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Massachusetts Charter Schools

Charter School Complaint Process

Charter schools are required to operate in a manner consistent with federal and state laws and regulations including MGL c. 71 §89 and 603 CMR 1.00.

Charter schools are required to implement a complaint procedure as outlined in 603 CMR 1.09: Complaint Procedure.

The Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign is the unit at the Department that supports and oversees the creation and sustainability of a variety of high quality public school options-including those that innovate in the areas of instructional practice, time, resources, and technology-to ensure that all students in the Commonwealth have equitable access to a pathway to success after high school.

Contact the Charter School Office:

Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148
Telephone: 781-338-3227
Fax: 781-338-3220
Email: charterschools@doe.mass.edu

Access Charter School Questions and Answers

Filing a Complaint about a Charter School

Important Note: A complaint regarding special education or student safety may be filed directly with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department) Problem Resolution System Office (See below). You do not need to follow the three steps listed here.

Step 1
In the event that a charter school is not operating in compliance with legal requirements, you should first contact the school's administrators, as they are in the best position to immediately address your concerns.

Step 2
If contacting the school administration does not result in a resolution, then a complaint should be filed with the school's Board of Trustees (Board), which is the governing body of the school. Complaints can be filed with the Board either verbally or in writing, but the Department recommends that complaints be filed in writing, be signed, dated, and contain a specific statement of your issue and the desired outcome. The Board must respond in writing to your complaint within 45 days as noted in 603 CMR 1.09.

Step 3
If the Board's response does not adequately address your concerns, or if the Board does not respond in writing to your complaint within 45 days, the complaint may be submitted in writing to the Commissioner of Education at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Commissioner) via the Department's Problem Resolution System Office (see below). The Department's Problem Resolution System Office will investigate the complaint on behalf of the Commissioner.

The Problem Resolution System Office

The Problem Resolution System (PRS) is the Department's process for addressing complaints from the public about students' educational rights and the legal requirements for education. Some of the types of complaints that the PRS handles include allegations that a student is not receiving educational services, or allegations that a student is not receiving the procedural protections that the law requires. Other complaints may allege that there are problems with a school district's educational programs that affect more than one student. Complaints can be made against a school, school district, collaborative school, charter school, or a Department-approved private special education school or placement.

The PRS is staffed by intake coordinators and educational specialists (called "PRS specialists" here). PRS specialists respond directly to questions and complaints. PRS staff members also consult with others in the Department and in other agencies, if necessary, to resolve problems. When you contact PRS staff, you may ask questions about your situation, take steps to begin the process of filing a complaint with the Department, or both.

How to File a Complaint with Problem Resolution System (PRS)

A complaint is someone's written claim that the school district has violated legal requirements for education. The Department reviews complaints, investigates the claims, and determines whether the district has violated legal requirements for education. If a violation has occurred, the Department directs the school to correct the violation or to take other steps to make sure that it does not happen again.

Federal law requires all complaints to be in writing and to be signed by the complainant. Federal special education law and Department procedures also require you to send a copy of the signed, written complaint (the letter or the completed Problem Resolution Intake Form) to the appropriate school district administrator at the same time you send it to the Department. If you want to file a complaint, you have three options. Whether you use the Intake Form or send a complaint letter to the Department, you need to put the following information in your complaint:

  1. You may call PRS and speak with the intake coordinator, who will record a very brief statement of your concern in our database for tracking purposes, and send you a letter confirming that you have contacted the Department for assistance. Along with this letter, you will receive information about the Department's Problem Resolution System (PRS), and a copy of a Problem Resolution Intake form. To file a complaint, when you receive the packet of information from PQA, in the mail, complete the Problem Resolution Intake Form and return it via mail or fax to the Department.

    Please note: If you do not complete and return the signed Problem Resolution Intake Form within 30 calendar days after the Department sends the form to you, the Department will assume that you do not want the Department to investigate your concern. Your issue will be considered "inactive" and will not be addressed at this time. However, you may contact the Department in the future if you would like the Department to activate this complaint or you have a different concern.
  2. You may choose to file a complaint by downloading the The Problem Resolution System Intake Form. After you complete this form, you may mail, fax or email it to the Department. Upon receipt of the form, your complaint is assigned an intake number by the Department for tracking purposes. Please be certain to have signed the form where indicated or used an electronic signature where indicated before providing the completed form to the Department. Remember to share the completed form with the school district.

  3. The Department has designed the Problem Resolution Intake Form to guide you to include all information the Department requires to begin to investigate your concern. You have the option, however, to file a complaint by writing a letter that you put in the mail, fax, or email to the Department. If you choose to send a written letter of complaint to the Department, your letter must include the following information:

    1. A statement saying that the school district has violated a requirement of federal or state education law;
    2. The facts on which this statement is based (the reasons why you think a violation has occurred);
    3. Your signature and contact information (that is, address, phone number, and/or email address);
    4. If the alleged violation involves a specific child, the complaint needs to include:
      1. The child's name and address;
      2. The name of the school the child attends; and
      3. If the child is homeless, the child's contact information and school he or she is attending; and
    5. Your proposed resolution of the problem (what you think can be done to fix the problem); and
    6. The name of the district administrator to whom you sent a copy of the signed written complaint that you sent to the Department.

Contact the Problem Resolution System Office at:

Problem Resolution System Office
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Telephone: 781-338-3700
TTY: N.E.T. Relay: 1-800-439-2370
FAX: 781-338-3710
Email: compliance@doe.mass.edu
Web: Program Quality Assurance Services

For people who do not write or speak English, or are not comfortable communicating in English, the Department will make appropriate arrangements.

Other Resources and Helpful Information from the Problem Resolution System Office



Last Updated: August 15, 2017
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