What is a Citizen Complaint and when should it be used?

A citizen complaint is a written statement to the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, (OSPI) alleging that a federal or state special education rule or law has been violated by:

  • A school district,
  • Another public agency serving special education students,
  • An educational service district, or
  • The state

OSPI reviews the complaint and any additional documents you provide. OSPI will determine if you alleged a possible violation of IDEA Part B. Please note:OSPI can only investigate allegations that occurred within the past year (from the date that OSPI received the complaint).

What you need to know:

  • Any individual or organization may file a citizen complaint.
  • You do not need to know the exact rule or law that you feel is not being followed, just describe as best you can what you think the school district is, or is not, doing.
  • What should the complaint include?

A complaint must be in writing and be signed by the person filing the complaint and include the following:

  • Name, address, and contact information, such as a telephone number of the person filing the complaint.
  • Name, address, and other contact information of the student at issue in the citizen complaint. This includes contact information for a student who is homeless.
  • Name of the school district or other agency you believe violated the IDEA. If the citizen complaint is about an agency you must also provide the address.
  • Date you provided the school district or other agency with a copy of the complaint.
  • A description of how you think the school district violated special education rules or laws —OR— a description about how a school district is not implementing a mediation agreement or resolution session agreement. Include a description of the facts and dates of when you think the alleged violations happened.
  • A proposed solution, if you think you know or have ideas about how the issue can be resolved.
  • Is there a form that I can use?
  • Yes, that form and complete information on where to send it as well as the time line can be found here: https://www.k12.wa.us/SpecialEd/DisputeResolution/CitizenComplaint.aspx

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES regarding IDEA Part B can be found at: http://nichcy.org/laws/idea/partb

The PAVE Parent Training and Information Program may include information on State or Federal laws regarding the rights of individuals with disabilities. While this is provided to inform or make one aware of these rights, legal definitions, or laws/regulations, it is not providing legal representation or legal advice. The recipient understands that this is information is to educate them not to provide them with legal representation.