The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for helping students and parents resolve problems as they engage with the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools. The Office offers conflict resolution services to parents, families, and students and is committed to resolving school related complaints, disputes and problems quickly and efficiently in all areas that affect student learning.
The Office of the Ombudsman is responsible for helping students and parents resolve problems as they engage with the District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools. The Office offers conflict resolution services to parents, families, and students and is committed to resolving school related complaints, disputes and problems quickly and efficiently in all areas that affect student learning. Some of these areas include student discipline, special education, truancy, student enrollment, transportation, academic progress and bullying.
The Office of the Ombudsman is independent and impartial. By offering conflict resolution services to students and parents, the Office can prevent costly lawsuits and administrative hearings and will support the District's efforts to improve public schools, close the achievement gap, and promote family engagement. By law, the Office is able to review student records and receive confidential information. The Office is bound by rules of confidentiality.
The Ombudsman has the authority to receive complaints from parents, guardians, or students in all areas affecting public education. The Ombudsman may also access and view all student files, with the consent of parents, guardians, or students (over 18 years old).
The Ombudsman for Public Education is appointed by the DC State Board of Education and is an independent and neutral party charged with resolving school-related problems as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The role of the Office of the Ombudsman is to provide:
- Provide conflict resolution services to families in preK-12 public schools;
- Identify and recommend strategies to improve educational outcomes for all students;
- Collaborate with families and stakeholders to address systemic issues such as bullying and harassment, educational opportunity gaps, and school discipline;
- Provide information to families about the educational systems in DC.
Submit a complaint via email or via telephone at (202) 741-0886. An online intake system is also available. Include name, email address, and brief summary of issue, and a response will be provided within 24 to 48 hours. They review all complaints brought to the office with keen attention to addressing the problem in a way that serves the best interest of the students. Moreover, they take direct action and will regularly share progress in obtaining a favorable outcome.
Once a complaint is accepted:
- Obtain detailed information about the situation at hand;
- Research applicable education law, policies, and best practices;
- Interview the parties involved, which may include the student (with the parent’s consent), teachers, school leadership team, parents, other school staff members, and witnesses to the situation in question;
- Review student records;
- Facilitate or mediate conversations between parents, families, and school staff members;
- Consider and recommend student-centered options to solve the problem; and
- Regularly monitor efforts to address problems until results for the student are reached.
Actions that cannot be taken by the Office of the Ombudsman:
- Hire or fire anyone based on the merits of the complaint;
- Provide legal advice or legal services; or
- Force a school or an LEA to take a specific action. Instead, we will recommend a course of action based on discussions between various parties involved and assist with reaching a resolution that is focused on the best interest of the student.
Steps to take before speaking with a member of the Ombudsman Office:
- Write down the relevant facts/points in writing;
- Create a timeline of the events related to your complaint. Think about the facts related to the issue, identify school officials that you have spoken to about the problem. When possible, identify the names of the people involved, dates that you spoke to them, their positions/titles, and any interventions that have already been put into place by the school leadership team;
- Identify supporting documentation to submit to the Office of the Ombudsman;
- Identify the desired resolution to the problem;
- Identify any perceived barriers to a resolution of the problem.
Conflict Resolution Services
At the Office of the Ombudsman, we believe that it is important to do the following when resolving a complaint:
- Listen and understand issues while remaining neutral with respect to the facts. The Ombudsman does not listen to judge or to decide who is right or wrong. The Ombudsman listens to understand the issue from the perspective of the individual. This is a critical step in developing options for resolution.
- Assist in reframing issues, developing options, and helping individuals evaluate options.
- Guide or coach individuals to deal directly with other parties.
- Refer individuals to appropriate resolution resources. An ombudsman may refer individuals to one or more formal organizational resources that can potentially resolve the issue.
- Assist in surfacing issues to formal resolution channels. When an individual is unable or unwilling to raise concerns directly, the Ombudsman can assist by giving voice to the concern and/or creating an awareness of the issue among appropriate decision-makers in the organization.
Practitioner Standards and Professional Development
DC Ombudsman office is a member of the US Ombudsman Association and the International Ombudsman Association.
Analysis and Reporting
Within 90 days after the end of each school year, the Ombudsman submits to the State Board of Education, and makes publicly available, a report summarizing the work of the Ombudsman during the previous school year.
Every 90 days, the Ombudsman submits to the State Board of Education, and makes publicly available, a quarterly report summarizing the work of the Ombudsman during the the current school year.
The most recent reports are below. Reports from other years are available on their website: https://sboe.dc.gov/annualreports