Legal Office

ScalesThe Legal Office provides legal consultation and guidance to all agency offices; enforces educational statutory and regulatory compliance; and investigates civil rights complaints for referral to the United States Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights.

The Legal Department also manages the administrative hearing process for seeking resolution of disputes relating to such issues as student discipline, residency and transportation through the filing of appeals and complaints with the Office of Commissioner pursuant to the General Laws relating to schools and education. 


What do I do if I’m having a problem at my child’s school?

What happens when schools and families don’t agree?

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recognizes that shared decision-making can be challenging. There are times when family and school team members do not reach agreement or when a student’s entitlements may come under question. RIDE offers several state level options to assist families and schools in resolving issues that remain after attempts for resolution at the local school level have been exhausted.

Before seeking help from RIDE at the state level, consider the following questions:

Where am I in this dispute resolution process?

There is a certain process that must be adhered to before RIDE can assist a party with dispute resolution.  Prior to contacting RIDE it is important that all attempts to resolve your issue be handled at the local level.

It is only when all of these attempts to resolve the dispute have been exhausted and you still are seeking remedy can RIDE be in a position to assist.

Classroom Teacher First discuss the issue with classroom teacher, if applicable, and try to work it out.
School Principal Then, if you are unable to work it out with the teacher Ð or if the issue is not specific to a certain class Ð then bring the issue to the school principal.
Superintendent If you cannot resolve the issue with the school principal, then go to the district superintendent.
School Committee If you cannot come to resolution with the superintendent, then go before the School Committee.
RIDE Legal Office / RIDE Special Education Call Center
If, after going through all of the channels at the local level, the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, then you may contact the RIDE and ask for a hearing.

If the issue is about general education issues, contact the RIDE Legal Office. If the issue is related to special education, contact the RIDE Special Education Call Center.

Commissioner of Education If you disagree with the hearing decision, you may appeal to the Commissioner of Education.
Board of Education If you disagree with the Commissioner's decision, you may appeal to the Board of Education.

 

Whom should I contact at RIDE when I have exhausted all efforts for resolution at the local level?

You have made all efforts at the local level to resolve your concern, but have been unsuccessful. So who in RIDE can help you? 

It depends on whether your issue pertains to general education or special education.  

If your concern is about General Education issues, such as:


  • Graduation requirements
  • School discipline or suspension
  • Bullying
  • Residency
  • Problems with teachers or other school staff
  • Transportation
  • Home Schooling
  • Your child’s accommodation under Section 504
  • Student promotion
  • Health and safety
  • Civil Rights
  • Student enrollment
  • Student grades
  • Tuition reimbursement

Please contact:


RIDE Legal Office

Vilma DiOrio, Legal Staff Assistant
401-222-8979
Vilma.DiOrio@ride.ri.gov



If your concern is about Special Education issues, such as:


  • Your rights as a parent of a child with a disability
  • Rights of your child with a disability
  • Your child’s special education and/or related services
  • Disagreement with a school team decision about:
    • Whether your child needs a special education evaluation
    • The types of timeline regarding special education evaluations your child will receive
    • Whether your child has a disability and is in need of special education 
    • The Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child with a disability

Please contact:


Special Education Call Center

Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS)
401-222-8999
Deena.Lavallee@ride.ri.gov


Where can I find source law and legal interpretations? 

There is an extensive body of educational law and regulations that guides RIDE in its mission to lead and support public education.  The legal office at RIDE relies on its knowledge and understanding of such laws and regulations to support RIDE in ensuring all students achieve without the least limitation placed on their opportunity to succeed academically as meaningful contributors to society.