In January 2013, the Disability Rights Section of the U.S. Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division ("United States") began to investigate Rhode Island--this would later lead to the suit in United States v. Rhode Island
. On June 7, 2013, as a result of the same investigation, the U.S. issued an official finding that the State of Rhode Island ("State") and the City of Providence (the "City") violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.
, 527 U.S. 581, 597 (1999) PB-GA-0001
On June 13, 2013, the Disability Rights Section of the United States Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island lawsuit against the State of Rhode Island and City of Providence, Rhode Island (including the Providence Public School Department) under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12131-12134, as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Olmstead v. L.C.
, 527 U.S. 581, 597 (1999) PB-GA-0001
. The United States asked the court for declaratory and injunctive relief.
The United States alleged that the defendants unnecessarily segregated 90 individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities (I/DD) (predominantly suffering from autism and Down Syndrome) in sheltered workshops and adult day programs by failing to provide adequate programs that would support positions in integrated settings that paid at least the minimum wage. the United States further alleged that the defendants put 85 students in Providence Public School Department at risk of the same unnecessary segregation in the same programs by, among other things, placing them in sheltered workshops as part of the secondary school curriculum, failing to opportunities to explore integrated job placement settings in violation of Rhode Island law, and awarding the students certificates of attendance rather than granting them high school diplomas.
On June 13, 2013, the United States and the defendants entered into an eight-year interim settlement agreement. The agreement provides for the following:
- The United States agreed that this agreement resolved all claims the United States had against the defendants regarding the specified populations.
- The City agreed it will cease providing a sheltered workshop as part of its services for students with I/DD
- The State agreed it will not fund nor place any more individuals with I/DD to enter specified adult sheltered workshops and segregated day programs.
- The City agreed that each student will be a part of a person-centered planning process that includes information about transition plans to integrated placements beginning at age 14 as well as transition services that give students the opportunity to learn about integrated employment opportunities and placements.
- The State agreed to provide supported integrated employment services, placements and integrated day services to each individual in segregated workshop as well as a professional evaluation of the effect of employment upon the individual's public benefits funding.
- The State agreed that all integrated placements made pursuant to the settlement would allow individuals to work as much as they were willing and able and provide them with at least minimum wage.
- The State and City agreed to presume that all individuals are capable of working in integrated employment settings for the purposes of job placement, to conduct all assessments of ability to do particular employment be done at integrated work settings rather than sheltered workshops, and to provide employment services to students after their 18th birthday allowing them to choose to leave school for employment in the workforce.
- The State agreed to allow for integrated non-work activities that would allow individuals to with I/DD to be integrated into the community allowing them to choose their non-work activities and whom to do those activities.
- The City and State agreed to ensure that all students are given all opportunities to earn appropriate educational credentials such as a high school diploma.
- The State agreed to support networking between students and individuals with I/DD who had received job placements within the community.
- The defendants agreed to contract with a technical assistant provider to provide assistance and support for integrated employment services.
- The defendants agreed to ensure that transition, placement, and integrated supports have adequate funding that "follows the person" rather than staying with a particular institutional or job placement.
- The defendants agreed to develop a quality improvement program that will involve regular on-site reviews for at least three years.
- The defendants agreed to collect and report data on a monthly basis
- The defendants agreed to split the cost of a monitor to evaluate their implementation of the Agreement.
- Each defendant agreed to appoint an Interim Settlement Agreement Coordinator to oversee compliance with the terms of the settlement agreement.
The settlement was structured as a conditional dismissal--the case was dismissed, contingent on compliance with the settlement. While efforts to comply proceed, the court is retaining jurisdiction over the case. If the U.S. believes that the defendants are substantially non-compliant, the U.S. can seek enforcement. Brian Kempfer - 06/22/2014