What Happens When You File a Formal School Complaint?
When you send your child to school, you expect them to receive an education in a safe and protective environment. When your child’s rights are denied or violated, you can seek justice on their behalf. The school grievance process in Texas can help you draw attention to the improper behavior and rectify the issue. While you can file a grievance on your own, having an education lawyer on your side can help ensure your complaint is thorough and prepares you for appeals. By following the proper steps, you can help protect your child’s rights and keep the focus on their education.
What Is a School Complaint/Grievance?
If you believe a school has violated your child’s rights, you can file an official complaint through the school grievance process. A student’s rights are outlined under the Texas Education Code, your district’s student code of conduct, your district’s board policies, and the Constitution. When you file a complaint, your school is required to take the time to listen to your concerns and respond within a reasonable timeframe.
If your informal attempts to address the situation go unsolved, a school grievance can help protect your child. Your school district will have a specific timeline for when you have the chance to file a complaint. Their board policy website will state their specific timeline, but it is usually within 10-15 days after you become aware of the incident.
Before you file a complaint, you should always try to solve the problem informally but keep track of important deadlines. Talking directly to the parties involved and speaking with your child’s school can often help before necessitating any further action. While trying to solve the problem on your own, always keep track of any communication records that you can. Save emails. Note any phone calls or physical meetings. And be sure to keep the contact information of anyone involved. You will often need to prove that you made attempts to address the concern informally before you can file a complaint.
Steps of the School Grievance Process
When you do need to file a complaint, it’s a good idea to contact a lawyer ahead of time. This is because you are limited in what evidence and claims you can present after the process begins. Your attorney can help ensure you have all the necessary paperwork and supporting documentation to help improve your chances of success. They can also go with you to any meetings to help represent you and protect your rights in defending your child.
The first step in the school grievance process is to ask for the grievance application from your campus administration. You can either email the complaint to them or physically hand it in. If you do hand it in, make sure you get a written receipt with the date of drop-off. In most districts, the school must schedule an official conference within 10 days of receiving your complaint. During this conference, you and your lawyer will have the opportunity to present your evidence and describe the specifics of the issue. It is crucial that you present all the information you have at this step. If you must move further in the process, future conferences can only consider the evidence given during this stage.
Most districts will provide a written response within 10 days. If the issue resolves, the grievance process is complete. If you disagree with the decision made or the response is not given in time, you can continue to the next step in the process.
You typically have another 10 days after the first step to move to level two. You must send your complaint to the school superintendent’s office. Another conference will be scheduled, often with the superintendent directly but sometimes with an assistant superintendent. During this conference, only the evidence provided during the first conference is discussed and considered. If you do have additional evidence or information to present, you may be able to do so if the school district allows it.
The superintendent also usually has 10 days to issue their response. If they do not provide a response in the designated timeline or you disagree with their decision, you can move on to the next stage.
The final step in the grievance process happens in front of the school board. You must submit your complaint through your superintendent’s office again. But this time, your conference will be with the board members or a hearing officer. The level three conference is more like a formal hearing/trial. It is especially crucial that you have an attorney present.
Working with an Attorney on the School Grievance Process
If you disagree with the final decision made, there is no more room to argue under the school grievance process but you can appeal some decisions to the Commissioner of Education. But that doesn’t mean you can’t continue to seek justice for your child through the legal system. Contact the Hager Law Firm at (903) 466-0001 to schedule a consultation and learn about your options.