PPSD special education services will change after lawsuit settlement

The parties involved have agreed to a series of steps to properly notify parents of services, and allow a court-appointed monitor to create status reports.

A settlement has been reached in the federal class action complaint that alleged the Providence Public School District failed to provide special education services to students.

This week, the Rhode Island Department of Education and the American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island announced the agreement. The resolution comes only a month and a half after attorneys from the RI ACLU and the RI Center for Justice filed the suit.

A grassroots group, Parents Leading for Educational Equity, brought the suit in July alleging that hundreds of young students with disabilities did not receive special education services to which they were entitled. The suit also alleged that RIDE and PPSD “have been well aware that Providence has not been providing mandated federal special education services at least since March 2022, but they have not taken the steps necessary to come into compliance with federal law.”

As a result, attorneys sought a court order to force the state to start offering those services.

More: ‘Systemic failures’ in Providence school special education lawsuit alleges

Here’s what the new Special Education agreement in Providence entails

Releases from RIDE and the RI ACLU said parties have agreed on a “process and series of steps, generally based on actions and efforts underway by the District, to achieve timely and permanent compliance with evaluations and delivery of education services.”

That includes notifying families about available services, adding new teams to the district to accelerate evaluations, and making parents aware of their ability to get evaluations at the district’s expense. A court-appointed monitor will make sure the district is in compliance with the agreement and will create monthly status reports until the start of October 2024.

More: ACLU, RI Legal Services file federal complaint against PPSD. Here’s what it says.

In a joint statement, RIDE, PPSD and the plaintiffs said “All children deserve access to a quality education that meets their individual needs and helps them thrive.”

“Providence, like communities across the nation, faces ongoing challenges in delivering preschool special education in part due to the pandemic, and we know that it will take sustained partnership and commitment to get the job done,” the statement read.

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