7.3 Uniform Complaint Procedures

Uniform Complaint Procedures

(SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.3)

i. Policy

A. Purpose and Authority

  • The San Francisco Board of Education recognizes that the District is primarily responsible for complying with applicable state and federal laws and regulations governing educational programs.  The District shall investigate and resolve complaints alleging violations of federal or state laws or regulations governing specific educational programs, the prohibition against requiring students to pay fees, deposits or other charges for participating in educational activities and unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation, or bullying in accordance with the District’s uniform complaint procedures.  This policy extends to San Francisco County Office of Education, including community school programs and activities. A copy of the Uniform Complaint Form is available in this Handbook.

B. Jurisdiction

  • 1. The District has jurisdiction or the authority to hear Uniform Complaints that address the following:
    • a. Unlawful discrimination, including discriminatory harassment, intimidation, or bullying, in district programs and activities against any person based on their actual or perceived characteristics of race or ethnicity, color, ancestry, nationality, national origin, ethnic group identification, age, religion, marital or parental status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, or genetic information, or any other characteristic identified in CA Education Code 200 or 220, Government Code 11135, or CA Penal Code 422.55, or based on their association with a person or group with one or more of these actual or perceived characteristics (5 CA Code of Regulations 4610) 
    • b. District violation of applicable state or federal law or regulations governing adult education programs, consolidated categorical aid programs, migrant education, career technical and technical education and training programs, and child care and development programs,(5 CA Code of Regulations 4610) 
    • c. District violation of the prohibition against requiring students to pay fees, deposits, or other charges for participation in educational activities and/or LCAP (5 CA Code of Regulations 4610) 
    • d. District non-compliance with legal requirements related to the implementation of the local control and accountability plan (CA Education Code 52075) 
    • e. Any complaint alleging retaliation against a complainant or other participant in the complaint process or anyone who has acted to uncover or report a violation subject to this policy
    • f. Any complaint alleging that a school is not meeting the minimum Physical Education minutes (400 per 10 school days for high school and 200 minutes per 10 school days for middle school), as required by state law;  (CA Education Code 51210-51212)
    • g. Any complaint alleging district noncompliance with the requirement to provide reasonable accommodation to a lactating student on school campus to express breast milk, breastfeed an infant child, or address other breastfeeding-related needs of the student;  (CA Education Code 220)
    • h. Any complaint, by or on behalf of any student who is a foster youth, alleging district noncompliance with any legal requirement applicable to the student regarding placement decisions, the responsibilities of the district's educational liaison to the student, the award of credit for coursework satisfactorily completed in another school or district, school transfer, or the grant of an exemption from Board-imposed graduation requirements. (CA Education Code 48853, 48853.5, 49069.5, 51225.1, 51225.2)
    • i. Any complaint, by or on behalf of a homeless student as defined in 42 United States Code 11434a, a former juvenile court school student, or a child of a military family as defined in CA Education Code 49701 who transfers into the district after their second year of high school, alleging district noncompliance with any requirement applicable to the student regarding the award of credit for coursework satisfactorily completed in another school or district or the grant of an exemption from Board-imposed graduation requirements. (CA Education Code 51225.1, 51225.2)
    • j. Any complaint alleging that a school has incorrectly placed a 9th-12th grade student in a course without educational content for more than one week in any semester, other than the acceptable prescribed conditions; (CA Education Code 51228.1, 51228.2, and 51228.3)
    • k. Any appeal of a student expulsion alleging that the Board of Education failed to meet state legal requirements as specifically described in CA Education Code 48922.  These appeals will be investigated and resolved by the District in accordance with the specific procedures specified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.3 - Uniform Complaint Procedures. 
    • l. Any other complaint as specified in a district policy
  • 2. Complaints That Fall Outside of UC Complaint Jurisdiction: The District does not have jurisdiction or the authority to hear complaints that address the issues identified in (a), (b) and (c) below.  These complainants must be referred to the agencies or the District departments identified below for appropriate resolution no later than five (5) calendar days after the receipt of the Uniform Complaint by the District’s Office of Equity.
    • a. Any complaint alleging child abuse or neglect shall be referred to the County Department of Social Services, the County Protective Services Division, and the appropriate law enforcement agency.
    • b. Any complaint alleging health and safety violations by a child development program shall, for licensed facilities, be referred to the Department of Social Services and shall, for licensing-exempt facilities, be referred to the appropriate Child Development regional administrator
    • c. Any complaint alleging employment discrimination shall be sent to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the compliance officer shall notify the complainant by first class mail of the transfer.
  • 3. Other Complaints Not Subject to the UCP
    • a. Americans with Disabilities Act: Any complaint alleging physical barriers to accessing SFUSD programs, services, activities and facilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act and/or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 will be investigated and resolved by the District in accordance with the procedure specified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.5 - ADA Grievance Process. 
    • b. Section 504: Any complaint alleging disagreements with decisions or actions taken or not taken in regard to a student's Section 504 evaluation or plan under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 will be investigated and resolved by the District in accordance with the procedure specified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.6 - Section 504 Grievance process
    • c. Employment Discrimination or Harassment: Any complaint alleging employment discrimination or harassment shall be investigated and resolved by the District in accordance with the procedures specified in SFUSD Administrative Regulation 4030 - Nondiscrimination in Employment.
    • d. Williams Complaints: In addition, the District's Williams Uniform Complaint Procedures, SFUSD Administrative Regulation 1312.4, shall be used to investigate and resolve any complaint related to sufficiency of textbooks or instructional materials, emergency or urgent facilities conditions that pose a threat to the health or safety of students or staff, or teacher vacancies and misassignments. (CA Education Code 35186) 
    • e. Notice of No Jurisdiction: All complainants shall be notified by first class mail or personally no later than five (5) school days after the receipt of the Uniform Complaint by the Office of Equity of the necessity of transferring their Uniform Complaints to a different agency or District department.  With the exception of Child Abuse Issues and fraud, the complainants, and not the District, are solely responsible for transferring their Uniform Complaints.  However, the Office of Equity will provide them with a list of addresses to effectuate the transfers.

ii. Right to seek additional assistance

All complainants have the right to seek additional assistance in the filing and processing of their Uniform Complaints.  Complainants may seek help from public or private agencies such as legal assistance agencies, local mediation centers, from private attorneys or from the Categorical Programs Complaints Management Unit.   If the complainants elect to seek help and/or retain the services of these public or private agencies, the District shall not bear the costs for these services.

iii. Compliance coordinator

  • a. The Superintendent or his designees shall ensure that employees designated to investigate complaints are knowledgeable about the laws and programs for which they are responsible.  Such employees may have access to legal counsel as determined by the Superintendent or his designee. 
  • b. The Board of Education designates the following compliance officer to receive and investigate complaints and to ensure district compliance with law:

Keasara Williams, Executive Director, Office of Equity
555 Franklin Street, Room 306
San Francisco, CA  94102 - Telephone:  (415) 355-7334
Facsimile:  (415) 355-7333 - Email: Equity@sfusd.edu

iv. Notifications

  • a. The Superintendent or designee shall annually provide written notification of the district's uniform complaint procedures to students, employees, parents/guardians, the district advisory committee, school advisory committees, appropriate private school officials or representatives, and other interested parties. (5 CA Code of Regulations 4622)
  • b. The District's uniform complaint procedures policy and administrative regulation shall be posted in all district schools and offices, including staff lounges and student government meeting rooms. If 15 percent or more of students enrolled in a particular district school speak a single primary language other than English, the district's policy, regulation, forms, and notices concerning uniform complaint procedures shall be translated into that language. (CA Education Code 234.1, 48985)
  • c. The Superintendent or designee shall make available copies of the district's uniform complaint procedures free of charge. (5 CA Code of Regulations 4622) The notice shall:
    • 1. Identify the person(s), position(s), or unit(s) responsible for investigating complaints.
    • 2. Advise that person(s), position(s), or  employee(s) responsible in the District for compliance and/or investigations will  be knowledgeable about the laws/programs that they are  assigned to investigate.
    • 3. Advise the complainant of any civil law remedies that may be available to them under state or federal discrimination laws, if applicable
    • 4. Advise the complainant of the appeal process, including, if applicable, the complainant's right to take a complaint directly to the California Department of Education (CDE) or to pursue remedies before civil courts or other public agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in cases involving unlawful discrimination.
    • 5. Include statements that:
      • a. The district is primarily responsible for compliance with applicable state and federal laws and regulations governing educational programs.
      • b.The complaint review shall be completed within 60 calendar days from the date of receipt of the complaint unless the complainant agrees in writing to an extension of the timeline
      • c. An unlawful discrimination, retaliation or bullying complaint must be filed not later than six months from the date the alleged event occured, or six months from the date the complainant first obtains knowledge of the facts of the alleged event.
      • d. A student enrolled in a public school shall not be required to pay a fee for their participation in an educational activity that is an integral fundamental part of the Districts educational program. 
      • e. The complainant has a right to appeal the district's decision to the CDE by filing a written appeal within 15 days of receiving the district's decision
      • f. The appeal to the CDE must include a copy of the complaint filed with the district and a copy of the district's decision

v. Procedures

  • The following procedures shall be used to address all complaints which allege that the district has violated federal or state laws or regulations governing educational programs.  Compliance officers shall maintain a record of each complaint and subsequent related actions, including all information required for compliance with 5 CA Code of Regulations 4631 and 4633.
  • Step 1:  Filing of Complaint 

    • a. Any individual, public agency, or organization may file a written complaint of alleged noncompliance by the district. (5 CA Code of Regulations 4630)
    • b. Any complaint seeking to appeal the decision to expel a student under the criteria of Education Code 48922 must be filed within 20 days of the Board’s vote to expel the student. The complaint must indicate the specific basis for the appeal under one or more of the 4 listed criteria of CA Education Code 48922. 
    • c. A complaint alleging unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying shall be initiated no later than six months from the date when the alleged discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying occurred, or six months from the date when the complainant first obtained knowledge of the facts of the alleged discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying. 
    • d. A complaint alleging that the district violated federal or state laws or regulations governing applicable educational programs, including student fees, must be filed not later than one year from the date the alleged violation occurred.  A complaint may be filed by a person who alleges that they personally suffered unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying, or by a person who believes that an individual or any specific class of individuals has been subjected to unlawful discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4630)
    • e. A complaint alleging noncompliance with the law regarding the prohibition against requiring students to pay student fees, deposits, and charges may be filed anonymously if the complaint provides evidence or information leading to evidence to support an allegation of noncompliance. (CA Education Code 49013)
    • f. The complaint shall be presented to the Office of Equity which shall maintain a log of complaints received, providing each with a code number and a date stamp.
    • g. If a complainant is unable to put a complaint in writing due to conditions such as a disability or illiteracy, district staff shall assist him/her in the filing of the complaint.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4600)
  • Step 2:  Mediation 

    • a. The compliance officer may informally discuss with the complainant the possibility of using mediation.  If the complainant agrees to mediation, the compliance officer shall make all arrangements for this process.
    • b. Before initiating the mediation of a discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying complaint, the compliance officer shall ensure that all parties agree to make the mediator a party to related confidential information.
    • c. If the mediation process does not resolve the problem within the parameters of law, the compliance officer shall proceed with their investigation of the complaint.
    • d. The use of mediation shall not extend the district's timelines for investigating and resolving the complaint unless the complainant agrees in writing to such an extension of time.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
  • Step 3:  Investigation of Complaint

    • a. Within 10 business days after receiving the UCP complaint, the compliance officer shall begin an investigation into the complaint.The compliance officer is encouraged to hold an investigative meeting to provide an opportunity for the complainant and/or their representative to repeat the complaint orally.
    • b. The complainant and/or their representative shall have an opportunity to present the complaint and evidence or information leading to evidence to support the allegations in the complaint.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
    • c. A complainant's refusal to provide the district's investigator with documents or other evidence related to the allegations in the complaint, or their failure or refusal to cooperate in the investigation or their engagement in any other obstruction of the investigation, may result in the dismissal of the complaint because of a lack of evidence to support the allegation.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
    • d. The district's refusal to provide the investigator with access to records and/or other information related to the allegation in the complaint, or its failure or refusal to cooperate in the investigation or its engagement in any other obstruction of the investigation, may result in a finding, based on evidence collected, that a violation has occurred and may result in the imposition of a remedy in favor of the complainant.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
  • Step 4:  Response 

    • a. Unless extended by written agreement with the complainant, the compliance officer shall prepare and send to the complainant a written “investigation report” of the district's investigation and decision, as described in Step #5 below, within 60 days of the district's receipt of the complaint.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
  • Step 5:  Final Written Investigation Report 

    • a. The district's investigation report  shall be in writing and sent to the b. complainant.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
    • The district's investigation report  shall be written in English and in the language of the complainant whenever feasible or as required by law.
    • c. The investigation report  shall include:
      • i. The findings of fact based on the evidence gathered (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
      • ii. The conclusion(s) providing a clear determination as to each allegation as to whether the district is in compliance with the relevant law (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
      • iii. Corrective actions, if any are warranted (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
      • iv. Notice of the complainant's right to appeal the district's Investigation Report  within 15 days to the CDE and procedures to be followed for initiating such an appeal  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4631)
      • v. For discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying complaints, notice that the complainant must wait until 60 days from the filing of an appeal with the CDE before pursuing civil law remedies (CA Education Code 262.3)
      • vi. If an employee is disciplined as a result of the complaint, the investigation report shall simply state that effective action was taken and that the employee was informed of district expectations.  The report shall not give any further information as to the nature of the disciplinary action.
    • d. If a complaint alleging noncompliance with the laws regarding student fees, deposits, and other charges is found to have merit, the district shall provide a remedy to all affected students and parents/guardians, which, where applicable, shall include reasonable efforts to ensure full reimbursement to them. (CA Education Code 49013)
    • e. All parties involved in allegations shall be notified when a complaint is filed, when a complaint meeting or hearing is scheduled, and when a decision or ruling is made.  

vi. Confidentiality

The San Francisco Unified School District and the California State Department of Education shall ensure that complainants are protected from retaliation and that the identity of a complaint alleging discrimination will remain confidential as appropriate.

vii. Appeals to the California Department of Education

  • If dissatisfied with the district's investigation report, the complainant may appeal in writing to the CDE within 10  days of receiving the district's investigation report.  When appealing to the CDE, the complainant must specify the basis for the appeal of the investigation report  and whether the facts are incorrect and/or the law has been misapplied. The appeal shall be accompanied by a copy of the locally filed complaint and a copy of the district's investigation report.  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4632)
  • Upon notification by the CDE that the complainant has appealed the district's investigation report, the Superintendent or designee shall forward the following documents to the CDE within 10 days of the date of notification:  (5 CA Code of Regulations 4633)
    • 1. A copy of the original complaint
    • 2. A copy of the investigation report
    • 3. A copy of the investigation file, including but not limited to all notes, interviews, and documents submitted by the parties and gathered by the investigator
    • 4. A report of any action taken to resolve the complaint
    • 5. A copy of the district's complaint procedures
    • 6. Other relevant information requested by the CDE
  • The CDE may directly intervene in the complaint without waiting for action by the district when one of the conditions listed in 5 CA Code of Regulations 4650 exists, including cases in which the district has not taken action within 60 days of the date the complaint was filed with the district.

viii. Civil law remedies

A complainant may pursue available civil law remedies outside of the district's complaint procedures under state or federal discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying laws.  Complainants may seek assistance from mediation centers or public/private interest attorneys.  Civil law remedies that may be imposed by a court include, but are not limited to, injunctions and restraining orders.  For complaints alleging discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying based on state law, a complainant must wait until 60 days have elapsed from the filing of an appeal with the CDE before pursuing civil law remedies.  The moratorium does not apply to injunctive relief or complaints alleging discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying based on federal law, and is applicable only if the district has appropriately, and in a timely manner, apprised the complainant of their right to file a complaint in accordance with 5 CA Code of Regulations 4622.