The Airing of Grievances of Discrimination in Public School Settings

Martin Cirkiel, J.D., L.M.S.W., and Robin Petty, L.M.S.W.

This isn’t Festivus, rather, we’re talking about the varied policies, procedures, and processes that allow parents and students to submit formal complaints of discrimination to school administrators in order for those grievances to be properly investigated.

Educational opportunity discrimination takes many forms, be it based on race, color, national origin, language, sex, religion, and/or disability. Each of these categories are protected by specific federal laws that provide whole classes of people the rights and protections to be free of discrimination from other peers, school staff, and/or district policies.

But for better or worse, there is rarely just one person or department in a school district that deals with every one of these categories – usually, leadership designates several different district administrators as coordinators and each of these in turn deal with specific types of discriminatory complaints. Unfortunately, finding out exactly how to submit a formal complaint and who should receive it can be difficult, not to mention the fact that knowledge of civil rights laws isn’t necessarily ubiquitous, leaving many unaware of the legal protections they possess.

This workshop will use case studies and hypotheticalscenarios, as well as audience Q&A, to discuss public school complaint procedures, what to expect from those, and potential pitfalls from both sides of the complaint.

The learning objectives of this workshop include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Strengthen your knowledge of the different types of educational opportunity discrimination and the federal civil rights laws they relate to;
  • Understand the who, what, when, where, why, and how’s of filing formal complaints of discrimination in public school settings;
  • Learn the type of response is required by law and what should and should not be expected of districts.
  • Discuss best practices in these complaint processes and how districts can protect themselves from civil rights litigation by going above and beyond what the laws require.