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Rhode Island: Parents beg lawmakers for SPED ombudsman; needs aren't met

Apr 19, 2023, NBC10, Providence, RI: Families call for special education ombudsman in Rhode Island

Parents are pleading with lawmakers to create an ombudsman office to oversee special education across Rhode Island.

The bill, introduced by state Rep. Lauren Carson, will be heard in the Rhode Island State House Wednesday. It's at least the fourth time the legislation has been introduced.

The bill would create a special education ombudsman office, independent of local school districts and the Department of Education, giving parents a place to turn to if they feel their children's educational needs aren't being met.

The office would investigate complaints or possible violations by districts and RIDE without parents having to hire a lawyer. It would also collect data on districts that would be reported to the legislature.

A parent, who didn't want to be identified, told NBC 10 News that her son has autism and ADHD and that she waited months for the school district to get the right support for her child.

"We'd have IEPs every two weeks, but the school wasn't doing what they were supposed to be doing. We'd say he needs positive reinforcement, and the school would not do it," the parent said….

"I think everyone wants to see the child succeed, but school districts have restraints and I think parents are going to do everything they can to advocate for their child. I think a special education ombudsman would relieve a lot of that stress," Greco said. "It would allow someone impartial and laser focused on how to best meet the needs of a child take on that responsibility."

Arc Rhode Island, an organization that advocates for people who are differently abled, provided NBC 10 News with a statement.

"An independent Special Education Ombudsman office will offer additional oversight of a system that is often complicated and intimidating for parents and students to navigate."…

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