Senate passes measure to create special education ombud
STATE HOUSE – The Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Melissa A. Murray to help families of special education students navigate challenges in getting their student’s educational needs met at school.
The bill (2022-S 2573A), which passed the Senate yesterday, creates an ombud office for special education, independent of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, to ensure school districts throughout the state meet the standards required to comply with individualized education programs for students with disabilities.
The office would provide parents and teachers a place to bring up their concerns when they believe their child is not being provided the special education services to which they are entitled, without the need to hire their own attorney.
“Every child in need of special education is unique. For families, navigating the education system can be frustrating and challenging. There are often many questions about what educational services are available and what a district is required to provide. Having a Special Education Ombud would provide families, students and teachers with a valuable, well-informed resource who can work to ensure children are getting the services to which they are entitled,” said Senator Murray (D-Dist. 24, Woonsocket, North Smithfield).
The office is modeled after the Office of the Child Advocate, which was created to collect data and investigate after injuries and deaths of children in Department of Children, Youth and Families care.
The office would also collect data about possible violations and would have investigative powers for both districts and state Department of Education.
The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives, where Rep. Lauren Carson (D-Dist. 75, Newport) is sponsoring similar legislation (2022-H 7536).
The Senate bill is cosponsored by Sen. Louis P. DiPalma (D-Dist. 12, Middletown, Newport, Little Compton, Tiverton), Sen. Bridget Valverde (D-Dist. 35, North Kingstown, East Greenwich, Narragansett, South Kingstown), Sen. Meghan E. Kallman (D-Dist. 15, Pawtucket, North Providence), Sen. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sen. Dawn Euer (D-Dist. 13, Newport, Jamestown) and Sen. James A. Seveney (D-Dist. 11, Portsmouth, Bristol, Tiverton).