The Shutesbury School Committee recognizes that from time to time members of the public – primarily students, parents/guardians or residents of the town - will have complaints. The Committee recognizes that complaints may vary in substance, perspective, intensity, and accuracy; they may be written or expressed verbally. Any dissatisfaction brought to a representative of the school district may be considered a complaint. The School Committee believes that complaints may offer opportunities for reflection and/or improvement of the school system and as such the School Committee expects that complaints be respectfully heard and professionally addressed.

Generally speaking, the School Committee believes that complaints are best handled and resolved as close to their origin as possible. Practically this means bringing the complaint to the individual or body directly responsible for the matter at hand. Therefore, the proper channeling of complaints for most situations, including issues regarding instruction, discipline or learning materials, should likely be as follows:

1. Teacher
2. School building administrator
3. Superintendent
4.School Committee

If the complainant does not get satisfaction and seeks to appeal, s/he may bring forth the complaint to the next individual or body designated above. Unless indicated by law, the School Committee is the final body for hearing appeals and all decisions of the Committee are final.

The School Committee expects that typically complaints about specific student(s) and district personnel are required by law to be confidential. In instances that are not guided by legal requirements, the need for and practice regarding confidentiality will be determined by school or district administration.

The School Committee believes that there should be reasonable opportunity for parties to consider the issues and attempt to resolve the problem prior to involvement by the School Committee.

How individual complaints are handled will vary from situation to situation consistent with state and federal law, or based on the policies and procedures of the Shutesbury School District. In situations where the initial public complaint is made to the School Committee, it will likely be referred to the appropriate individual or body for any follow-up, investigation, solution or action. The School Committee is not bound to respond to complaints from individuals who are not residents of Shutesbury or who are unrelated to district personnel or students. Similarly, the Committee is not bound to respond to complaints not directly about Shutesbury personnel or students.

It is recommended but not required that matters which are brought to the Superintendent and/or the School Committee be in writing. Unless otherwise specified by law or policy, written complaints shall receive a written acknowledgement and an appropriate response by the responsible individual or body responsible. The period for a response will vary but is expected to be reasonable to the specifics of the situation.

In situations when the complaint concerns the Committee or Committee members, the School Committee itself will determine what follow-up, investigation, solution or action is appropriate.

Public complaints may be brought to individual School Committee members outside of a meeting or during a School Committee meeting. Complaints brought before a School Committee meeting will be in compliance with policy BEDH regarding public participation at school committee meetings.

When a complaint is initially made directly to the School Committee, the Committee shall expect a written report or presentation from the Superintendent or Principal when the situation is resolved, describing the final disposition of the matter. Any presentation must comply with Massachusetts Open Meeting Law.

A. If Complaint Is About District Personnel

For purposes of this policy, district personnel shall comply with definitions in Massachusetts law and shall specifically include district employees, volunteers, central office/Union #28 staff serving the district, contract workers, vendors providing services to the district, and members of the School Committee.

Procedures will be developed, for review by the Committee, that ensure that prompt and fair attention to complaints against district personnel occurs. These procedures must be made reasonably available to the public including via the Family Handbook and on the school website.

All complaints against District Personnel must be in writing and attributed to the individual making the complaint or charge.

If it appears necessary, a representative of the school/district administration, the person(s) who made the complaint, or the district personnel involved, may request a meeting with the School Committee. The School Committee retains the right to determine if it will convene such a meeting or not. If a meeting is convened, state law will determine if such a meeting should be an open, public meeting or an executive session of the Committee; in either case all statutory requirements must be observed and confidentiality will be expected, consistent with legal requirements.

Unless otherwise specified in this section (A), the process for complaints outlined for all complaints shall be followed.

B. If Complaint is About Curriculum

The Shutesbury School Committee is ultimately responsible for the educational success of the students in the district and therefore has responsibility for all curriculum and instruction. The School Committee expects the administration to recommend and implement a curriculum, methods of instruction, and use of instructional materials that are consistent with the committee’s educational goals for the district, that are appropriate to the students, and that reflect the generally understood values of the broader school community.

Curriculum and instructional complaints that are brought to the Superintendent and/or the School Committee must be in writing with attribution by the person submitting the complaint and specific desired actions clearly identified.

Unless otherwise specified in this section (B), the process for complaints outlined for all complaints shall be followed

SOURCE: MASC LEGAL REFS.: 603 CMR 26:09 and 26.10

First Reading: December 15, 2011
Second Reading, First Vote: January 19, 2012
Final Vote: February 16, 2012