Where and How to File A Complaint of Discrimination, Harassment, Intimidation, and Bullying
The California Code of Regulations (Title 5, Section 4600 et seq.) requires the districts, among other things, to adopt and publish procedures referred to as the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) that provide for prompt and equitable resolution of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying complaints. The district must notify students, employees, and parents, as well as others, of its local complaint procedures and identify the person or persons responsible for processing complaints.
If you are a student, parent or interested third party or organization and you want to report an instance of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying, a complaint must be filed with your school district no later than six months from the date the incident occurred, or the date you first obtained knowledge that the incident occurred. Your school district may have a complaint form available for your use. A sample complaint form is available Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Reporting Form (DOC). This complaint form is just an example. If the school district already has a complaint form, use that one. If not, this sample form should be acceptable. It is a good idea to make a copy of the complaint for the record.
This form is different from the "Williams Complaint Form" which is used for complaints regarding school facilities.
Making a complaint
The UCP sets out the requirements for a valid complaint. A valid complaint must:
- Be written
- Be made by the person who experienced discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying, or by someone else on their behalf
- Be signed by the person reporting the alleged acts of discrimination, harassment, intimidation, and bullying
- Describe the specific acts of discrimination, harassment, intimidation and bullying
- State the alleged basis of the complaint (e.g., race, religion, gender, etc.)
- Be filed within 6 months of the date of the discrimination or harassment, or within 6 months of when the person making the complaint first found out about the discrimination or harassment
All complaints will capture many concerns such as classroom assignments, student advancement and retention, selection/provision of textbooks and material, student discipline, curriculum, graduation requirements, homework policies and practices, dress codes, school uniforms, athletics, interscholastic activities, and academic accommodations, such as testing and examinations, etc. In addition, complaints may cross over to specialized programs, such as special education, child development, migrant education, nutrition, adult education and charter schools.
Response to complaints
Within 60 days from the date of receipt of the complaint, the district shall conduct and complete an investigation of the complaint and prepare a written decision. During this process, the person responsible for the filing of the complaint is to be given the opportunity to provide evidence he/she believes supports the allegations. The district decision should include: (1) findings of fact; (2) conclusions of law; (3) disposition of the complaint; (4) the rationale for such disposition; (5) corrective actions, if necessary; (6) notice of the right to appeal the district’s decision to the California Department of Education (CDE) within 15 days; and, (7) the procedures to be followed to initiate such an appeal. If the school district fails to follow any of these rules a complaint can be filed directly with the CDE.
The district has 60 days to complete an investigation and provide a written decision to the person filing the complaint. If the person disagrees with the findings of the investigation he/she has the right to appeal those findings within 15 days of receiving the decision to the CDE. In addition, an appeal to the Department can be filed should the district fail to provide a written response. This appeal must be received by the Department within 15 days of the date the response was due.
The Department will review the materials and determine whether substantial evidence shows that the local educational agency followed its complaint procedures, and that the relevant findings of fact in the decision as supported by the evidence. Additionally, the Department will review the conclusions of law and determine whether they are correct. If the Department finds that the decision is supported by substantial evidence and that legal conclusions are not contrary to law, the appeal will be denied.