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When Schools and Families Do Not Agree

Productive, shared decision-making among families and school team members is an important factor in ensuring a free, appropriate public education (FAPE) for each child with a disability. 

Relationships and trust are the core of family-school partnership; differences in perspective and opinion among parents and professionals, within and beyond the evaluation and IEP process, are expected and valuable when productively managed.

School/Family Partnership for FAPE options for assistance

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recognizes that shared decision-making can be challenging, and there are times when family and school team members do not reach agreement or when a student’s entitlements may come under question.

The RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS) offers several state level options to assist families and schools in resolving issues that remain even after those issues are reconsidered through local, informal dispute resolution.

Options may include the following as displayed in the school/family partnership for FAPE image: prevention / training; individual information/guidance; assistance with problem-solving; informal state facilitation; mediation; written state complaint; and/or due process hearing or resolution session.

If you need assistance with the option that is right for you, you are welcome to contact the:

  • OSCAS Special Education Call Center at 401-222-8999 or RIDECallCenter@ride.ri.gov
  • El Centro de Llamadas al 401-222-8999

RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards

Resolution Options for disputes and alleged violations

Federal and state laws and regulations* require that schools provide the parents of a child with a disability a full explanation of their rights in the special education process. 

*Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the RI Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities.

These rights are described in writing in the RI Special Education Procedural Safeguards Notice, Model Form:

Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese and Arabic translations of the Rhode Island Special Education Procedural Safeguards may be accessed at this link.  

Dispute Resolution Options and Resources Brochure

Special Education State Mediation

Special education state mediation is a voluntary, confidential and impartial process offered at no cost to parents and schools for resolving disagreements about a child’s special education evaluation, eligibility, or services. The special education mediator is an impartial facilitator appointed by the RIDE Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS), who is qualified to assist the parties in reaching an agreement by facilitating communication; identifying issues; helping the participants reach understanding; find common ground and consider solutions; and assisting the parent and school department in resolving the issues. The special education mediator does not take sides and does not make a decision on behalf of the parties.

Who can request special education mediation?

Parents/guardians, adult students, school district personnel and any interested person may request special education mediation. 

What issues can be mediated?

The special education mediation process can be used to address disputes related to the provision of a FAPE for a student with a disability.  

How can special education mediation be requested?

Requests for special education mediation may be made via telephone request by calling the OSCAS Special Education Call Center at (401) 222-8999 or by making an electronic written request by emailing RIDECallCenter@ride.ri.gov.

Resources

Special Education Impartial Mediator Employment NEW!

Special Education Impartial Mediator Employment 

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports is seeking applicants for Impartial Special Education Mediators who will provide a proactive approach to resolve disputes between families and schools regarding a child’s special education program. This person will remain a neutral party and will assist participants to arrive at a mutual agreement using an equitable and informal mediation process. 

Essential Functions:

       Schedule, convene and conduct special education mediations involving public school administrators, parents, advocates and/or attorneys and staff from other agencies.

       Manage the conduct and facilitate a problem-solving process with participants in the special education mediation sessions.

       Provide technical assistance regarding state and federal special education laws and regulations during special education mediation sessions.

       Memorialize the terms of the Mediated Agreements reached by the parties.

       Conduct mediation sessions that assure confidentiality, using discretion and sound judgment.

       Direct special education mediation sessions to arrive at a speedy and meaningful resolution of the dispute.

       Manage an assigned special education mediation caseload.

       Delineate matters to be resolved by mediation and matters to be referred to other dispute resolution processes (State Special Education Complaint or Due Process Hearing).

       Exhibit personal integrity, neutrality, and impartiality in all aspects of the performance of duties.

       Promptly responds to mediation participants’ inquiries.

       Work closely and efficiently with RIDE to accept special education mediation assignments, provide updates of cases, and finalize outcomes of sessions. 

Required Qualifications:

       Advanced knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities.

       Three or more years of experience with the implementation of the IDEA and Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities.

       Recent experience in serving as a mediator preferred.

       Ability to conduct special education mediations within established timelines.

       High level of interpersonal skills and communication skills which will allow for the professional interaction with diverse stakeholders, including but not limited to, parents and professionals.

       Proficient computer and technology skills which allow the ability to schedule, conduct and participate in virtual meetings.

       Fluency in English and Spanish or Portuguese, both spoken and written preferred.

       Willingness to participate in training sessions. 

       Ability to commit to a year-round rotation of being assigned special education mediations.  Note, this position does not mirror the state school calendar and requires availability throughout the summer.

        Required upon securing employment to complete and gain a certificate of completion in mediation from the Center for Mediation & Collaboration, Rhode Island. 

Working Conditions / Work Environment:

       May need to work in a variety of uncontrolled venues/environments, including virtual meetings.

       Travel to any and all cities and towns in Rhode Island as assigned.

       Provide own reliable transportation with proof of Rhode Island minimum requirements of auto insurance.

       Use of personal technology and equipment to conduct virtual sessions.

       Use of personal wireless networking technology to allow for email communications and virtual sessions.

Ineligible: 

       Current RIDE employees and individuals employed within the last two years by RIDE or a Rhode Island public or private local education agency, charter school, state-operated school, or non-public special education school.

       Individuals who have a wide variety of conflicts with either school agencies or parties that may be involved in special education dispute resolution which prevent the assignment of special education mediations.

To apply:

Submit a letter of interest, resume, and three references to:

Kerri Sorensen

Rhode Island Department of Education

Office of Student Community and Academic Supports, 5th Floor

255 Westminster Street, Suite 500

Providence, RI 02903-3400

Kerri.Sorensen@RIDE.ri.gov

Submissions may be either in writing to the Department or through email communications.

Special Education State Complaint

A special education state complaint is a signed, written statement alleging that a local school department or other public education agency violated a requirement of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Rhode Island Regulations Governing the Education of Children with Disabilities. A state complaint must be submitted in writing and must include certain required elements as described in RIDEs complaint procedures. The RIDE will carry out an investigation and issue a written Findings Letter within 60 calendar days of receiving the complaint (unless an extension is granted). If the school department or other public educational agency is determined to be in violation of special education laws regulations, it will be required to develop and implement a corrective action plan. The conclusions and corrective actions stipulated in the Findings Letter represent the final decision of the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Before deciding whether a written state complaint is the best option for addressing your special education issue, it is recommended that you review the Options and Resources brochure as well as the RIDE Special Education State Complaint Procedures here:

To assist you in including all required elements of a written complaint, a model form is available by clicking here:

Special Education Impartial Due Process Hearing

An impartial due process hearing is an administrative special education proceeding in which the parent and school department present their respective cases to an impartial hearing officer, who makes a decision for the parties, rendered in writing. The hearing officers decision is final unless appealed through civil action in U.S. district court or a state court of competent jurisdiction.

Before deciding whether an impartial due process hearing is the best option for addressing your special education issue, it is recommended that you review the Options and Resources brochure as well as the RIDE Special Education Impartial Due Process Hearing Procedures here:

A request for a special education impartial due process hearing must be submitted in writing to the Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports and contain all required elements. To assist you in filing a request for a special education impartial due process hearing, the RIDE provides the following model form that includes the required elements as well as other helpful information.

To access the model form for requesting an impartial due process hearing click here:

El formulario que figura adelante le ayudar a solicitar una audiencia de debido proceso imparcial en materia de educación especial. Éste muestra ciertas informaciones necesarias y tiles para tramitar su solicitud. Para asegurarse de que esté empleando el procedimiento correcto para resolver su problema, por favor examine el folleto sobre opciones y recursos que aparece en esta página web. Para presentar su solicitud, por favor descargue el formulario para solicitud de audiencia de debido proceso, llénelo y por correo a la dirección que aparece al final del formulario. Si tiene alguna pregunta sobre las opciones con las que cuenta para resolver conflictos, por favor llámenos al (401) 222-8999. Formulario modelo para solicitar una audencia de debido proceso imparcial en materia de educacin especial 

O formulrio seguinte ajuda-o/a a solicitar uma audincia de processo imparcial do ensino especial. Mostra todos os dados necessrios e teis no processamento da sua solicitao. Para se certificar que est a utilizar o processo adequado para resolver a sua questo, consulte o documento Opes e Recursos neste website. Para submeter a sua solicitao, faa o download deste formulrio, preencha-o e envie o Pedido de Processo de Audincia para o endereo abaixo. Se necessitar de qualquer esclarecimento sobre as suas opes de resoluo de disputa, contate-nos atravs do telefone (401) 222-8999.

Formulrio modelo para Solicitao de Audincia de Processo Imparcial do Ensino Especial

Search Due Process Decisions

RIDE provides information to the public regarding Dispute Resolution options exercised in each school district by year.

Search DUE PROCESS HEARING DECISIONS
(Hearings prior to 2016)

Special Education Due Process Hearing Officer Employment

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports is seeking individuals to serve as administrative due process hearing officers in special education disputes. Due Process Hearing Officers are responsible for managing and presiding over special education due process hearings throughout Rhode Island.

Qualifications:

  1. Juris Doctorate and membership in the R.I. Bar Association;
  2. an understanding of provisions of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, related federal and state regulations, and applicable case law;
  3. the ability to conduct hearings and issue written decisions consistent with standard legal practice and within required state and federal timelines; and
  4. willingness and availability to participate in training prior to hearing cases.

Note: Current or former RIDE employees and individuals employed within the last two years by a R.I. public education agency, school or non-public special education school are excluded.

Application Deadline: Posted until filled

Please submit letter of interest, references, and resume to:

J. David Sienko, Director, Office of Student, Community & Academic Supports
Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
255 Westminster Street, Suite 500
Providence, RI 02903-3400

Related Resources

Agencias Comunitarias

Parent organizations are available to assist parents with questions and build their knowledge about Special Education and related services. Parents who know their rights can effectively partner with the school team in making educational decisions about their child. The lead parent organizations in Rhode Island are the

Questions Regarding Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and related Education Civil Rights Matters