By Margaret DeLacy, Ph.D.
Vice President, OATAG
The Oregon State Board of Education is considering changes to the policies concerning complaints and appeals.
Below is my summary of the most important changes, followed by a link to the proposed language in the materials submitted to the Board, the hearing schedule, a note from Emily Nazarov concerning opportunities to participate in the rulemaking process and finally, a note from the Department of Education explaining the Department's current policy when districts fail to follow the process laid out in the OARs. If you wish to comment or participate, please be sure to submit any comments for the Board in good time: at least two days before the hearing takes place. As the rules are currently being revised, you may wish to comment on that too.
Districts may impose a 2-year statute of limitations on complaints.
Districts may include mediation or other alternative dispute resolution procedures
Appeal Procedures (for all unresolved complaints that violate the Division 22 Standards, or the Administrative Rules on Restraint and Seclusion, on Discrimination, and on Retaliation)
--A new requirement that a complainant provide "substantial evidence" supporting a complaint.
("Substantial" is undefined. In the past, it was up to the state to investigate allegations and determine whether there was evidence supporting a complaint. There is no corresponding requirement for districts to provide relevant evidence to complainants. A complainant might make a FOIA request, but districts often impose charges or delay these requests. With a two-year limitation, it is conceivable that a district could stall the entire process for long enough to prevent a complaint from going forward.)
-- Appeals must be in writing and must attach the original complaint.
-- Appeals must be based on complaints filed within two years after the alleged violation or discovery of the violation.
--Districts still have 30 days to respond to an appeal but the time allowed to the Department to issue a final decision following the district's response is extended from 60 days to 90 days--more if the summer break intervenes or if the complainant and district agree.
June 20 – Public Hearing
· Staff will hold a public hearing on the proposed rules. This is an opportunity for you to testify in person. The hearing is scheduled for 1:00pm and will be held at ODE (255 Capitol Street NE, Salem) in room 400A.
June 22 – State Board Meeting (adoption)
· Staff will present the proposed rules for an adoption vote. Members of the public may attend and make public comment on the proposed rules. The meeting will be held at ODE (255 Capitol Street NE, Salem) in room 251A/B. You can also watch the meeting online here.
Note from Emily Nazarov:
"The above dates are the formal opportunities to testify. However, these are not the only times when you can make your voice heard. I welcome your feedback at any time during this process. You can send comments directly to me at email@example.com. You can also submit written testimony directly to the State Board by emailing your testimony to Board Administrator Jessica Nguyen-Ventura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You should also feel free to forward these materials on to other parents or stakeholders that you think are interested in this work.
Finally, please feel free to call me or email me if you have any questions about the proposed rules or the rulemaking process.
Statement from the Department of Education concerning the Department's role in complaints:
Several parent stakeholders have asked ODE to exercise more oversight of districts around the complaint process. ODE’s position has been that the role of the Department is to determine whether the district has adopted a policy that meets the requirements of OAR 581-022-1941. If a district has a policy that meets the requirements of OAR 581-022-1941, the Department’s investigation ends. The Department, acting under the authority of a Division 22 appeal, does not review the quality of the investigation conducted by the district, the district’s adherence to timelines in the policy, or the district’s responsiveness to and relationship with community members. Those issues fall under the oversight of the locally elected school board. The exception would be where a parent attempts to file a complaint and receives absolutely no investigation or response from the district. In that case, the lack of any process would be tantamount to having no policy and the Department could find the District out of compliance