Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Are you a parent frustrated that your child’s school Principal or Vice Principal are not listening nor acting adequately on complaints about a student? Are you being given a blank stare when you sit in the school office telling the student’s tale? Is the student’s school problem not being resolved quickly and being ignored by school personnel? When student problems are not addressed at a school site, don’t forget the school district.
When the School Won’t Take Action
I have sat and consoled many parents who have complained to a student’s Principal or other school staff about issues, such as continual bullying, targeting by a teacher, a dangerous situation on campus, issues with a student group, etc. to no avail. The parents complain of getting nowhere, being treated like idiots or bothersome pests, and know their issues are not being taken seriously by the child’s school. The parents are at a loss.
Often these parents do not know nor think to involve their school district. I think some parents believe that a school district may reflect the same attitude as the student’s school or that the school district won’t give the parents any help. Yes, this is possible, depending on the school district, but is not always the case.
Usually a school district will try to help and, as the school’s boss, can order the school to take action. Generally, districts are separated just enough from their schools to be somewhat objective in hearing parent complaints about the failure of the school to act.
Steps Parents Can Take to Get Help From the School District
So, if everything is not immediately roses at the school and you can’t get anywhere, what does a parent do? Here are some suggestions to get attention from the school district (and maybe the school):
1) Put the student’s issues in writing, supporting them with specific facts and documentation (no wild unsupported accusations please), perhaps in the form of a factual summary and other attachments proving your points.
2) Submit the documents to the school district with a list of what you want to be done to resolve the student’s bullying or other situation.
3) Submit the communication to the school district in writing and email.
4) Request a meeting with school district staff regarding the issues and seeking help with resolution of the student problems.
5) Follow up on your submission with a call to the school district if you don’t hear back on the student issues in a reasonable time.
6) Politely persist until you get a meeting with the school district or feel the student’s matter has been adequately handled.
Other Complaint Processes
Parents can also formalize complaints to school districts via internal complaint forms, and can even submit personnel complaints on the school staff (e.g. Principal or others).
Be mindful, however, that if you are deciding whether to file an internal complaint (with a school district or school), or a filing with the United States Department of Education (USDOE), California Department of Education (CDE) or even your local grand jury, there may be limitations.
Sometimes agencies may not accept a parent or student complaint if another complaint is already proceeding within a school district. Agencies don’t like to waste resources if another agency is already investigating.
Now, I won’t say that all school districts parents contact will do the right thing, but often parents who are not getting anywhere with the school administration will make some headway by involving the higher-ups at their local school district, who have the power to override school staff to get the job done and the student’s matter handled.
Parent and student lawyer and advocate Michelle Ball assists parents in resolving school problems throughout California. Michelle is an attorney specializing in education law since the 1990s and can assist in towns such as Los Angeles, Roseville, Rocklin, San Francisco, Fresno, Lodi, Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, Sausalito, and many other locations.