This document is an attempt to answer the most frequently asked questions regarding how to deal with informal and formal parent complaints.
Q: What do I do if a parent complains about me to my administrator?
First, this can be a stressful situation (especially if the parent does not speak with you directly first) and it’s important to get support from your Site Rep, colleagues, grade level, department, BHS SLC, the BFT office, etc. It is important to know that your administration has the explicit goal of trying to resolve the complaint at the site level and at the informal stage of the process.
If a parent registers an informal complaint (an email, a phone call, in person) with the principal, vice-principal or other supervisor, the administrator should strongly request that the parent speak directly with the teacher. BFT believes that the administrator should also contact the teacher to provide information, and should forward any relevant emails. The goal should be for the teacher and the parent to talk directly, strengthen communication and address any concerns.
Teachers should meet in person with parents who have strong concerns (one meeting should be enough to resolve most concerns). You have the right to ask an administrator to attend any meeting you have with a parent if this is something you want and something that would be supportive.
If you are meeting with a parent who has a strong concern we recommend always having another person (the administrator, a colleague, a counselor, etc.) at the meeting. We strongly recommend that you do not meet with an escalated parent by yourself.
Q: Can my administrator require me to meet with the administrator and the parent about a parent complaint?
No. Your administrator can always require you to meet with the administrator regarding a parent concern, but cannot require you to meet with the administrator and the parent.
Q: What happens if the concern cannot be resolved?
If the parent is unwilling to communicate directly with the teacher, or the parent does not feel that there is a satisfactory outcome, the administrator should make one last push for direct communication between the parent and the teacher. If the situation remains unresolved the administrator should attempt to resolve the complaint by meeting separately with the teacher and the parent. If the situation remains unresolved the administrator should inform the parent of their right to file a formal complaint using the district form.
Q: What are my rights if a parent files a formal complaint against me?
With regard to a formal complaint, the administrator can request a meeting with the teacher to discuss the complaint. The teacher has the right to a union representative in this meeting. Note: administrators cannot require teachers to meet with both the administrator and the parent where the teacher has already had direct communication with the parent.
If a meeting between the administrator and teacher cannot resolve the complaint, then the BUSD district-level administrator responsible for complaints takes over. If this BUSD administrator wants to interview a teacher about a complaint, they must do so in private session and the teacher has a right to union representation.
The vast majority of complaints are resolved at this level or earlier in the process. If somehow a complaint is not resolved at this level the teacher can be required to meet with the Superintendent with union representation.
All meetings concerning a parent complaint are conducted in strict confidence. All findings of any of these processes are confidential unless the teacher requests otherwise.
You can find the specific contract language about your rights in this process in Article 15.8 of the BFT/BUSD contract.
Q: Can I see the complaint filed against me?
Yes. BFT believes that the teacher should receive a copy of the formal complaint early in this process. If this is not occurring in your case, please contact the BFT office.
Q: How do complaints impact my evaluation (performance review) or my personnel record?
A: Formal complaints do not go into your personnel file. If BUSD puts any findings of concern in a written letter of reprimand, or in a Form B report as part of your evaluation, you have a right to respond to these claims in writing, and to have your response attached to the original document.
Relevant Contract Language:
15.8 Formal Complaints
Formal complaints from community members against an individual teacher shall be referred to the Principal. If the complaint is not resolved by the Principal and the complaint could affect the performance review of the teacher, the complaint shall be reduced to writing by the complainant and copies provided the District Compliance Officer (DCO) and the teacher. A summary of the complaint will be provided to the teacher at or before the beginning of any interview the with teacher about the complaint. If the DCO views it necessary s/he shall meet with the teacher and/or representative in private session. If the complaint is not resolved by the DCO and the complaint could affect the performance review of the teacher the complaint shall be provided to the Superintendent. If the Superintendent views it necessary s/he shall meet with the teacher and/or representative in private session.
Upon agreement, charges may be dismissed. All meetings concerning such matters are to be conducted in confidence and no public disclosure shall be made except by mutual agreement. If no agreement has been reached, the matter shall be referred to the Board which may either terminate the charges or conduct a closed session personnel hearing. The teacher and/or representative may attend this session. The findings of the Board shall be treated as confidential by involved parties unless otherwise requested by the teacher. These findings may be made a part of the performance review record.