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 calendar year (from the date that OSPI received the complaint). See WAC 392-172A-05025
- Example: If OSPI receives a complaint on June 26, 2018, then the investigation time period begins on June 27, 2017.
- General Overview of Special Education Citizen Complaint (SECC) Process
Frequently asked questions
Who may file a citizen complaint?
Any individual or organization may file a citizen complaint. OSPI can only investigate allegations that occurred within the past year.
Do I need to know the exact rule or law that I think is not being followed?
No, just describe what you think the school district is, or is not, doing. You will also need to provide facts that support your claim.
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 if the citizen complaint involves a student. 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.
- A description of the facts supporting your allegation. Include dates, if possible.
- A proposed solution, if you think you know or have ideas about how the issue can be resolved.
Is there a form for filing a citizen complaint?
Where do I send my citizen complaint?
You must mail or fax the citizen complaint to:
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
Attn: Special Education
P.O. Box 47200
Olympia, WA 98504-7200
The school district superintendent or other agency head
Get contact information for school districts
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.
Who can I contact if the issue involves discrimination, or other matters that are not addressed through IDEA?
Visit Other Resources and Organizations for more information.
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.