Handling complaints requires asking the right questions
May 15, 2023
chool districts frequently receive complaints in a variety of forms, and they can come from students, parents, employees and members of the public. When complaints are received, it is important for school leaders to consider what actions are appropriate.
Much depends on the nature of the complaint. Does the complaint allege bullying? (If so, alert the school’s DASA coordinator.) Does the complaint allege discrimination? (If appropriate, alert the district’s Title IX coordinator.)
Three questions should be considered in response to any complaint:
- What district policies are implicated?
- What laws are implicated?
- What, if any, interim actions need to be taken to ensure the safety or well-being of a student or employee involved in the complaint?
In general, school officials should take all complaints seriously and ensure that any relevant information about the complaint is neither destroyed nor deleted. Failing to preserve information or evidence can negatively affect an investigation of the complaint and, in some cases, result in liability to the district.
Virtually all complaints, big and small, require school officials to do some form of inquiry to determine whether the allegations are credible and what kind of response would be appropriate. In certain cases, a formal investigation is appropriate, (e.g., allegations that are easily recognizable as involving a potential violation of a law or a serious violation of school policy).