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Know Your Rights: School Complaint Procedures

Learn more about what to do when a school doesn't follow the law.

What is a Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) complaint?

School districts must follow the law! If they don’t, parents and students can file a complaint to correct the school’s actions.

A Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) complaint is a written and signed statement saying that a school has violated federal or state education laws and asking the school to follow the law.

What problems can a UCP complaint help change?

  • Discrimination, harassment, intimidation, bullying
  • School isn’t meeting bilingual education requirements
  • Failure to follow the law about school funding, known as “LCAP”
  • No translation of notices or interpretation for parents who use a language other than English
  • Failure to provide education support for homeless or foster students
  • Violations of Migrant Education
  • Program requirements
  • Problems in juvenile court schools
  • Failure to provide minimum instruction

How do I file a UCP complaint?

Check your district’s website for specific UCP policies or a UCP complaint form. If the district doesn’t have a form, you can submit a complaint in the form of a letter to the district superintendent. Keep a copy of your complaint.

Complaints related to bullying, harassment, and discrimination must be filed within 6 months of the problem, and within 12 months for all other problems.

What should my UCP complaint include?

The complaint must be in writing and signed. Include the details you know:

  • Dates
  • Witness names
  • Copies of documents that support your complaint
  • Specific statements or actions that were made

Follow-up about your complaint and hold the school or district accountable.

What action should a school take on a UCP complaint?

  • Investigate the complaint and allow you to provide more evidence about the problem.
  • Resolve the problem and write a report within 60 calendar days of receiving your complaint – unless you agree in writing to an extension.
  • Notify you of your right to appeal the district’s decision to the California Department of Education within 30 days.

Does the school have other responsibilities to protect my rights?

Yes, schools must do the following:

  • Identify a staff member who knows the law to receive, investigate, and resolve UCP complaints.
  • Protect you from retaliation after you file a complaint.
  • Make sure the district follows federal and state laws.

What is a Williams Complaint?

A Williams Complaint is used to fix:

  • Unsafe, unhealthy, or damaged school buildings or conditions
  • No schoolbooks or online learning materials
  • Unqualified teachers or no permanent teachers

How do I file a Williams Complaint?

Schools must have a Williams complaint form (check district’s website), but you can use any form. Keep a copy of your complaint. The school must fix the problem within 30 working days and notify you in 45 working days.

What if I am not happy with my school’s Williams complaint response?

You can bring your concern to the school board at a board meeting. If your complaint involves unsafe conditions at school, you have the right to file an appeal to the state Superintendent of Public Instruction within 30 days of receiving the decision.

Want more information? Download our Education Manual: A Basic Guide to Students' Rights for Parents and Advocates.

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