File a Formal Complaint at Your Charter School

Overview

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are open to all students through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery. Each charter school is governed by a not-for-profit Board of Trustees that may include educators, community members, and leaders from the private sector. Charters have the freedom to establish their own policies, design their own educational program, and manage their human and financial resources.

The NYS Charter Schools Act states that a parent (as well as any other individual) who believes that a charter school has violated the law may complain formally to the school. The school is required to provide you promptly with their complaint policy in writing, and that complaint policy should specify how and to whom you should direct your complaint.

The law says that first the school’s Board of Trustees must hear the complaints. The Board of Trustees often delegates that power to, for example, the principal or a committee of the board or a neutral third party. Please check with your child’s charter school to determine its specific complaint procedures and which parties they involve.

Do I Have a Formal Complaint?

Below are two examples to help you determine if you have a formal complaint:

Example 1

"My child’s teacher often disciplines my child for what seem to be small infractions. It seems that the teacher is targeting my child."

Does this constitute a formal complaint? 

This complaint as reported here likely would not qualify as a formal complaint because it likely does not involve a violation of the school’s charter or of state charter law. As such, it will probably not qualify as something that the school’s authorizer can take formal action on.

How can the parent proceed with this complaint?

The parent should check the school’s charter and discipline policies to ensure that the complaint does not constitute a charter or policy violation. If the infractions and discipline measures fall under the school’s charter and policy guidelines, then the parent should work with the school leadership and Board to resolve this issue. In that case, the complaint would likely remain informal. 

However, if the parent finds that the infractions and discipline measures do fall outside of the school’s charter and discipline policies, and if the parent has tried to address this issue with the school’s leadership and Board without a satisfactory result, a formal complaint can and should be filed with the school’s authorizer. 

Example 2

"My child is not receiving his/her mandated IEP services during school hours. I attempted to resolve this issue with the school’s principal and then the Board, but received an inadequate or unsatisfactory response."

Does this constitute a formal complaint? 

This complaint likely does qualify as a formal complaint, as the provision of IEP services is mandated under federal and state education laws. Additionally, the parent is unsatisfied with the outcome of his/her previous attempts to informally resolve this complaint at the school level.

How can the parent proceed with this complaint?

The parent should contact the school’s authorizer to determine its procedures for submitting a formal complaint. They should be able to document their attempts to resolve the issue at the school level.

Submitting a Formal Complaint

Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the school’s guidelines and contact the school’s leadership. 

Begin by contacting school leadership to try to resolve any violations, issues or complaints. Before doing so, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the school's policies, guidelines, and reference materials. Such items include, but are not limited to, parent handbooks, student discipline policies related to your concern, dress code pamphlets, and school-issued memorandums. Determine whether the school’s actions related to your complaint fall within the school’s policies. 

Step 2: Appeal to the school’s Board of Trustees. 

If after contacting the school’s leadership you are not satisfied with the outcome or decision pertaining to the complaint, you may appeal to the school's Board of Trustees. The Board meets publicly on a regular basis. Parents are encouraged to either contact the Board directly to schedule items on the meeting agenda or contact the school/parent committee that deals with such matters. 

Step 3: Appeal to the school’s authorizer (the education organization in charge of your school). 

If after your appeal you are not satisfied with the Board of Trustees’ decision, and if your complaint involves a violation of either the school’s policies or its charter, you may submit a formal complaint to the school's authorizer (the education organization in charge of your school).

You can find your school’s authorizer, and their contact information, on the Charter Schools Authorizers page:

If your school’s authorizer is the DOE, you must fill out this form:

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Step 4: Appeal to the New York State Board of Regents 

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome after going through the first three levels of the complaint process, you may write to:

The NY State Board of Regents
NY State Education Department
Charter School Office, Room 465 EBA
89 Washington Avenue,
Albany, NY 12234
518-474-1762

Or send an email to charterschools@mail.nysed.gov  (subject line should include the name of the school and the word “Complaint”). 

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