PURPOSE OF POLICY
The purpose of this policy is to provide the public an orderly process for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints. The Board intends that, whenever feasible, complaints be resolved at the lowest possible administrative level.
UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION
The School shall take no action abridging the freedom of speech or the right of the people to petition the board for redress of grievances. U.S. Const. Amend. I, XIV
A board may confine its meetings to specified subject matter and may hold nonpublic sessions to transact business. But when the board sits in public meetings to conduct public business and hear the views of citizens, it may not discriminate between speakers on the basis of the content of their speech or the message it conveys. Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of Univ. of Virginia, 515 U.S. 819, 828 (1995); City of Madison v. Wis. Emp. Rel. Comm’n, 429 U.S. 167, 174 (1976); Pickering v. Bd. of Educ., 391 U.S. 563, 568 (1968)
Citizens shall have the right, in a peaceable manner, to assemble together for their common good and to apply to those invested with the powers of government for redress of grievances or other purposes, by petition, address, or remonstrance. Tex. Const. Art. I, Sec. 27
Response to Complaints
There is no requirement that the board negotiate or even respond to complaints. However, the board must stop, look, and listen and must consider the petition, address, or remonstrance. Professional Association of College Educators v. El Paso County Community [College] District, 678 S.W.2d 94 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1984, writ ref’d n.r.e.)
The School shall adopt grievance procedures that incorporate appropriate due process standards and that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. 29 U.S.C. 794; 34 CFR 104.7(b)
Americans With Disabilities Act
The School shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable
resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 28, Part 35 (Americans with Disabilities Act regulations). 28 CFR 35.107
The Board encourages the public to discuss concerns and complaints through informal conferences with the appropriate administrator.
Concerns should be expressed as soon as possible to allow early resolution at the lowest possible administrative level.
If an informal conference regarding a complaint fails to reach the outcome requested by an individual, he or she may initiate the formal process described below by timely filing a written complaint form.
Even after initiating the formal complaint process, individuals are encouraged to seek informal resolution of their concerns. An individual whose concerns are resolved may withdraw a formal complaint at any time.
The process described in this policy shall not be construed to create new or additional rights beyond those granted by law or Board policy, nor to require a full evidentiary hearing or “mini-trial” at any level.
Freedom From Retaliation
Neither the Board nor any School employee shall unlawfully retaliate against any individual or any individual’s child for bringing a concern or complaint.
Except as addressed by Specific Complaints, below, this policy applies to all complaints or grievances from the public.
For more information on how to proceed with complaints regarding:
- Alleged discrimination, see Policy GA.
- Instructional materials, see Policy EFA.
- On-campus distribution of nonschool materials, see Policy GKDA.
For purposes of this policy, terms are defined as follows:
The terms “complaint” and “grievance” shall have the same meaning.
Complaint forms and appeal notices may be filed by hand-delivery, fax, or U.S. Mail. Hand-delivered filings shall be timely filed if received by the appropriate administrator or designee by the close of business on the deadline. Fax filings shall be timely filed if they are received on or before the deadline, as indicated by the date/time shown on the fax copy. Mail filings shall be timely filed if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on the deadline and received by the appropriate administrator or designated representative no more than three days after the deadline.
The definition of “day” means calendar day unless otherwise defined in law or Board policy.
In computing any period of time prescribed or allowed by this policy, the day of the aggrieved act, event, or default after which the designated period of time begins to run is not to be included. The last day of the period is to be included, unless it is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, in which event the period runs until the end of the next day which is not a Saturday, Sunday or legal holiday. Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays shall not be counted for any purpose in any time period of five days or less in this policy (or applicable law). The day on which a complaint is filed is not to be counted in calculating the designated period of time. If a complaint is received by mail, the date of the filing is the date of the postmark.
Texas Rules of Court, Part I, Rule 4
Any extension to the stated timelines in this policy shall be considered by the Superintendent on a case by case basis.
At Levels One and Two, “response” shall mean a written communication to the individual from the appropriate administrator. Responses may be hand-delivered or sent by U.S. Mail to the individual’s mailing address of record. Mailed responses shall be timely if they are postmarked by U.S. Mail on the deadline and received by the individual or designated representative no more than three days after the response deadline.
“Representative” shall mean any person who or organization that is designated by an individual to represent the individual in the complaint process.
The individual may designate a representative through written notice to the School at any level of this process. If the individual designates a representative with fewer than three days’ notice to the School before a scheduled conference or hearing, the School may reschedule the conference or hearing to a later date, if desired, in order to include the School’s counsel.
Complaints arising out of an event or a series of related events shall be addressed in one complaint. An individual shall not bring separate or serial complaints arising from any event or series of events that have been or could have been addressed in a previous complaint.
All time limits shall be strictly followed unless modified by mutual written consent.
If a complaint form or appeal notice is not timely filed, the complaint may be dismissed, on written notice to the individual, at any point during the complaint process. The individual may appeal the dismissal by seeking review in writing within ten days, starting at the level at which the complaint was dismissed. Such appeal shall be limited to the issue of timeliness.
Each party shall pay its own costs incurred in the course of the complaint.
An individual having a complaint shall initiate the complaint process with the Office of the Superintendent within ten days of the time the individual first knew, or should have known, of the event, or series of events, causing the complaint. The Superintendent or designee shall explain the process of bringing the complaint as follows:
INFORMAL PROBLEM SOLVING CONFERENCE
Prior to the time the individual files a Level One Complaint, the complainant and the supervisor(s) shall attempt to resolve the problem informally (here titled the “informal problem solving conference”).
Within five days of initiating the complaint process with the Superintendent’s Office, the complainant shall contact the supervisor in whose area of responsibility the complaint lies and request a conference to attempt to resolve the complaint orally with the supervisor. The supervisor must schedule the
conference to occur within five days of the complainant’s request for an informal problem solving conference.
The supervisor to whom the complainant brings the complaint shall summarize both the individual’s complaint and the supervisor’s determination in writing and present it to the complainant within five days of the conference.
Complaints under this policy shall be submitted in writing on a form provided by the School. (See Policy GF-Exhibit).
Copies of any documents that support the complaint should be attached to the complaint form. If the individual does not have copies of these documents, they may be presented at the Level One conference. After the Level One conference, no new documents may be submitted unless the individual did not know the documents existed before the Level One conference.
A complaint form that is incomplete in any material aspect may be dismissed, but may be refiled with all the requested information if the refiling is within the designated time for filing a complaint.
If the only administrator who has authority to remedy the alleged problem is the Superintendent or designee, the complaint may begin at Level Two following the procedure, including deadlines, for filing the complaint form at Level One.
Level One: Supervisor and/or Higher Level Administrators
If the individual is not satisfied with the results of the informal problem solving conference, a written grievance may be filed. The written grievance must be filed with the Office of the Superintendent within ten days from the time the supervisor notifies the individual in writing of the summary/outcome of the informal problem solving conference.
The written grievance must contain all of the information requested in the grievance form (GF-E). The written grievance must include the administrator’s written response from the informal problem solving conference.
Any grievance that is incomplete when filed shall be returned to the grievant who shall then have five days to refile the grievance. If the grievance is refiled without containing all necessary information, or is incomplete in any material manner, it may be dismissed for such failure.
If the complaint is not filed with the appropriate administrator, the receiving administrator must note the date and time the complaint form was received and immediately forward the complaint form to the appropriate administrator.
The appropriate administrator shall hold a conference with the individual within ten days after receipt of the written complaint.
The administrator shall have ten days following the conference to provide the individual a written response.
Level Two: Appeal to the Superintendent
If the individual did not receive the relief requested at Level One or if the time for a response has expired, he or she may request a conference with the Superintendent or designee to appeal the Level One decision.
The appeal notice must be filed in writing, on a form provided by the School, within ten days after receipt of a response or, if no response was received, within ten days of the response deadline at Level One. (See Policy GF Exhibit).
The Superintendent or designee shall hold a conference with the grievant within ten days after the appeal notice is filed. At the conference, the Superintendent or designee shall consider only the issues and documents presented at Level One and identified in the Level Two appeal notice. The Superintendent may, but is not required to, take testimony and accept evidence supporting the grievant or the level one supervisor’s decision(s). The Superintendent or designee shall have ten days following the conference to provide the individual a written response.
The Superintendent or designee shall deliver a copy of the response to the grievant by either hand, e-mail, or certified mail, return receipt requested
Level Three: Appeal to the Board
If the individual did not receive the relief requested at Level Two or if the time for a response has expired, he or she may appeal the decision to the Board.
The appeal notice must be filed in writing with the Superintendent’s Office, on a form provided by the School, within thirty days after receipt of a response or, if no response was received, within thirty days of the response deadline at Level Two. (See Policy GF Exhibit)
Upon receipt of such written notification, the Superintendent, in consultation with the Board President, shall place the grievant’s complaint on the agenda of the next regularly scheduled Board meeting for which the deadline for submission of the agenda to the Texas Register in accordance with the requirements of the Texas Open Meetings Act has not passed, in which case the matter shall be placed on the following regularly scheduled meeting.
The Superintendent or designee shall inform the individual of the date, time, and place of the Board meeting at which the complainant will be on the agenda for presentation to the Board. Procedures for appeals to the Board as described in this policy shall be provided to the grievant by the Superintendent’s office upon request.
The Superintendent or designee shall provide the Board with copies of the complaint form, all responses, all appeal notices, and all written documentation previously submitted by the individual or
the administration. The Board shall consider only those issues and documents presented at the preceding levels and identified in the appeal notice.
At the regularly scheduled meeting, the Board shall listen to the complaint, but is not required to respond or take any action on the matter.
The Board shall determine whether the complaint will be presented in open or closed meeting in accordance with the Texas Open Meetings Act and other applicable law. [See Policy BE]
The presiding officer may set reasonable time limits and guidelines for the presentation. The Board shall hear the complaint and may request that the administration provide an explanation for the decisions at the preceding levels.
The Board shall then consider the complaint. The Board may determine that additional information is needed to arrive at a decision. The Board will inform the grievant and the Superintendent as to the information needed, and postpone a decision to the next scheduled or specially called session of the Board.
The Board may give notice of its decision orally or in writing at any time up to and including the next regularly scheduled Board meeting. If for any reason the Board fails to reach a decision regarding the complaint by the end of the next regularly scheduled meeting, the lack of a response by the Board upholds the administrative decision at Level Two.
Announcing a decision in the grievant’s presence constitutes communicating the decision.
If the Board does make a decision, the Board shall respond, in writing, within ten (10) days of the Board meeting at which the grievant’s appeal was heard.
There will be no further appeal within the public complaint process of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
APPEAL TO THE COMMISSIONER
A person may appeal the decision of the Board to the Commissioner of Education if the person is aggrieved by an action or decision of the Board that violates the school laws of Texas or violates a provision of a written employment contract between the School and the School employee, if such violation causes or would cause monetary harm to the employee.
RECORD OF PROCEEDINGS
An appeal of the Board’s decision to the Commissioner of Education shall be decided based on a review of the record developed at the Board hearing. “Record” includes, at a minimum, an audible electronic recording or written transcript of all oral testimony or argument. Education Code 7.057(c),(f)
In addition to any other record of the Board meeting required by law, the Board shall prepare a separate record of the Level Three presentation. If the School fails to create and preserve the record without good cause, all substantial evidence issues that require missing portions of the record for resolution shall be deemed against the School. The record shall include:
- A tape recording or a transcript of the hearing at the local level. If a tape recording is used:
- The tape recording must be complete, audible, and clear; and
- Each speaker must be clearly identified.
- All evidence admitted;
- All offers of proof;
- All written pleadings, motions, and intermediate rulings;
- A description of matters officially noticed;
- If applicable, the decision of the hearing examiner;
- A tape recording or transcript of the oral argument before the board; and
- The decision of the board.
19 TAC 157.1073(d)
It is a criminal offense for a person, with intent to prevent or disrupt a lawful meeting, to substantially obstruct or interfere with the ordinary conduct of a meeting by physical action or verbal utterance and thereby curtail the exercise of others’ First Amendment rights. Penal Code 42.05; Morehead v. State, 807 S.W. 2d 577 (Tex. Cr. App. 1991)
Amended: 1/26/07, 10/3/14, 11/21/14