The Arc Rhode Island and families in its special education group, SPEAR, applaud the Rhode Island State Senate for unanimously voting to pass Senate Bill 2573 last night. This bill creates an impartial state agency: an Ombudsman for Special Education and is charged with ensuring compliance by RI schools and school districts with a child’s special education services and supports. The office will compile data and may review complaints or disagreements from families, teachers (anonymously), or other professionals who are concerned about the child’s education. It may also review the procedural actions of The Rhode Island Department of Education. The Ombud will report to the Governor and Legislature each year with recommendations to improve special education services and delivery in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island families who are raising children with disabilities have struggled to understand the nuances and complex world of special education and how to get help for their children. This office will direct parents to the various programs available to assist them and the compilation of data will assist in identifying trends in our state.


With the full Senate’s support, it now goes to the House of Representatives Finance Committee who we ask to stand with Rhode Island families to VOTE yes and include a $350,000 appropriation in the Governor’s budget.


We must ensure that our state is diligently fulfilling our responsibilities to educate all students – no matter what color, income bracket, disability, or emotional or social needs exist, not just parents that can afford a private Educational Advocate or Special Education attorney. Every child can learn in a way that is right for them and Rhode Island is obligated to provide education to all children.


The Ombudsman Office is vital to ensuring that no matter what school district the families live in, their children will receive an education that allows them to grow, become educated, and independent and will be a future contributing member in our communities.


A student with disabilities is entitled to have their unique educational needs met as provided for under Federal Law. IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) guarantee that children are entitled to a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) regardless of disabilities. The Federal government supplies funding to the state to identify and develop plans to address a child’s individualized needs in education through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or provide 504 Accommodations. This is typically done with a legal document known as IEPs or 504 Plans which are developed jointly by parents, professionals, and schools.


The Arc advocates for and serves people wit­­h Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD), including Down syndrome, Autism, Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders, Cerebral Palsy, and other diagnoses. The Arc has a network of over 600 chapters across the country promoting and protecting the human rights of people with IDD and actively supporting their full inclusion and participation in the community throughout their lifetimes and without regard to diagnosis.


Editor’s Note: The Arc is not an acronym; always refer to us as The Arc, not The ARC, and never ARC. The Arc should be considered as a title or a phrase.

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