RI Legal Services and the ACLU of Rhode Island have filed a formal complaint with the state Department of Education, charging the Providence School District with violating various laws and regulations designed to provide appropriate educational services to students who are also English Language Learners (ELL).

The complaint alleges, among other things, that families are not provided notice of their educational rights in their native language, that schools force parents to waive their children’s right to ELL instruction as a condition of providing them special education placement, and that the school district fails to meet various state regulatory standards for ELL instruction. The complaint was filed for three parents and their children, and it was also filed on behalf of all other similarly situated school children in the district.

The complaint, filed by RILS attorney Veronika Kot, RILS volunteer attorney Janne Reisch, and ACLU volunteer attorney Ellen Saideman asks RIDE to issue an order addressing eight different points, including requiring the school district to “begin using notices in the native language of parents,” to “make all reasonable efforts to identify and notify the families of students who have been deprived of ELL services regarding their right to receive compensatory services,” and to “undertake an urgent staff training ... regarding state and federal requirements concerning ELLs.”

RILS attorney Kot said today: “For children who are learning to speak and read in English, while also trying to keep up with grade level content, English Language Learner services are a bridge, a vital support in preventing and reducing achievement gaps.” ACLU attorney Saideman added: “I was shocked to learn that the Providence School District was not providing notices in Spanish to Spanish speaking parents about ELL services.  It is easy to do and required by law.”

A copy of the complaint can be found here.