File a Citizen Complaint
A citizen complaint is a written statement to OSPI alleging that a federal or state special education rule or law has been violated by:
- A school district,
- Another public agency serving special education students,
- An educational service district, or
- The state.
Please note: OSPI can only investigate allegations that occurred within the past year (from the date that OSPI received the complaint).
+ What does the complaint need to include?
A complaint must:
- Be in writing and be signed by the person filing the complaint.
- Include the following:
- Name, address, and other contact information such as a telephone number of the person filing the complaint.
- Name, address, and other contact information of the student at issue in the citizen complaint. This includes contact information for a student who is homeless.
- Name of the school district or other agency you believe violated the IDEA. If the citizen complaint is about an agency you must also provide the address.
- Date you provided the school district or other agency with a copy of the complaint.
- A description of how you think the school district violated special education rules or laws —OR— a description about how a school district is not implementing a mediation agreement or resolution session agreement. Include a description of the facts and dates, in general, of when you think the alleged violations happened.
- A proposed solution, if you think you know or have ideas about how the issue can be resolved.
+ What does OSPI do with my citizen complaint?
OSPI reviews the complaint and any additional documents you provide. OSPI will determine if you alleged a possible violation of IDEA Part B.
If you have not alleged a possible violation of IDEA Part B, we will send you a letter explaining why we are not opening an investigation.
If you have alleged a possible violation of IDEA Part B, we identify issues for investigation and notify the district that a complaint has been opened. The district is asked to provide a written response and documents supporting their response. Once OSPI receives the district’s response, we will forward a copy to you (the complainant) and you may choose to send OSPI a reply. If the district or the complainant needs additional time to prepare a response or a reply, they must contact OSPI to ask for an extension and provide reasons for the request.
OSPI investigates a complaint by reviewing the documentation provided by both parties. When needed, we may request additional information, conduct interviews, review other student files, and/or conduct a site visit where the alleged violations occurred.
+ How long does a citizen complaint take?
OSPI must issue a written decision no later than 60 days after receiving the complaint. There are two exceptions to this. First, an extension of time may be granted because of exceptional circumstances. Second, the parties agree in writing to extend the timelines to resolve the dispute through an alternative dispute resolution option, such as mediation.
+ What if OSPI finds a violation?
If OSPI finds violations, it can order student specific and/or district specific remedies in the written decision. Remedies will vary depending on the facts of the complaint and the violations we found through the investigation process.
+ Are there things OSPI cannot investigate through a citizen complaint?
OSPI can only investigate allegations:
- In which a school district or other public agency allegedly violated the IDEA or regulations implementing the IDEA.
- That occurred within the previous year.
If a parent is requesting that the student be placed in a private school or residential facility because the parent believes the district is unable to provide Free Appropriate Public Education, the parent must make that request through a due process hearing. More information.
OSPI cannot investigate issues that are currently the subject of a due process hearing, or have been previously resolved in a due process hearing.
This information is intended to provide guidance about requirements under IDEA Part B. It does not address every requirement contained in chapter 392-172A WAC and it is not legal advice. The intent is to support and not replace careful study of the IDEA and Washington state regulations implementing the IDEA.
Notice of Procedural Safeguards
for Students and Their Families
(Word, 42 pages)
Legal Assistance List