Federal Problem Resolution

OCR Complaint Forms

image on discriminationOverview
Educational institutions have a responsibility to protect every student's right to learn in a safe environment free from unlawful discrimination and to prevent unjust deprivations of that right. The Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. It is the mission of the Office for Civil Rights is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.

This page provides specific and detailed information that will assist you in filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Education. Please read all of the information below before continuing on to the complaint form. Additional information is available at How OCR Handles Complaints and Questions and Answers on OCR's Complaint Process.

OCR has the authority to investigate complaints claiming a covered entity discriminated based on:
  • race, color, national origin, ethnicity, or ancestry, including a person’s

    • limited English proficiency or English learner status; and
    • actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics (such as Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh individuals)

  • sex, including

    • pregnancy or parental status;
    • sex stereotypes (such as treating persons differently because they do not conform to sex-role expectations or because they are attracted to or are in relationships with persons of the same sex); and

  • disability, including those currently without an impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, but who have a record of or are regarded as having a disability; and

  • age.

retaliated because someone made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an OCR matter; and

  • retaliated for the purpose of interfering with any right or privilege protected by the laws enforced by OCR;

  • retaliated because someone made a complaint, testified, assisted, or participated in any manner in an OCR matter; and

  • discriminated against any youth group officially affiliated with a group or organization listed in title 36 of the United States Code (as a patriotic society) that is intended to serve young people under the age of 21 that requests to conduct a meeting at a public school.

If you choose to file a complaint using either method, you will be asked to provide your name, address, and email address; the name and address of the person discriminated against; and the name and address of the entity you believe discriminated.

You also will be asked which of the kinds of discrimination forms the basis for your complaint. You will need to provide a description of the conduct that you believe is discriminatory.

By law, complaints of discrimination must ordinarily be filed within 180 days of the last act of discrimination. If your complaint involves matters that occurred longer ago than this and you are requesting a waiver, you will be asked to show good cause why you did not file your complaint within the 180-day period.

You will be asked whether you have tried to resolve the matter using a grievance procedure or by filing with another agency.

In addition to the complaint, a signed Consent Form may be required. When disclosure of the identity of the complainant is necessary in order to resolve the complaint, OCR will require written consent before proceeding. The complainant will be informed that the complaint will be closed if written consent is necessary in order to resolve the complaint and is not received within 20 calendar days of the date of the acknowledgement letter or the date the Consent Form is requested from the complainant. The signed Consent Form may be submitted to OCR by mail, fax, email (with a scanned attachment), or in person.

When OCR has determined that consent is necessary in order to resolve the complaint and OCR has not received a signed Consent Form by the 15th calendar day of the date of the acknowledgment letter or the date the Consent Form is requested from the complainant, OCR will contact the complainant (e.g., by phone) to inform the complainant that the complaint will be closed if the signed Consent Form is not received within 5 calendar days. If OCR does not receive signed written Consent Form, the complaint will be dismissed, and the complainant informed in writing.

A complainant on behalf of or regarding to another person(s) is responsible for securing any necessary written consent from that individual, including when a parent files for a student over the age of 18. Where the person is a minor (under the age of 18) or a legally incompetent adult, the Consent Form must be signed by that person’s parent or legal guardian. Parental or legal guardian consent may not be required for persons under the age of 18 if they are emancipated under state law and are therefore considered to have obtained majority. Proof of emancipation or incompetence must be provided.

If you submit the completed electronic complaint form, it will be routed to the OCR office with authority to handle complaints in the state where the institution or entity you are complaining about is located. A staff person will contact you once your electronic complaint has been received and reviewed.

If you select the fillable PDF complaint form, once you complete the complaint form and Consent Form, you should print them out, sign them; and mail them (or email scanned copies of the signed forms) to the Enforcement Office with authority for the state where the institution or entity you are complaining about is located. A staff person will contact you once your complaint has been received and reviewed.

You may now continue to either the electronic complaint form or the fillable PDF complaint form, or you may abandon the form and return to the OCR Complaint Process page.

Continue to Electronic Complaint Form or Fillable PDF Complaint Form download filesPDF (228K) 

 

 

Last Modified: 01/10/2020

Content retrieved on 9/30/2020 from: https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/complaintintro.html.

FERPA Complaint Forms

If you feel yours or your child's rights have been violated under FERPA, please review the steps below to review the Student Privacy Policy Office's Complaint Process.  If your concerns are specific to PPRA, please visit our PPRA page and then file a compliant via (new PPRA complaint form).

A parent of a student under the age of 18 at an elementary or secondary school or a student who is at least 18 years of age or attending a postsecondary institution at any age (“eligible student”) may file a written complaint with the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) regarding an alleged violation of a school’s failure to comply with his or her rights under FERPA.  A parent of an eligible student   generally may not file a complaint under FERPA, as the rights afforded to parents are transferred to the student when he or she becomes an eligible student. 

  • Please review the FERPA General Guidance for Parents or Eligible StudentsFAQs and other resources on our Resources page to determine whether FERPA protections apply to your situation. 
  • If after carefully reviewing the FAQs and guidance, you believe you do have a timely allegation of a school’s failure to comply with your rights under FERPA, you must complete a complaint form.  A timely complaint is defined as an allegation of violation of FERPA that is submitted to SPPO within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the parent or eligible student knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.
  • Please take the time to outline the relevant facts clearly and succinctly before you complete your complaint form.
  • You may wish to contact your local educational agency or institution to seek to resolve your concerns before filing a complaint.

Your FERPA complaint must—

  • be in writing and must contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a FERPA violation has occurred;
  • be filed by the parent of a student at an elementary or secondary school under the age of 18 or an eligible student; and
  • Filed within 180 days of the alleged violation or within 180 days after the complainant knew or should have known about the violation.

If your complaint does not meet these requirements, we will notify you that your allegation(s) will not be investigated.  Please note that FERPA does not provide the basis for a private suit for enforcement of its provisions against an educational agency or institution.

Parents and eligible students who wish to file a complaint under FERPA should do so by completing the complaint form electronically. Please note that this form is an adobe fillable .pdf and works best when used with Adobe Acrobat.  Once you have completed the form you can click “Submit Form.”  This will attach the e-mail to your computer’s default e-mail software.  If you have not selected a default e-mail program or the one you selected does not open when clicking “Submit Form” you will need to save the form, manually attach it to an e-mail and send it to FERPA.Complaints@ed.gov.  Alternatively, you may print out the form, sign and mail it to the following address:

 

U.S. Department of Education

Student Privacy Policy Office

400 Maryland Ave, SW

Washington, DC 20202-8520

To resolve your complaint, SPPO may need to collect and analyze personal information such as your child’s or your education records, or in some instances the education records of other students supplied to us by the school that are pertinent to the investigation and resolution of the complaint.  Please note that no law requires you to provide SPPO with your personal information.  Furthermore, complainants, persons such as family members, witnesses, or others are not required by FEPRA to provide information during the complaint resolution process.   However, if SPPO does not receive the information needed to resolve your complaint, it may be necessary to close the complaint and issue a finding based on incomplete information.

The Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552, governs the protection of personally identifying information contained in records in “systems of records” maintained by Federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education.  The Privacy Act protects individuals from the misuse of personal information held by the Federal government.  It applies to records that are kept and can be located by the individual’s name, social security number, or other personal identifier.  It regulates the collection, maintenance, use and dissemination of certain personal information in the files of Federal agencies.

SPPO may disclose information without your consent under one of the 11 instances defined in the Department’s Privacy Act regulation at 34 C.F.R. § 5b.9(b).  The cited regulation can be accessed online here.  For instance, SPPO may disclose information without your consent to other employees in the Department of Education with a “need to know” to perform their job duties.  The Department also has published a system of records notice that covers FERPA complaints that permits SPPO to make any of nine published “routine use” disclosures without your consent which can be found here.

One such routine use disclosure permits SPPO to disclose information without your consent to educational agencies and institutions against which your complaint was filed in order to resolve your complaint.  In other words, SPPO may need to reveal certain information to officials at your school, to verify facts or gather additional information related to your complaint. A second published routine use disclosure permits SPPO to disclose your information, without your consent, to a Member of Congress who inquired into your complaint at your request. 

File By Mail or Email

The complaint form may also be downloaded and either submitted to SPPO by e-mailing it to FERPA.Complaints@ed.gov or by printing out the form, signing and mailing it to the following address:

U.S. Department of Education
Student Privacy Policy Office
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202-8520

Complaint Form

File Electronically

Parents and eligible students who wish to file a complaint under FERPA should do so by completing the complaint form electronically.  To access the SPPO e-complaint form, click the button below.

Complaint Form


Content retrieved on 9/30/2020 from: https://studentprivacy.ed.gov/file-a-complaint.