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
Level 2: Formal Process – School Level Meeting and Documentation
Level 3: Formal Process – Central Office Review
Frequently Asked Questions
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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.
The formal process involves documenting the concerns utilizing 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Please contact the Ombudsman for clarification or assistance. For more information, visit the Ombudsman site.
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 email@example.com
- 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.