Legal Support

The legal office at RIDE offers guidance in a variety of areas relating to education law.

We are available to the education community, families, and lawmakers for support in understanding and applying the regulations and statutes relating to education. In addition, we assist families and school districts that may be involved in disagreements or disputes over any matter relating to education by providing a hearing process for achieving resolution.

What do I do if I’m having a problem at my child’s school?

What happens when schools and families don’t agree?

The Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) recognizes that shared decision-making can be challenging. There are times when family and school team members do not reach agreement or when a student’s entitlements may come under question. RIDE offers several state level options to assist families and schools in resolving issues that remain after attempts for resolution at the local school level have been exhausted.

Before seeking help from RIDE at the state level, consider the following questions:

There is a certain process that must be adhered to before RIDE can assist a party with dispute resolution.  Prior to contacting RIDE it is important that all attempts to resolve your issue be handled at the local level.

It is only when all of these attempts to resolve the dispute have been exhausted and you still are seeking remedy can RIDE be in a position to assist.

Classroom Teacher First discuss the issue with classroom teacher, if the issue arises at the classroom level, and try to work it out.
School Principal Then, if you are unable to work it out with the teacher, or if the issue is not specific to a certain class, then bring the issue to the school principal.
Superintendent If you cannot resolve the issue with the school principal, then go to the district superintendent.
School Committee If you cannot come to resolution with the superintendent, then go before the School Committee. If the issue is one that relates to your child's receipt of special education and related services, you may bypass the School Committee and go directly to the RIDE Special Education Call Center.
RIDE Legal Office / RIDE Special Education Call Center If, after going through all of the levels described above, the issue is not resolved to your satisfaction, then you may contact RIDE and ask for a hearing. If the issue is about general education, contact the RIDE Legal office.

If the issue is about general education issues, contact the RIDE Legal Office. If the issue is related to special education, contact the RIDE Special Education Call Center.
Hearing (General education) A hearing will be scheduled and held before a hearing officer and you will have the opportunity to present your case. Although it is not required that you have an attorney to assist you, you may have an attorney represent you. A timely written decision will be prepared by the hearing officer and approved and issued by the Commissioner.

(Special education) After a resolution process and/or mediation, a due process hearing will be scheduled and held before an impartial hearing officer and you will have the opportunity to present your case. Although it is not required that you have an attorney to assist you, you may have an attorney represent you. A timely written decision will be issued by the impartial hearing officer.
Council on Elementary and Secondary Education (General education) If you disagree with the Commissioner's decision, you may appeal to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. (There are some exceptions, such as decisions in residency cases which are appealable to Superior Court.)

(Special education) If you disagree with the decision of the impartial hearing officer, you may file a civil action in any state court of competent jurisdiction or in the United States District Court for the State of Rhode Island.

Download a printable version of the dispute resolution process.

You have made all efforts at the local level to resolve your concern, but have been unsuccessful. So who in RIDE can help you? 

It depends on whether your issue pertains to general education or special education.  

If your concern is about General Education issues, such as:

  • Graduation requirements
  • School discipline or suspension
  • Bullying
  • Residency
  • Problems with teachers or other school staff
  • Transportation
  • Home Schooling
  • Your child’s accommodation under Section 504
  • Student promotion
  • Health and safety
  • Civil Rights
  • Student enrollment
  • Student grades


RIDE Legal Office

Vilma DiOrio, Executive Staff Assistant – Legal


If your concern is about Special Education issues, such as:

  • Your rights as a parent of a child with a disability
  • Rights of your child with a disability
  • Your child’s special education and/or related services
  • Disagreement with a school team decision about:
    • Whether your child needs a special education evaluation
    • The types of timeline regarding special education evaluations your child will receive
    • Whether your child has a disability and is in need of special education 
    • The Individualized Education Program (IEP) for your child with a disability


Special Education Call Center

Office of Student, Community and Academic Supports (OSCAS)


Where can I find source law and legal interpretations?

There is an extensive body of educational law and regulations that guides RIDE in its mission to lead and support public education.  The legal office at RIDE relies on its knowledge and understanding of such laws and regulations to support RIDE in ensuring all students achieve without the least limitation placed on their opportunity to succeed academically as meaningful contributors to society.

Pursuant to R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-8, "[a] person may petition an agency for a declaratory order that interprets or applies a statute administered by the agency or states whether, or in what manner, a rule, guidance document, or order issued by the agency applies to the petitioner."

Promulgated in accordance with the authority granted in this statute, 200-RICR-30-15-2 sets forth the requirements for submitting a request for a declaratory order as well as RIDE's procedures for the consideration and prompt disposition of such a request under R.I. Gen. Laws § 42-35-8.

Published Declaratory Orders: