Friday, March 26, 2021

CIF Denial of Sports Eligibility: Which Denials Are Appealable?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

CIF, the California Interscholastic Federation, which governs all high school sports in California, is often mystical, and its rules are completely confusing. When a student is denied the right to play sports for some reason, the immediate instinct is to file an appeal to CIF higher ups. But only limited issues are appealable with CIF per CIF Bylaws.

What IS Appealable to CIF?

Here are the matters that may be appealable to CIF:

  1. Conflict with a coach
  2. Following a coach
  3. Pre-enrollment contact
  4. Club coach at new school
  5. Relocated coach
  6. Athletically motivated
  7. Age requirement
  8. Charge of semester of attendance
  9. Passing 20 semester credits
  10. Former coach

What is Not Appealable to CIF?

Here are the matters that may not be appealable to CIF:

  1. Sit out period
    • Per CIF bylaws: "Q: My son was denied the Sit Out Period. May we appeal this ruling? A: No."
  2. Hardship, all bases
    • Court ordered transfers
    • Children of divorced parents
    • Individual student safety incidents
    • Discontinued program
    • Foster and homeless children
    • Military service
    • Married status
    • Board of education ruling.
    • Per CIF bylaws: "All eligibility determinations made [under this hardship section] are final as all of these hardship circumstances are factual in nature and can be documents."

Unclear Appeal Rights to CIF?

There are also areas where it is not clear in CIF bylaws whether a matter may be appealable, such as:

  1. Discipline transfer
  2. Mistake in documents submitted to CIF
  3. Scholastic eligibility
  4. Bad faith
  5. Student starts living with one parent (after initial residential eligibility was established with two parents) but there is no court order or formal custody agreement formalizing this
  6. Other areas not defined in CIF policy

Importance of Ensuring Schools Understand Transfer Bases

This confusing situation emphasizes the strong need for parents to ENSURE that they assist the new school in understanding the reason for the transfer and provide any formal documents supporting the transfer. They also need to assist the new school to submit the transfer paperwork to CIF and ensure it is carefully done. The seemingly simple transfer form needs to have all evidence to support the bases for the transfer e.g. being based on hardship, as there won't be a CIF appeal if the paperwork fails to be provided.

Parents also need to ensure the prior school is aware of any reason a student may be transferring that may meet CIF "hardship" or other categories, so that school can also report the situation correctly when contacted by CIF.

Most parents are completely unaware of the impact a terrible filing will have on the student, until it is too late. Parents need to be fully aware of these issues prior to enrolling in the new school so they can handle this with the student's new coach or athletic director properly.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

WebsiteBlogTwitter, YoutubeFacebook, LinkedIn

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

14 Steps To Attack A School Suspension

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

 

What does a parent do when their child, a stellar wonderful student, gets a suspension, which may tarnish their education records forever?  Attack it and try to get it overturned of course.


A student suspension is a permanent black mark in a school record, which will lurk in the background waiting to communicate negative about the student.  It will come up on college applications, depending on the college, and can harm a student in their future prospects.  How much is unclear.  What is clear is that suspensions are a big deal and should be addressed, not ignored, if possible.


A parent should immediately take action if a student is suspended:


1)  Meet with the school to get the school's version of what happened.  Take thorough notes.

2)  It is not a great idea for parents to  question their child in the school office about what happened as this may give the school evidence.

3)  Get a copy of the suspension form at this meeting if possible.  Sometimes schools don't even provide a written suspension form (in breach of the law), so if a parent does not have the suspension form, they should get it ASAP.

4) Review the meeting notes and the suspension form thoroughly.

5)  Meet with the student in private and get his or her version of what happened.

6) Compare the suspension form and what it says to what the student says to determine what  may be accurate on the suspension form, and what is not.

7)  Request the witness statements and other evidence of or related to the suspension.  These are student records, and must be provided, although schools often will balk at requests for these (see Ed Code 49069.7).

8)  Review these.

9) Review the school policies on suspensions and the practices and procedures related to them.

10)  Figure out what is wrong with the suspension- does it not meet school code, should the student have received an alternate punishment (see my blog on this)?  Even if the suspension is still appropriate, there can be other arguments to attack it, such as the student's lack of discipline history, the stories of the witnesses conflict, etc.

11)  After a parent gets all arguments together, a written document should be drafted to the school outlining the support for the student, arguments, and what is desired: the student returned to school now (if still out), and the suspension rescinded (reversed) and expunged.

12)  Forward to the school and request a meeting with someone who has the power to overturn the suspension, such as the principal.

13)  Meet with the school and use good manners, firm evidence and positive arguments to get an agreement to get rid of the student suspension now, or at a date certain in the future, such as at the end of the current semester or school year.

14) Review the student records to ensure the suspension is not noted anywhere.


Do it! 


If parents take action, they can potentially get suspensions out of student records and positively influence the student's future for years to come.



Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

WebsiteBlogTwitter, YoutubeFacebook, LinkedIn

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Where Should A School Discrimination Complaint Be Filed?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

When a parent or student experiences discrimination in the school system, they have a choice of where they want to file for an administrative review (e.g. by a government body).  Should they pick the federal government to review the matter or should they file with their local school or college?  


There are generally two choices for non-court∗∗ administrative discrimination complaints depending on the entity involved, one being the school or college itself, and the other being a government entity.


For a private school student, in a school which takes no federal money and is non-religious, parents and students may be able to go to the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ).  The DOJ will then determine if they may accept the matter for investigation.  A parent or student may also pursue internal filings in their private school, if available.  


For other students, the choice is usually between filing a request for investigation with the school or college or the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), in the United States Department of Education (USDOE).


Why is this a choice?


First, the California Department of Education (CDE) does NOT take discrimination complaints directly and only looks at them on appeal from a public school.  


Second, if a student files with their school or college, and the school or college says there was no discrimination, OCR will not usually review the matter other than the process.  This means the feds won't review the substance of the alleged discriminatory conduct if a parent or student already filed with their school or college and the matter was concluded (in their favor or not).


So, students and parents have to decide at the getgo where to file a request for an investigation, and it is an important determination.


My personal preference is OCR, as OCR tends to be more objective, is not afraid to find discrimination occurred (as it is not their school!), has more resources, and truly aims to get a resolution in most cases.  


How motivated do you think a school district is to find discrimination occurred in one of its own schools or by one of its staff?   


Exactly.  


This is why OCR may be the better place to start.


There is never any guarantee OCR will find actual  discrimination, but it seems more likely they will more objectively pursue the school discrimination investigation and potentially have fairer results.  


OCR can leverage the government purse against schools to obtain correction of wrongs and justice for students.


OCR does not take all complaints for investigation, so it is important for a parent or student to write the initial filing properly, file it timely, and attach any evidence which supports the claims.∗∗



Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

WebsiteBlogTwitter, YoutubeFacebook, LinkedIn

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.


∗∗Administrative filings are separate and distinct from claims students may file in court and I am in no way reviewing those matters here.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

School Expulsion Hearing Evidence Q & A

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Many parents envision expulsion hearings are mini-trials where their child has full rights to object and exclude things, like in regular court.  However, public school expulsion hearings, as hearings governed by administrative law (the law relating to government agencies), have different rules from regular courts.  There are some parameters for the expulsion hearing process, but what is allowed can be quite confusing, especially to a parent on their own.  Here are some basics on the evidence at expulsion hearings.


Do regular rules of "evidence" for court trials apply in school expulsion hearings?


No.


Am I entitled to all evidence the school has against my child before the hearing?  


Parents are entitled to all evidence the school will use at the hearing.  Usually the school or district will provide the evidence to the family at the suspension extension meeting, but if not, it can be requested.


How do I get the expulsion hearing evidence from the school if it was not given to me?  


Simply request it, preferably in writing and via email.


What evidence is needed to expel my child?   


The school should prove the matter with substantial evidence that the student actually committed the acts alleged and they breach the codes.


What evidence can the school submit at the hearing?


They can submit anything they gathered, including statements from students about the allegations, even if the student who gave the statement or testimony does not attend the hearing.  They can also present witnesses or testimony to support the allegations.


What is hearsay evidence for purposes of an expulsion hearing?  


In very rudimentary terms, hearsay evidence is evidence offered to prove something happened from someone not directly testifying or who was not an actual witness to what happened.  For example, sometimes schools submit statements where students write rumors- the statement and the contents are hearsay.  [Please note: hearsay is a highly complicated subject and this is not a complete discussion of hearsay or its exceptions]


What if a student did see something happen, but does not testify at an expulsion hearing?  Is their written statement hearsay?


Yes, usually.  A written statement, when the student does not present themselves for questioning is typically hearsay.  There is an exception when a hearing panel rules that a student would be "subject to an unreasonable risk of harm," were they to testify and the panel can decide to accept their written statement instead (see California Education Code 48918(i)(3)) and it then will not be considered hearsay.  


A statement from an accused person, where they admit they "did it," is considered an admission and is acceptable under a hearsay exception (see California Evidence Code section 1220).


Can a student be expelled based on hearsay alone?  


No.  This is specifically prohibited in California Education Code section 48918(f)(2).  


Why are we talking about hearsay and what does it matter to the student being expelled?


It matters because if a student did not admit the allegations, and there was only hearsay at the hearing, the expulsion may be overturned on an appeal to the county board of education.


What evidence is presented at most school hearings?  


A school or the district will usually present a packet of information, including written statements, testimony from an administrator (like the vice principal or principal) and may present an eye witness to the alleged wrong.  Districts vary in how well they conduct hearings.


What can a parent submit at an expulsion hearing?


Paper evidence, witnesses, character witnesses, letters supporting the student, pictures, videos or any other evidence they want which is relevant.  They may also submit a legal brief (paper with the law and facts) or arguments supporting the student's innocence.


What can a parent say at the hearing?


The parent or their attorney or a nonattorney advisor can usually do an opening and closing statement, and can question witnesses.  


Can a Parent be a witness?


Yes, if the parent saw the act happen, they can testify as a direct witness.  If not, a parent may be a character witness.  


Can a parent ask a school to help them force witnesses to testify at the hearing (aka subpoena them)? 


Yes.  A parent can ask the school board to issue subpoenas to witnesses who actually saw what happened, aka percipient witnesses (see California Education Code 48918(i)(1)).


If there is an evidence issue at hearing, who rules?


The person or group overseeing the proceeding (for example the expulsion panel, board of education or hearing officer) should review the question and make a ruling.


Can a parent record an expulsion hearing?


Not without permission, which is usually denied.  The school district will make an official record, with either a recording or a court reporter.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

Website, Blog, Twitter, YoutubeFacebook

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Switching Schools Within Your District: Open Enrollment And Intradistrict Transfer Options

 By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Sometimes students are just not at the right school, but their parents like the school district they live within and want to keep their kids in it.  There are processes in place to achieve this goal, but certain requirements must be met.  Some options available to parents include open enrollment or filing an application for intradistrict transfer per school district policies.


Open Enrollment


What is school district open enrollment?  This is a process where a student living within a district can opt to attend any school in that district.  All a parent needs to do usually is return the relevant forms, listing their top choices for schools.  


All districts are supposed to have an open enrollment process, and the only argument to not have one could conceivably be that there is only one school in the district or all their schools are overly enrolled, aka impacted, and will remain so.  Most districts will have some space and will need to hold an open enrollment process.  


The school open enrollment process usually happens at the end of the prior year or early in the calendar year when the transfer will apply (e.g. late 2021- early 2022 deadline for a move at the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year).  Due dates for submissions vary by school district.


Certain priorities will apply.  For example, open enrollment cannot cause the displacement of residents who want to attend their school of residence.  After the residents of a school are placed, other students with priorities should be placed.  Priorities can exist for siblings of a student already in attendance and/or as outlined in school district policies.  If there end up being spaces and too many students vying for those spaces, an unbiased student lottery should occur.


Intradistrict Transfer


If open enrollment request time has passed, and a parent wants to transfer to another school in their district, they could pursue an intradistrict transfer. 


What is an intradistrict transfer?  It is a transfer to another school WITHIN the same school district. This is different from an interdistrict transfer, which is between two different school districts.  


There may be deadlines to apply for intradistrict transfers, but many districts may accept requests outside the timelines as well, depending on the reasons for the request.  If the regular timeline can be met, that is a good idea.


The rules related to these transfers will be outlined in school board policies, usually found on most school district websites under a tab titled "School Board" or "Board of Education," or by contacting the school district office.  There may be a place on a school district website referencing intradistrict transfers and requirements to obtain one.


Most districts outline certain parameters for the granting of intradistrict transfer requests such as the new school having a program not at the school of residence, the school where the student resides being persistently dangerous, a court order, bullying, or the mental health of the student, among other possible bases.  


Other Ways To Transfer


Students who are in special education may be transferred without ever applying via this process, if their IEP (Individualized Educational Program) team places them due to services needed at a particular school.


Sometimes an involuntary intradistrict transfer may be imposed on a student who has committed a harmful act and/or agreed to by their parent to avoid a school expulsion.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

Website, Blog, Twitter, YoutubeFacebook

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

How Long Can A School Expulsion Go? Q & A

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Many times when a public school student faces expulsion, there is confusion about what this means and how long an expulsion may continue.  Some questions and answers relevant to the length of expulsions in the public school setting, (high school or below) may be helpful to parents.


Is expulsion permanent?  


No.  There is always a listed end date in the expulsion decision.


When can a student return to school after they are expelled?


That depends on the length and type of expulsion imposed, with the maximum time limited by state law.


How long can a public school expulsion be?  


Maximum 1 year for the most heinous situations, such as selling drugs, firearm issues, sexual assault or battery, brandishing a knife and explosives (Cal Ed Code 48915(c)), sometimes called the "Big 5 Offenses."


Can a public school expulsion continue beyond the expulsion time period in the expulsion decision?


Yes.  Although the initial expulsion can only go a maximum 1 year for the worst offenses, like drug sales, if a student does not meet readmission (aka rehabilitation) terms when attempting to reenroll, the student may not be readmitted and their exclusion may continue.


What is the maximum length of expulsion for offenses that are not "Big 5 Offenses?"


Two semesters, starting when the board of education issues their decision, and sometimes starting the semester when the offense occurred.  Examples of school offenses carrying a two semester maximum term include drug possession, sexual harassment, fighting, stealing or theft, damaging school property, threats, extortion, habitual profanity, bullying, receiving stolen school or private property, possession of an imitation firearm, hazing, aiding and abetting (helping) another student to commit great bodily injury, and other offenses. (Cal Ed. Code 48900-15).


What is the minimum term of expulsion if a student is found guilty?


One semester, unless the board decides to issue a lesser punishment, such as a behavior contract.


Does the board of education have to expel a student?


Per state law, not unless it is a proven "Big 5 Offense."  Otherwise, they have discretion to offer alternative punishments as the circumstances warrant.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

Website, Blog, Twitter, YoutubeFacebook

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Twelve Tips To Winning School and College Disputes

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Most parents see schools as places where their kids go daily, while they are at work or taking care of other household needs, and forget about them.  College students may view their universities as a large mass of buildings and detached college staff and instructors.  Students and parents may be shocked and confused when a problem arises at a school or college  and may not know what to do. 


THE BASICS OF APPROACHING A SCHOOL OR COLLEGE PROBLEM


There are some fundamental recommendations I have when it comes to dealing with schools and getting desired outcomes for students.   These should generally apply to many issues that come up, from school discipline, expulsion, and suspensions, to special education, IEP (Individualized Education Program) or 504 matters, college hearings, sports eligibility, student targeting by teachers or professors, grade appeals, and many other matters being encountered by students in day to day life.


1) 
Know the rules When you run into a problem in a school or college, find the rules which apply to the situation.  These may be found in the school handbook, on the website, in program handbooks (e.g. a "Handbook for the Nursing Program"), and in many other places.  Boards of education also issue policies which are online, usually under the "Board" section of a school district website.  For the UC Regents, there are rules that apply to all UCs found usually on the relevant Regents page, or on the specific college website.  Find any and all policies and rules related to the student issue.  Read them, clear up any misunderstood words or concepts in the policies/rules and truly understand them.

2)  Gather Information Specific To The Student One of the first things I do in matters is to request student records.  For students pre-college, parents can submit a request for the student's files and all evidence that may relate to any pending matter.  For college students, a similar request may be filed.  Timelines are usually 5 business days for public schools (before college), and maximum 45 days under FERPA (Family Education Rights And Privacy Act).  Some colleges bind themselves to shorter time periods for production which can be discovered when researching relevant school policies.  For private entities, if they take federal funds, they usually are bound to federal laws on production.


3) 
Write A Timeline Another important component to really understanding a matter and later communicating with a school or college about it is a timeline.  Does the student really know what happened when, and who was involved?  Get it on paper so it is clear.

4)  Gather Support:  Does the student have documents that relate to the matter at hand, or texts, or pictures, etc.?  All documents should be gathered together and connected to the timeline.  If evidence may be online, printing it out and downloading a copy can be very worthwhile as I have seen schools change websites and remove documents after they found out they were at issue.  If a screenshot or copy of critical evidence was not downloaded or printed, the proof can vanish.  


If you have witnesses, depending on the situation, they can potentially be contacted.


CAUTION:  There are times, particularly in discipline matters, when an accused student should not contact potential witnesses as this could be misinterpreted as witness intimidation, so be cautious in contacting potential witnesses.  Minor witnesses should only be contacted through their parents, if at all.


5)  Put Appropriate Things In Writing It is easy to cold call a school official and blab about a matter, and that may be necessary, but it is also important to put a competent communication together in writing which outlines the situation and the student's  position.  This is an important component to ensuring that points are

not just forgotten, such as on a phone call where no one takes notes.  What is the truth about the situation, what do the school or college's own rules say about it, and what data  supports the thing being sought?  It can be a double-edged sword, however, as putting things in writing can be negative if letters are full of threats or wild allegations and can cause problems.  As such, it is key to write the letter objectively and factually, and to remove as much emotion as possible.  If the author cannot write it in an effective way, they may need to get help from someone they trust to ghost write it. 

CAUTION:  If an accused student puts things in writing, whatever is written could be seen as a form of "admission," so accused students need to be hyper-cautious lest any documents be pulled out and used against them as testimony


6)  Make Personal Contact With School OfficialsThis can be necessary if a student wants to achieve their goal and it cannot be achieved via written communication alone.  Again, an accused student, such as in a suspension or expulsion matter, will want to carefully consider how this is approached so it does not harm their matter.  It will depend on the situation.  Many times meeting with one school official, then maybe another, will be necessary to try to achieve a goal.

7)  Filings Is there an official process if personal contact does not work?  If so, it should be considered.  There may also be an outside agency which could be contacted to file something (sometimes students have only one option- the outside agency or the school).  Students need to determine the internal and external processes available and their likelihood of success in either one.


8)  Rally Support:  Some students or parents think getting a bunch of protestors outside a school can help, or getting on the news will somehow intimidate the school or college.  I do not turn to the media for leverage, as I find that they usually have their story already written before they talk to me- and who knows if that will go against my client's position or not?  Once media is allowed in, sometimes the lines can get blurry on what can be printed/not printed online or otherwise.  


As far as a group of supporters: groups can be effective if they are a cohesive group of students or parents with strong positions individually (for example, they or their child were also wronged).


9)  Be Smart:  With any school issue, be it appealing a grade, or opposing an expulsion, it is important to be professional and act intelligently.  School administrators judge us on how we act, so students and parents should be thorough, well versed and professional in all communications, and keep emotion to a minimum.  Help school administrators focus on the facts by keeping it clear, concise, by presenting documented support and communicating in a way they can accept.  

10)  Know Your Audience:  Realize who you are talking to, bureaucrats and people generally unmotivated personally by any threatened loss.  It is not usually the school administrator's house at risk if a student is wronged.  School and college officials are 

not like other retail establishments who care about their clientele returning.  There is a high demand for their services and with public schools, students are often stuck in their school of residence.  As such, although administrators may not want issues, they have less motivation to resolve them than the average grocery store, as they have so much power over students.  This sometimes results in administrators talking down to students or parents.  Triumph over this by  thoroughly knowing your position and any leverage you may have.

11)  Be Persuasive Persuasion is key, and this may be seen in communications that outline the situation in a way that leads the reader (e.g. school administrator) to the student's side.  Persuasive writing is somewhat of an art, but essentially if an administrator can imagine themselves as the student and get into that viewpoint, they may move toward helping that student if possible.  Effective communication and persuasion are critical.


12)  Present Solutions That Meet Both Sides Needs:  To reach a resolution, it is important that whatever outcome a student or parent requests, it is made "easy" for the school to provide that outcome.  For example, you are not asking for them to buy a $200,000 schoolbus to get your kid home, but are only asking for a daily taxi ride, due to issues with the special education bus.  What could you and they both accept which solves the problem?  Be creative and communicate ideas which both sides could be happy with in the end, and which are possible.  Many parents don't even have an idea of what they want or don't tell the school what will satisfy them, so it is a step-up for a parent or student to tell the school or college staff their goals so they can try to reach them collaboratively.

Almost any school matter can be approached with these steps which can effectively educate the student, parent, and school, and help students win their disputes by reaching resolutions that work in the school or college setting.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

Website, Blog, Twitter, YoutubeFacebook

 

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.

 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

How To File An Office For Civil Rights Complaint Which Will Actually Get Investigated

 By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

If a student has faced discrimination in their school or college, they or their parent may want to file a complaint with the United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to get their school investigated and corrected.  Simple.


Not so fast.  


Its simple to file, but not always simple to get a filing accepted by OCR, such that they actually investigate the school or college.  OCR does not take every complaint that floats their way.  Instead, initial submissions, to be accepted, must clearly lay out a true case of discrimination or retaliation.  Otherwise, an OCR filing may be rejected and the school issues unresolved.


When preparing to file an OCR discrimination claim, parents and students need to think like lawyers.  What does this mean?  Well, what do lawyers gather to prove their cases?  Statements or summaries from witnesses, documents proving the facts of what occurred, reports, and/or anything that legitimately shows clear evidence of wrongdoing.

A very good timeline and description of the facts, without a lot of emotion or guessing, is important for OCR to understand what the parent or student believes is occurring.  This summary should describe what happened, who is believed to have done what, and specifics, such as the time, date, location, and people alleged to have been involved.  This summary can be attached to or inserted into the initial OCR complaint form.


A parent or student also needs to attach all evidence they gathered proving what occurred.  Do they have email from a teacher showing discrimination is going on, or a picture that was legally taken, or a report card that shows the issues?  Do they have letters to the school, texts with details, or even letters or statements from witnesses?  If so, these should be forwarded with the initial complaint if possible.


An example of a poor statement could be:


"My son was discriminated against by X school on the playground."  [not so good]


versus


"On February 1, 2021, my son was with a group of boys at X school during lunch, who all stole money together and none of them have past discipline incidents.  My son has ADHD and is in special education and the other four boys are not.  My son is the only boy who was suspended and the Principal called  him a "waste of special education money" when he suspended him, which was witnessed by the school secretary Madge who emailed me (see attached email, suspension form, and my son's summary of what happened written immediately afterwards).  Last month the lady in the lunch room told my son she hated special ed kids and put him at the end of the lunch line"  [much better]


It is clear when reviewing the two versions of the same situation, that one is more convincing than the other, as it has specific facts and documents backing the claims attached.  This is the way to approach an OCR filing to try to get them to pick it up and investigate the discriminating school or college.


So get gathering the facts and proof and get filing.  Schools don't want to hear from OCR, as OCR can make their lives difficult and can even cut funding.  If enough students and parents filed discrimination claims, schools and colleges would change for the better and all students would face a more tolerant environment in the future.


Best,

 

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney 

 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 

717 K Street, Suite 228 

Sacramento, CA 95814 

Phone: 916-444-9064 

Email:help@edlaw4students.com 

Fax: 916-444-1209

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Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting.  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship. This blog may not reflect the current state of the law.