Steps to Writing an Effective Complaint

Start with the facts

Describe the factual occurrence and steer clear of conclusions. 

Try: "My child is assigned three chapters of social studies with questions to answer, two reading assignments and twenty math problems almost every day. It takes her approximately three hours to complete each night."

Avoid: "There is too much homework."

Use timelines

Quantify: Dates, times, number of occurrences are important. Estimates are okay.

Try: "I witnessed three physical altercations between eighth-grade students on the yard at school in October in which no school staff intervened." 

Try: "On Nov. 12, at approximately 2:45 p.m., John Doe approached Jane Doe and touched her inappropriately."

Minimize the emotion

This can be difficult. Emotional language in a complaint undermines its credibility.

Try: "John was left unattended by his teacher for 40 minutes."

Avoid: "Mr. Jones forced John to sit alone in his classroom because he dislikes my son."

Describe the steps you took to correct the problem

A crucial step to understand how the process worked once the problem was identified.

  • Did you or your student report the problem? When?
  • When did you meet with school personnel?
  • What was the outcome? How long did that take?
  • Were you promised any feedback or outcomes? Did these occur?

List the witnesses

What other people saw and did surrounding the incident will help the investigator understand the context.

If possible, try to provide:

  • Names of other students involved
  • Names of school teachers, staff or administration involved
  • Names of other parents involved

Identify the rule of conduct or policy violation

Determine which rule or policy was violated. To do this, carefully review of the SFUSD Student & Parent/Guardian Handbook to identify the policy, rule or expectation whose violation most closely describes your issue. See p. 42 of the handbook for Student Bill of Rights & Responsibilities, p. 72 for Discrimination, Harassment or Facility Complaints.

Name your desired outcome

  • An apology?
  • A transfer of class or school?
  • Expulsion?
  • Termination or probation?
  • A change in school or district policy?
  • Any combination of the above?

This page was last updated on June 6, 2022