Filing a Complaint

There are times when you will need to continue to move up the chain of command once you have exhausted your options within your child's school. If you have spoken with the teacher and the principal and have submitted written complaints to detail the problems your child is having with a bully or bullies at school, and you still feel like your child is not receiving the help and support she deserves, it is time to move on. But it can be confusing and intimidating to try to figure out the best way to proceed with a complaint against an educator or an administrator at a public school.

Find Out if There Is a Formal Procedure

The first thing to do is to contact the school-district administration office or superintendent's office to ask if there is a formal procedure for filing a complaint. If there is, follow the procedure.

Make sure you keep careful records of all communications and meetings — you will need these if your issue cannot be solved at the local level and needs to be brought to the attention of the state or national education office. If your district has no formal policy, you can follow these guidelines.


At this meeting, bring all of your documented data and clearly explain the situation with your child and why you feel that your child is not getting the help and support she needs. Ask the head of the school board if he can help you. He may be able to intervene to get your child the help she needs. If not, keep moving up the ladder.


Include all of your concerns and details about why you are seeking help. Mail your letter to the superintendent of schools in your district. In the letter, request a formal face-to-face meeting. Writing the letter and requesting a meeting gives the superintendent time to investigate your accusations against the school. This way, when you meet, he will have a better understanding of the situation.

When you meet with the superintendent, try to keep an open mind. There may be things he can do to help your child get the help and support she needs. Most school districts will try hard to solve to problem so it doesn't need to move to the state or national level.


If your child is the victim of cyber bullying and has been threatened, you can file a report with the police. Be sure to bring copies or printouts of all the online communications. If you don't know who is doing the cyber bullying, the police can investigate to try to figure out the culprit.


If you don't get the help you need from the superintendent, call your state's Department of Education and ask if they have a formal process for filing a complaint. Follow the guidelines given and file a complaint. Try to keep your personal feelings from clouding your objectivity. State the facts of your complaint and be clear when stating your expectations. Consider consulting an attorney.


You also have the right to file a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. There is a procedure that must be followed and a timeline under which you must file the complaint. The timeline can be as early as within 180 days of the incident. You are not required to file a complaint with your school district before filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights. Consulting an attorney would be wise at this point.

One caveat: If your child has been physically assaulted, you can file a police report. As mentioned earlier, assault is assault, whether it happens between two adults or two minors. Visit the police station with your child and share the details of what occurred. Be sure to have as much identifying detail (names, addresses, etc.) as you can on the perpetrator or perpetrators.

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