What is a UCP complaint?

School districts typically want to hear about concerns or complaints before they escalate into larger issues. But when concerns can’t be resolved informally, there’s a system called Uniform Complaint Procedures, or UCP, that allows a person or organization to submit a signed statement alleging that a school or district is in violation of state or federal laws.

What educational programs and services are covered by the UCP?

The UCP process applies to school districts, county offices of education and charter schools, as well as public or private agencies that receive funding from the state to provide specific school programs, activities or services. It covers a broad range of areas, including but not limited to:

  • Child care and development
  • Compensatory education
  • Consolidated categorical aid programs
  • Educational Content
  • Educational and graduation requirements for students in foster care, students who are homeless, students from military families and those who formerly in juvenile court schools and now enrolled in a school district
  • Issues related to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)
  • Local Control and Accountability Plans (LCAP)
  • Migrant education
  • Physical education instructional minutes
  • Pupil fees
  • Reasonable accommodations to a lactating pupil
  • Regional occupational centers and programs
  • School plans for student achievement
  • School safety plans
  • School site councils
  • State preschool
  • State preschool health and safety issues in local education agencies (LEAs) exempt from licensing 
  • Discrimination, harassment, intimidation or bullying against any protected group

What issues are not covered by the UCP?

Not all complaints fall under the scope of the UCP. Some matters are considered the responsibility of the school district or other local educational agency, including classroom assignments, grades, graduation requirements, hiring and evaluation of staff, homework policies and practices, student advancement and retention, student discipline, student records and public meeting requirements. A school district may use its own complaint procedures to address complaints not covered by the UCP.

One other thing: Only complaints covered by the UCP can be appealed to the California Department of Education. Some matters may get referred to other agencies for resolution. These include:

Allegations of child abuse are referred to county departments of social services, protective services divisions, or the appropriate law enforcement agency.

•   Health and safety complaints regarding licensed facilities operating child development programs are referred to the state Department of Social Services.

•   Employment complaints are sent to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

How do I file a UCP complaint and how is it processed?

The local educational agency — that’s the school district or other oversight agency — will provide the information needed to file a local complaint. In fact, each LEA must annually notify its students, employees, parents/guardians and other stakeholders of the UCP complaint policies and procedures, along with the opportunity to appeal the LEA’s investigation report to the state Department of Education. LEAs must provide their complaint policies and procedures free of charge.

What do I do if I disagree with an LEA’s decision regarding a complaint?

If you believe the LEA has made an incorrect decision or failed to address all of your concerns, you may file an appeal within 30 calendar days to the California Department of Education. In the appeal, you must specify the reason for the appeal and whether the LEA’s facts are incorrect or the law was misapplied. The appeal packet must contain a copy of the original complaint and a copy of the LEA’s investigation report. The complainant must specify and explain the basis for the appeal, citing at least one of the following reasons:

  1. The LEA failed to follow its complaint procedures.
  2. Relative to the allegations of the complaint, the LEA investigation report lacks material findings of fact necessary to reach a conclusion of law.
  3. The material findings of fact in the LEA investigation report are not supported by substantial evidence.
  4. The legal conclusion in the LEA investigation report is inconsistent with the law.
  5. In a case in which the LEA found noncompliance, the corrective actions fail to provide a proper remedy.

You can find out more information on Uniform Complaint Procedures and the process for appealing decisions on the California Department of Education’s website.