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Formal Concern Form & Process

Resolving school concerns and disagreements

When concerns arise, parents and guardians are encouraged to direct their concerns to the persons most closely involved. However, when an informal process fails to provide resolution, a parent may file a formal complaint and seek review at a higher administrative level. In both processes, the intent is to protect the confidentiality and preserve the dignity of everyone involved. Concerns may be submitted by parents, guardians, custodial parents, or students. For the purposes of this process explanation, all complainants will be referred to as “parent”.

Start the Process

Level 1: Informal Process – School Level

  1. The first step in resolving a concern or issue is to address it with the school staff member who is most closely and directly involved to reach a mutually agreed-upon resolution.
    1. If the concern directly involves the principal, the parent may contact the Community Superintendent.
  2. The second step of resolution is to contact the principal or assistant principal. The principal or assistant principal will take into consideration the needs of all parties as well as all applicable HCPSS and school policies and procedures.
    1. The principal or assistant principal will confirm that the parent has attempted to resolve the issue or concern with the classroom teacher or other school-based staff member, when appropriate. The principal or assistant principal will provide an initial/preliminary response to the parent within two (2) school days, and provide a response/decision or an explanation for additional time needed to investigate within a maximum of ten (10) school days.
    2. If the concern requires the involvement of other Central Office departments, the principal will assist the parent in accessing the appropriate office and provide a synopsis of the concern to that office. Central Office personnel will respond to the parent as soon as possible but within a maximum of ten (10) school days and inform the principal of the response.
  3. If an assistant principal works on resolving a concern and the parent is not satisfied with the result, the parent should then contact the principal.

Level 2: Formal Process – School Level Meeting and Documentation

First page of the Formal Concern Form PDF
Download Formal Parent Concern Form (PDF) →

Parents who are not satisfied with a resolution proposed by an assistant principal during the Level 1 Informal Process may address the complaint with the principal through the Level 2 Formal Process as follows:

  1. Complete Part I of the Formal Concern Form, accessible at www.hcpss.org/files/form_formalconcern.pdf, outlining specific concerns.
  2. Sign the form and submit it to the principal, with a copy to the Community Superintendent, if desired. Parents are advised to keep a copy for their records.
  3. The principal’s office will schedule a mutually agreed upon date and time to meet within 3 days of receipt of the form.
  4. The principal will formally document any agreements on Part II of the Formal Concern Form, identifying areas of agreement, and laying out steps to address any unresolved issues. This response will be sent to the parent within 10 school days of the meeting date.
  5. If a concern cannot be resolved reasonably within 10 days, the principal may extend the time for not more than 10 additional school days. The parent will be informed of the extension in writing.
  6. If the parent’s request from the formal concern form is denied, the principal must also forward a copy of the formal concern form to the Community Superintendent.

If the parent already met with the principal during Level 1 Informal Process, then Part 1 of the Formal Concern Form can be signed and submitted to the Community Superintendent along with documentation of the principal’s decision or denial of the request. Parents are advised to keep a copy of the form for their records.

  1. The Community Superintendent/designee will contact the parent within 3 school days to arrange a mutually agreed upon date and time to discuss the matter.

If the parent chooses not to meet with the principal prior to completing the Level 2 Formal Process concern form, the parent should provide an explanation to the Community Superintendent.

  1. The Community Superintendent/designee will gather information from the principal, which may delay a timely resolution.

Level 3: Formal Process – Central Office Review

  1. If the issue is not resolved to the parent’s satisfaction, or if the concern directly involves the principal, the parent can contact the appropriate area Community Superintendent to review the concern.
    1. The Community Superintendent/designee will request the principal to forward copies of all applicable documentation to the Central Office. Parents may also submit applicable documentation.
    2. After reviewing the applicable documentation, the Community Superintendent/designee will contact the parent and confer with the parent, principal, and other appropriate individuals.
    3. The Community Superintendent/designee will document any decisions or agreements and respond in writing to the parent within 10 school days of receipt of the request. A copy of the response will be forwarded to the principal.
  2. If the parent is not satisfied with the decision of the Community Superintendent/designee, the parent may request in writing that the matter be reviewed by the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer, who serves as the Superintendent’s designee. The correspondence must explain the concern and clearly state the outcome or relief desired by the parent.
    1. The Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer will review the documentation and provide a written response within 15 school days of receipt of the request.
  3. The Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer serves as the Superintendent’s designee for the formal concern process. The Superintendent’s designee operates under the authority of the Superintendent, and is the last step in the formal concern process. In some matters, Board policy may include a right of appeal to the Board.

Note: Specific information can be obtained from the Public Information Office regarding the formal process for addressing issues specifically governed by regulation or Board of Education policy, including requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications under the Americans for Disabilities Act, special education appeals, appeals of student suspensions/ expulsions or other administrative actions, equity assurance concerns or discrimination complaints, and requests for information under the Maryland Public Information Act.

Frequently Asked Questions

Expand the questions below toggling the arrow or question header.

What is a concern?

A concern is a matter of interest or importance that a parent feels is not being addressed satisfactorily. Concerns may fall into various categories, including but not limited to the following examples:

  • HCPSS Employee: An employee fails to respond to a parent’s communication in a timely manner.
  • Course Placement: A teacher denies a parent request for a course/class change for a student.
  • Policy Violation: An HCPSS employee fails to abide by a school system policy.
  • Homework: A parent is concerned about the amount of homework assigned to their child.
  • Grades: A parent disagrees with a teacher about a grade that was assigned.

How are concerns reported? Where do I begin?

There are two ways to report a concern: 1) Using the informal process, which does not require filling in a Formal Concern Form; and, 2) Using the formal process, and completing Part I of the Formal Concern Form. Both processes are listed above.

What is the difference between an informal process and a formal process?

The formal process involves documenting the concerns utilizing the Formal Concern Form.

What is the benefit of documenting your concern via the Formal Concern Form?

Once you document your concern via the Formal Concern Form, you are essentially filing a formal complaint. The formal complaint documents and initiates a defined process for resolving the concern, as described in the sections above.

Is it beneficial to contact the Board of Education or Superintendent directly?

Unfortunately, not following the formal concern process identified may delay the review and resolution of your concern. It is important to direct the concern to the person who is most directly involved with the situation. This helps to arrive at a timelier resolution.

What should I do if I haven’t received a response to my Formal Concern in a timely manner?

If the situation requires a follow up, remind the principal that your outstanding formal concern has not yet been addressed. If the follow up meeting does not occur, or if the response from the principal is not satisfactory, escalate your concern to the next level.

What is the expected timeframe for hearing a response from a formal concern that was reported?

The start of an investigation regarding a formal concern begins with a signed form with Part I completed. The timeline for a formal concern begins on the date when the form is received by the school or office to which it has been directed. The formal process has the following time requirements:

  • The principal’s office has 3 school days to set up a mutually agreed upon date and time to meet.
  • After meeting, the HCPSS principal is to fill in Part II and respond to the parent within 10 school days following the meeting. However, if the principal determines they will not be able to resolve the complaint in the initial 10 school days following the meeting, they will inform the parent that an additional 10 school days will be required.
  • If the process is escalated to the Community Superintendent, the Community Superintendent/designee must respond within 10 school days from the receipt of the request with the applicable documentation. Contact details for Community Superintendents.
  • If the response by the Community Superintendent/designee is not satisfactory, the complainant can contact the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer, who serves as the Superintendent’s Designee. The complainant must submit a written request and the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer is to respond within 15 school days from receipt of the request.

What if I am not comfortable meeting with the principal?

If the concern directly involves the principal, the parent can contact the Community Superintendent to initiate the informal Level 1 or formal Level 2 process.

What process should I follow if my concern is with the school principal?

If the concern is regarding the school principal, you are encouraged to address concern directly with the principal in the informal process. If you are not willing to discuss your concern with the principal, the parent may submit the Formal Concern Form directly to the Community Superintendent assigned to the area.

If I have already met with the principal in the informal process, do we have to meet again as part of Level 2?

No. If the parent has already met with the principal during the informal process (Level 1), the parent can include documentation of the principal’s response or denial of their request along with Part 1 of the Formal Concern Form. After completing Part 1, the form should be signed and sent to the Community Superintendent.

What should I do if I requested my concern to be reviewed by the Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer and am still not satisfied? Should I escalate the concern to the Superintendent?

The Chief School Management and Instructional Leadership Officer serves as the Superintendent’s designee for the formal concern process. The Superintendent’s designee operates under the authority of the Superintendent, and is the last step in the formal concern process. In some matters, Board policy may include a right of appeal to the Board.

What do I do if I need assistance with navigating the process for Resolving School Concerns and Disagreement or want to speak to someone confidentially about my concern?

Please contact the Ombudsman for clarification or assistance. For more information, visit the Ombudsman site.

Ombudsman

The Ombudsman serves as a neutral party to collaborate with Howard County Department of Education staff and the community. The Ombudsman may advocate for a fair process and fair administration only.

Services of the Ombudsman include:

  • Confidential discussion of your concern to the extent possible.
  • Review of applicable Board of Education policies and procedures.
  • Referral to individuals who can help solve the problem.
  • Referral to appropriate school system and community resources.

The Ombudsman is required to follow Board of Education policies and procedures, and treat all parties fairly (See Policy 2030: Ombudsman). The Ombudsman does not have the authority to change policy or force schools to take specific action. Communications made to the Ombudsman are not official notice to the school system for any legal purpose. The Ombudsman neither acts as agent for, nor accepts notice on behalf of, the school system and does not serve in a role that is designated as a place to receive notice on behalf of the system. However, the Ombudsman may refer individuals to the appropriate place where formal notice can be made by the individual. Meetings with the Ombudsman are available by making an appointment through any of the following methods:

  • At the Department of Education, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City
  • By email at ombudsman@hcpss.org
  • By telephone at 410–313–6850

Individuals who are not fluent in English may request an interpreter by contacting Interpreter Services at 410–313–7046.