Education

Staff | October 1, 2021

Is your school violating HB 1775? Here’s how to file a complaint

Last week, Governor Kevin Stitt approved the State Board of Education’s rules to implement House Bill 1775, which prohibits certain discriminatory concepts from being taught in Oklahoma public schools. With the new rules in effect, now is the time to ensure that you know your rights and understand how to file a complaint in situations where a school allegedly violates the provisions of the law or the new regulation (see “Emergency Rules in Effect,” 210: 10-1-23, at the top-right of this webpage).

If you witness or obtain information that a school district allegedly violated the law or the new rule, you may file a complaint that will initiate an investigation of the alleged incident or multiple incidents. Anyone can file a complaint. However, there are certain requirements in the rule that must be met.

If you are interested in filing a complaint, you may do so in one of two ways. You may file a complaint with your local school board in the district in which the incident(s) allegedly occurred. Or, you may file a complaint with the Oklahoma State Department of Education (SDE).

It’s important to note that you cannot file a complaint with both your school district and the SDE at the same time. Choose one, and proceed utilizing the steps below.

How to File a Complaint with Your Local School District

  1. Check your district’s website and the student and employee handbook(s) for the complaint filing process.

  2. The district must appoint at least one person to receive your complaint. Contact information for this person or persons must be on the website and included in the student handbook. You may contact this individual to inquire about how to file a complaint.

  3. Be sure to follow the process for filing a complaint set out by your district. (Although the new rule sets specific requirements, the district may have adopted a slightly modified process.) For example, the school district may provide a specific form for you to use; if the district has a form, use that form to file your complaint. If you believe you need to supply information beyond what the form requires, then supply the additional documentation on a supplemental document. If your district does not require the use of a specific form, submit your complaint in writing and meet each of the requirements below.

  4. When you submit your complaint:
    1. Be sure it is in writing, and that it is signed and dated. You may submit your complaint electronically but it must include an “electronic signature.”

    2. Identify the date the incident or incidents occurred.

    3. Specifically identify how the law or any provision of the State Board of Education’s rules were violated.

    4. Provide any information that will help the school district investigate your complaint. It is very important that you are thorough and that you provide sufficient information to aid their investigation.

    5. Identify any witnesses that may help the school investigate the incident. (Remember, the school district cannot refuse to investigate the complaint if you fail to provide a witness. But providing witnesses may help with the investigation.)

    6. Provide any helpful documentation. This may include, but is not limited to: class assignments, class materials, lesson plans, training materials, communication from your school teacher, principal, or superintendent, or any other documentation that will assist the investigation.

  5. If your complaint includes all of the information outlined above (in #4), the school must investigate the complaint.

  6. Keep a copy of the complaint you file with the school district, plus all correspondence that may follow during the investigation. (Remember to keep copies of any additional documentation you provide to the school district as a part of your complaint.)

  7. Once you submit your complaint, the person designated by the district to receive your complaint must notify you within 10 days that they have received your complaint. They must tell you whether they will investigate the complaint. If your district tells you it will not investigate the complaint, you may still file a complaint with the SDE following the process detailed below.

  8. If the district does investigate your complaint, they have 90 days to investigate and must notify you in writing of the final determination. (That is, the school must notify you of the finding as to whether the law or any provision of the new rule was violated.)

  9. If you have evidence that your district has reached an incorrect determination, you may refile your complaint with the SDE. Use the process below, but be sure to include the reasons you believe the school district’s determination is incorrect.

How to File a Complaint with the Oklahoma State Department of Education

  1. The SDE has not yet publicly announced how it will receive complaints. However, you can contact the Legal Services Division or the Accreditation Division to inquire about the specific process. The SDE will likely accept complaints in one of three ways:
    1. In writing, addressed to: Accreditation Standards Division, Oklahoma State Department of Education, 2500 North Lincoln Boulevard, Suite 210, Oklahoma City, OK 73105.

    2. By fax: (405) 522-1519.

    3. Or, by email: [email protected]. You may wish to copy Ryan Pieper, Executive Director of Accreditation, and/or Brad Clark, SDE General Counsel ([email protected] and [email protected]) if you opt to file your complaint electronically.

Remember, the SDE cannot require you to first file a complaint with your school district. It is your choice.

  1. When you submit your complaint:
    1. Be sure it is in writing, and that it is signed and dated. You may submit your complaint electronically but it must include an “electronic signature.”

    2. Identify the date the incident or incidents occurred.

    3. Specifically identify how the law or any provision of the State Board of Education’s rules were violated.

    4. Provide any information that will help the SDE investigate your complaint. It is very important that you are thorough and that you provide sufficient information to aid their investigation.

    5. Provide helpful documentation. This may include, but is not limited to: class assignments, class materials, lesson plans, training materials, communication from your school teacher, principal, or superintendent, or any other documentation that will assist the investigation.

  2. Keep a copy of the complaint you file with the SDE, plus all correspondence that may follow during the investigation. (Remember to keep copies of any additional documentation you provide to the SDE as a part of your complaint.)

  3. The SDE has 30 days from the time they receive your complaint to investigate the complaint and make a determination regarding the allegation(s).

  4. Remember, the investigation conducted by the SDE is an investigation of an “accreditation violation.” If the investigation reveals that there has been a violation, the SDE has 90 days to report any accreditation violation to the State Board of Education.

  5. The State Board of Education will receive the findings and the recommendation by the State Superintendent and will consider the accreditation violation in an open meeting. They may either accept the recommendation and act on that recommendation or they may reject the recommendation and act in a manner they determine is appropriate.

Remember that you cannot be retaliated against for filing a complaint with your local school district or with the SDE.

Additionally, there are other protections that may apply if you are a school employee. In certain situations, where the incident or alleged conduct implicates the requirements of federal civil rights laws, you may also file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education or with the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

Keep OCPA updated as you engage with your local school district and the SDE to ensure that schools are in compliance with HB 1775. You can email [email protected] with reports of alleged violations, complaint determinations, or any other issues that develop as you monitor the implementation of HB 1775 across the state.

Remember, the new rule provides tools for parents and other stakeholders to ensure that schools comply with the provisions of the new law. Familiarize yourself with the new regulations—and know how to exercise your rights to ensure that HB 1775 is implemented with fidelity. You are your child’s first line of defense. This law can have a significant impact on Oklahoma’s schools and on your child’s education, but you must remain engaged and informed.

Staff

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