File a Complaint of Discrimination with Your School District
Anyone can file a complaint that alleges discrimination in a Washington public school based on a protected class. This includes parents, students, teachers, administrators, and advocates. Follow the complaint procedure closely. If you have questions, go directly to your district and ask for the information you need to move forward.
Discrimination Dispute Resolution Options
Other complaint options:
Special Education Complaints | Complaints about Teachers and Certificated Educators | Federal Programs Complaint
- Describe the conduct or incident. Use facts: what, who and when.
- Explain why you believe discrimination has taken place.
- Describe what actions you believe the district or charter school should take to resolve the problem.
Send your written complaint—by mail, fax, email, or hand delivery—to the district superintendent, charter school administrator, or civil rights coordinator. OSPI maintains a list of websites for all state school districts. Contact information should be on these district websites.
Deadline for Filing a Complaint
School districts can adopt a filing deadline for complaints. This deadline must be at least one year after the incident or conduct — the subject of the complaint — took place. Find out if your district has a deadline for filing a complaint related to discrimination.
Your civil rights coordinator has an important role to play once the school district receives your written complaint.
The coordinator must:
- Give you a copy of the procedure to follow for discrimination complaints
- Make sure a prompt and thorough investigation takes place
Important! At this point, you could decide to resolve your complaint immediately instead of proceeding with the investigation.
30 Calendar Days to Respond to Your Complaint
Once the district receives your written complaint, the superintendent or administrator must respond to you in writing within 30 calendar days — unless you agree on a different time period.
If your complaint involves exceptional circumstances that demand a lengthier investigation, the district or charter school must notify you in writing with (1) why staff need this time extension and (2), a new date for their written response.
In its written response, the district or charter school must include this information:
- Summary of the results of the investigation
- Determination that states clearly whether or not the district or charter school failed to comply with civil rights law
- Notification that you can appeal this determination: how and where to file a appeal, and to whom it must addressed
- Any measures, determined through the investigation, necessary to bring the district or charter school into compliance with civil rights law
Important! Any necessary corrective measures must be put into effect within 30 calendar days after this written response—unless you agree to a different time period.
Mediation is an option you could consider. Under state law, school districts can offer — at their own expense — the option to resolve complaints through an impartial mediator. Mediation must be voluntary on the part of parents and guardians.
WAC 392-190-0751 Mediation
If you decide to use a mediator, it is possible to extend the 30-calendar day time period during which the district or charter school must respond to your complaint.
Important! Be aware that OSPI does not approve, endorse, or enforce agreements reached through mediation.
If you do not agree with the determination that follows the district’s investigation of your complaint, you can file an appeal. Information about the appeal process should be included in the written response you receive once the district has completed their investigation.
Follow the appeal procedure closely—appeals must be made to an official or board not involved in the complaint.
Deadline for Filing an Appeal
School districts and charter schools are allowed to adopt a filing deadline for appeals. Find out if your district has a deadline for filing an appeal related to complaints of discrimination. This deadline must be no shorter than 10 calendar days from the date you received the written response to the investigation that followed from your complaint.
30 Calendar Days to Respond to Your Appeal
Once the district receives your appeal, it must respond to you in writing—within 30 calendar days—unless you agree on a different time period.
The appeal decision must include how to file a complaint with OSPI. If you do not agree with the appeal decision, state law provides the option to file a complaint with OSPI.
Complaint to State (OSPI) Follows Local Complaint and Appeal Process
This is a separate complaint process that can take place if one of these two conditions has occurred: (1) you have completed the complaint and appeal process of your school district, OR (2) the school district has not followed the complaint and appeal process correctly.
Include these details in your complaint:
- Describe the conduct or incident. Use facts: what, who and when
- Explain why you believe discrimination has taken place
- Your name and contact information—including a mailing address
- Name and address of the school district that is the subject of your complaint
- Copy of the complaint and appeal decisions from the district
- Describe what actions you believe the district should take to resolve the problem
- If your complaint relates to a specific student, make sure you include (1) the name and address of the student, and (2) the school and school district, the student attends.
Send Your Written Complaint to the Equity and Civil Rights Office
Email: Equity@k12.wa.us ǀ Fax: 360-664-2967
Mail or hand deliver: OSPI Equity and Civil Rights Office, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA 98504-7200
Deadline for Filing a Complaint to OSPI
You have 20 calendar days to file a complaint to OSPI from the day you received the decision on your appeal from the district or charter school—unless OSPI extends this deadline based on circumstances.
Staff at OSPI will review your complaint and decide whether or not to begin an investigation. If OSPI staff decide to investigate your complaint, they will send written notification to you and the district or charter school.
OSPI will not investigate if your complaint:
- Is incomplete or arrives after the 20-day deadline
- Does not allege a violation of a civil rights law that OSPI enforces. Contact the Equity and Civil Rights Office for this information: 360-725-6162 ǀ email@example.com
- Has not been brought to the attention of the district or charter school through the local complaint and appeal process.
- Was investigated by another state, federal, or local civil rights agency and OSPI expects a comparable resolution
If OSPI investigates the complaint, OSPI will send you a written decision that addresses each allegation in the complaint, and includes any corrective actions necessary to correct noncompliance.
Office for Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education
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. File complaints with OCR within 180 calendar days (6 months) of the date of the alleged discrimination.
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. File complaints with WSHRC within 6 months of the date of the alleged discrimination.
U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Educational Opportunities Section
DOJ enforces federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and religion in public schools.