PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Justice, Department of Education (RIDE) and Providence Public School Department (PPSD) have reached a settlement in the federal class-action lawsuit filed against the state-controlled district earlier this summer.
The lawsuit alleged that hundreds of 3-to-5-year-old students with developmental disabilities were not receiving the education that’s required under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
The issue was first revealed in March as part of a Target 12 investigation, which is cited in the federal lawsuit. The investigation highlighted a young Providence boy who was nonverbal and hadn’t received any education for months, despite a previous assessment that determined he needed the services.
The lawsuit claimed other students had already experienced similar situations, and hundreds more were poised the face the same issue in the coming months and years.
“All children deserve access to a quality education that meets their individual needs and helps them thrive,” RIDE and PPSD, as well as the advocates and families involved in the lawsuit, said in a statement. “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.”
In the settlement agreement, RIDE and PPSD agreed that parents of children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) will receive a series of notices informing them about the assignments and services available. The district is also adding evaluation teams to speed up the process, according to the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement states that parents who are awaiting evaluations will be notified of their ability to secure them at the district’s expense.
In addition, an external monitor appointed by the court will ensure the district’s compliance with legal evaluation and service deadlines through Oct. 1, 2024. The external monitor will also be tasked with providing monthly reports on the district’s progress.