24/2022 Carson bill would help parents navigate special education
STATE HOUSE – Rep. Lauren H. Carson has introduced legislation to give families of special education students somewhere to turn if they are having trouble getting their student’s educational needs met at school.

The bill creates an ombudsman for special education, independent of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to ensure school districts throughout the state meet the standards required to comply with individualized education programs for students with disabilities.

The office would provide parents and teachers a place to bring up possible violations by districts and RIDE without the need to hire a lawyer. The office would collect data about possible violations and would have investigative powers for both districts and RIDE.  The office is modeled after the Office of the Child Advocate, which was created to collect data and investigate after injuries and deaths of children in Department of Children, Youth and Families care.

The legislation grew out of meetings and forums that Representative Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport), along with Rep. Terri Cortvriend (D-Dist. 72, Portsmouth, Middletown) and Rep. Julie Casimiro (D-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter), held in last year in conjunction with ARC of Rhode Island, with a group of over 100 Rhode Island parents who have faced challenges in securing appropriate special education services for their children. Those issues were exacerbated by the many additional challenges the pandemic brought to schools, students and families.

“Special education services are complex and IEPs are legally required to be tailored to fit every student individually. I understand the challenges that schools face to provide them, as well as the difficulties families have when their children’s needs aren’t being met. But no parent should have to hire a lawyer in order to get the public education their child needs and deserves,” said Representative Carson. “An independent ombudsman is a much more effective, fair way to help families navigate the challenges of special education, and will help our state ensure that we are diligently fulfilling our responsibilities to educate all students.”

Representative Carson introduced the legislation (2022-H 7536) on Feb. 18, and it has been assigned to the House Education Committee. It is cosponsored by Representative Cortvriend, Rep. Kathleen A. Fogarty (D-Dist. 35, South Kingstown), Rep. Karen Alzate (D-Dist. 60, Pawtucket), Rep. Susan R. Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth), Rep. Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung (R-Dist. 15, Cranston), Rep. Mary Ann Shallcross Smith (D-Dist. 46, Lincoln, Pawtucket), Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence), Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) and Rep. Robert E. Craven (D-Dist. 32, North Kingstown).

For more information, contact:
Meredyth R. Whitty, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-1923