Today, the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE), and the ACLU of RI and RI Center for Justice announced that an agreement was reached settling the federal class action complaint recently filed by Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE) and three children and their parents which alleged that the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) failed to timely provide evaluation, special education, and related services to preschool students. 

The settlement agreement, which was reached following a mediation led by United States District Court Judge Mary S. McElroy, is subject to notification to members of the plaintiff classes, which includes both students who are awaiting evaluations for special education services as well as eligible students who are awaiting services. The agreement must also be approved by the Court. 

The District has been working proactively to address preschool capacity issues throughout the year. The parties have agreed to a process and series of steps, generally based on actions and efforts underway by the District, to achieve timely and permanent compliance with evaluations and delivery of education services. These include: parents and children with Individual Education Plans will receive a series of notices starting immediately informing them about assignments and services available to them; PPSD is adding evaluation teams to help speed up the evaluation process; and parents who are awaiting evaluations are also being notified of their ability to secure them at PPSD’s expense. The parties have also agreed that an external monitor appointed by the Court will monitor compliance of the parties’ agreement and provide monthly reports detailing PPSD’s progress in complying with applicable legal deadlines for providing the student evaluations and special education services through October 1, 2024.     

RIDE, PPSD, and plaintiffs issued the following joint statement: 

“All children deserve access to a quality education that meets their individual needs and helps them thrive. The Rhode Island Department of Education, Providence Public Schools, families, and advocates, including PLEE, the RI Center for Justice and the ACLU of Rhode Island are committed to continuing to work collaboratively to ensure adequate support systems are in place to help students in need succeed. Providence, like communities across the nation, faces ongoing challenges in delivering preschool special education in part due to the pandemic, and we know that it will take sustained partnership and commitment to get the job done.”  

Background information on the case can be found here.