How to Make a Complaint of Unlawful Discrimination
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  Equity and Civil Rights

How to Make a Complaint of Unlawful Discrimination
With Your School District

What is OSPI’s role?
OSPI’s Equity and Civil Rights Office ensures that school districts are in compliance with state and federal civil rights laws. We assist school districts, parents and students with issues related to state and federal nondiscrimination laws. We do not investigate individual allegations or provide legal advice.

What should I do if I believe my child is being discriminated against?
Allegations of discrimination should be reported to your child’s teacher or principal immediately! This will allow the school the opportunity to address your concerns and resolve the situation as soon as possible. Each school district will also have someone who is responsible for responding to complaints about discrimination. This person is called the Compliance Coordinator. If you are unable to resolve your concerns with your child's teacher or principal, contact your school district's Compliance Coordinator to discuss your concerns or to file a complaint.
School District Civil Rights Compliance Coordinator List

+ What is unlawful discrimination?
    Unlawful discrimination is the unfair or unequal treatment of a person or a group because they are part of a defined group, known as a protected class. Discrimination can occur when a person is treated differently, or denied access to programs, services or activities because they are part of a protected class. Discrimination can also occur when a school or school district fails to accommodate a student or employee’s disability.

+ What is a protected class?
    A protected class is a group of people who share common characteristics and are protected from discrimination and harassment by federal and state laws. Protected classes defined by Washington state law include: Sex; Race/Color; Religion/Creed; National origin; Disability or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal; Sexual orientation, gender expression or identity; Veteran or military status.

What if I can’t resolve the problem with the school?
If you cannot resolve your concern with the school, you may wish to file a formal complaint with the school district. Please see below for the instructions on how to file a formal complaint:


Step 1: Complaint to School District Superintendent

If you cannot resolve your concerns with the principal, you may wish to file a formal complaint with the school district (WAC 392-190-065).

Can anyone file a complaint with the District?
Yes. You can file a formal complaint by writing a letter to your Superintendent that describes what happened and why you think it is discrimination. It is helpful to include what you want the district to do. Your letter must be signed.

What will the District do?
The employee designated by the district to receive complaints will investigate your allegations and provide the Superintendent with a written report of the complaint, and the results of the investigation. You and the district may also agree to resolve your complaint in lieu of an investigation.

What will the District Superintendent do?
The Superintendent will send you a written letter within 30 calendar days which will either deny your allegations or describe the reasonable actions the district will take. The letter will include how to file an appeal with your School Board if you do not agree with the Superintendent’s decision. Corrective measures must occur no later than 30 calendar days of the Superintendent’s letter.

What if I don’t agree with the Superintendent’s decision or no one responds to my letter?
Your next step is to appeal to your school district School Board.


Step 2: Appeal to School Board

If your complaint is not resolved or if no action is taken by the district, your next step is to appeal to the school board (WAC 392-190-070).

What is an appeal?
An appeal is a request to change an official decision.

How do I file an appeal to the School Board?
You can file an appeal by writing a letter to your School Board. The letter must include the part of the Superintendent’s written decision that you would like to appeal and what you want the district to do. Your letter must be filed with the Secretary of your School Board by the 10th calendar day after you received the Superintendent’s response letter.

What will the School Board do?
The School Board will schedule a hearing within 20 calendar days after they receive your appeal letter. You may also all agree on a different date.

What will happen at the Hearing?
You will explain why you disagree with the Superintendent's decision. You may bring witnesses or other information that is related to your appeal. The board will send you a copy of their decision within 10 calendar days after the hearing. The decision will include how to appeal to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction if you disagree.

What if I don’t agree with the School Board’s decision?
You may appeal the School Board’s decision to OSPI.


Step 3: Appeal to OSPI

If you don’t agree with the school board’s decision, you may appeal the decision to OSPI (WAC 392-190-075).

How do I file an appeal with OSPI?
You can file an appeal by writing a letter to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. The letter must include the part of the School Board’s decision that you would like to appeal and what you want the district to do. Your signed letter must be received by OSPI by the 20th calendar day of receiving the school board’s decision. It can be hand-delivered or mailed to:

OSPI - Administrative Resource Services
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Phone (360) 725-6133

What will OSPI do?
OSPI will schedule a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge through the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). During this process you will be provided information about the hearing. At the hearing you will explain why you disagree with the School Board’s decision. You may bring witnesses or other information that is related to your appeal. After the hearing, you will receive a copy of the judge’s decision.

Other Complaint Options

Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education (OCR)
OCR enforces several Federal civil rights laws which prohibit discrimination in public schools on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age.

Washington State Human Rights Commission (WSHRC)
WSHRC enforces the Washington Law Against Discrimination (RCW 49.60), which prohibits discrimination in employment and in places of public accommodation, including schools.

Special Education—Dispute Resolution Options
If you believe that a school district has failed to provide a service identified in your student's IEP, has denied your student FAPE, or has not met any other state or federal requirements related to special education, there are three formal dispute resolution options to resolve your disagreement.

Federal Programs—Citizen Complaint
This complaint process applies to alleged violations of a state or federal rule, law, or regulation that applies to a federal program under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  (360) 725-6000  TTY (360) 664-3631
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