The district’s nondiscrimination statement is:
Bellingham Public Schools take steps to assure that national origin persons who lack English language skills can participate in all education programs, services and activities. For information regarding translation services or transitional bilingual education programs, contact the Department of Teaching and Learning, (360) 676-6512. Bellingham Public Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, creed, religion, color, national origin, age, honorably discharged veteran or military status, sexual orientation including gender expression or identity, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or the use of a trained dog guide or service animal by a person with a disability in its programs and activities, and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The following employees have been designated to handle questions and complaints of alleged discrimination: Title IX Coordinator, Deputy Superintendent, (360) 676-6512; Section 504/ADA Coordinator, Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations, (360) 676-6500; and Compliance Coordinator for 28A.640 and 28A.642 RCW, Director of Human Resources, (360) 676-2783. The mailing address for each coordinator is: Bellingham Public Schools, 1306 Dupont St., Bellingham, WA 98225.
Anyone may file a complaint alleging that the district has violated anti-discrimination laws. The district aims to resolve allegations of discrimination by seeking solutions that are satisfactory to the complainant, the administration, and the board of directors. This complaint procedure will apply to the general requirements of the nondiscrimination policy (Policy 3210) and more particularly to policies dealing with guidance and counseling (Policy 2140), co-curricular program (Policy 2150), service animals in schools (Policy 2030) and curriculum development and instructional materials (Policy 2020).
As used in this procedure complaint means a written charge alleging specific acts, conditions or circumstances, which are in violation of an anti-discrimination law. The time period for filing a complaint is one year from the date of the occurrence that is the subject matter of the complaint. However, a complaint filing deadline may not be imposed if the complainant was prevented from filing due to: 1) Specific misrepresentations by the district that it had resolved the problem forming the basis of the complaint; or 2) Withholding of information that the district was required to provide under WAC 392-190-065 or WAC 392-190-005. Complaints may be submitted by mail, fax, e-mail or hand-delivery to any district, school or to the district compliance officer responsible for investigating discrimination complaints. Any district employee who receives a complaint that meets these criteria will promptly notify the compliance officer.
The district is prohibited by law from intimidating, threatening, coercing or discriminating against any individual for the purpose of interfering with their right to file a grievance under this policy and procedure and from retaliating against an individual for filing such a grievance.
A. Informal Process for Resolution
Anyone with an allegation of discrimination may request an informal meeting with the compliance officer to resolve concerns. Such a meeting will be at the option of the complainant. If unable to resolve the issue at this meeting, the complainant may submit a written complaint to the compliance officer. During the course of the informal process, the district must notify complainant of the right to file a formal complaint.
B. Formal Process for Resolution
Level One – Complaint to District
The complaint must set forth the specific acts, conditions or circumstances alleged to violate anti-discrimination law. Upon receipt of a complaint, the compliance officer will provide the complainant a copy of this procedure. The compliance officer will investigate the allegations within 30 calendar days. The school district and complainant may agree to resolve the complaint in lieu of an investigation. The officer shall provide the superintendent’s designee with a full written report of the complaint and the results of the investigation.
The superintendent’s designee will respond to the complainant with a written decision as expeditiously as possible, but in no event later than 30 calendar days following receipt of the written complaint, unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant or if exceptional circumstances related to the complaint require an extension of the time limit. In the event an extension is needed, the district will notify the complainant in writing of the reason for the extension and the anticipated response date. At the time the district responds to the complainant, the district must send a copy of the response to the office of the superintendent of public instruction.
The decision of the superintendent or designee will include: 1) a summary of the results of the investigation; 2) whether the district has failed to comply with anti-discrimination laws; 3) if non-compliance is found, corrective measures the district deems necessary to correct it; and 4) notice of the complainant’s right to appeal and the necessary filing information. The designee’s response will be provided in a language the complainant can understand, which may require language assistance for complainants with limited English proficiency in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Any corrective measures deemed necessary shall be instituted as expeditiously as possible, but in no event later than 30 calendar days following the superintendent’s mailing of a written response to the complaining party unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant.
Level Two – Appeal to the Superintendent
If a complainant disagrees with the designee’s written decision, the complainant may appeal the decision to the superintendent by filing a written notice of appeal with the superintendent within ten (10) calendar days following the date upon which the complainant received the response.
The superintendent shall schedule a conference to commence by the twentieth (20th) calendar day following the filing of the written notice of appeal, unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant and the superintendent or for good cause. The conference shall be attended by the complainant and the superintendent’s designee or at least one other representative of the district who is familiar with the allegations in the complaint. Unless otherwise agreed to by the complainant, the superintendent will render a written decision within thirty (30) calendar days following the filing of the notice of appeal and provide the complainant with a copy of the decision. The decision will be provided in a language the complainant can understand, which may require language assistance for complainants with limited English proficiency in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The decision will include notice of the complainant’s right to appeal to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and will identify where and to whom the appeal must be filed. The district will send a copy of the appeal decision to the office of the superintendent of public instruction.
Level Three – Complaint to the Superintendent of Public Instruction
If a complainant disagrees with the decision of the superintendent, or if the district fails to comply with this procedure, the complainant may file a complaint with the superintendent of public instruction.
1. A complaint must be received by the Superintendent of Public Instruction on or before the twentieth (20) calendar day following the date upon which the complainant received written notice of the board of directors’ decision, unless the Superintendent of Public Instruction grants an extension for good cause Complaints may be submitted by mail, fax, electronic mail, or hand delivery.
2. A complaint must be in writing and include: 1) A description of the specific acts, conditions or circumstances alleged to violate applicable anti-discrimination laws; 2) The name and contact information, including address, of the complainant; 3) The name and address of the district subject to the complaint; 4) A copy of the district’s complaint and appeal decision, if any; and 5) A proposed resolution of the complaint or relief requested. If the allegations regard a specific student, the complaint must also include the name and address of the student, or in the case of a homeless child or youth, contact information.
3. Upon receipt of a complaint, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction may initiate an investigation, which may include conducting an independent on-site review. OSPI may also investigate additional issues related to the complaint that were not included in the initial complaint or appeal to the superintendent or board. Following the investigation, OSPI will make an independent determination as to whether the district has failed to comply with RCW 28A.642.010 or Chapter 392-190, WAC and will issue a written decision to the complainant and the district that addresses each allegation in the complaint and any other noncompliance issues it has identified. The written decision will include corrective actions deemed necessary to correct noncompliance and documentation the district must provide to demonstrate that corrective action has been completed.
All corrective actions must be completed within the timelines established by OSPI in the written decision unless OSPI grants an extension. If timely compliance is not achieved, OSPI may take action including but not limited to referring the district to appropriate state or federal agencies empowered to order compliance.
A complaint may be resolved at any time when, before the completion of the investigation, the district voluntarily agrees to resolve the complaint. OSPI may provide technical assistance and dispute resolution methods to resolve a complaint.
At any time during the discrimination complaint procedure set forth in WAC 392-190-065 through 392-190-075, a district may, at its own expense, offer mediation. The complainant and the district may agree to extend the discrimination complaint process deadlines in order to pursue mediation.
The purpose of mediation is to provide both the complainant and the district an opportunity to resolve disputes and reach a mutually acceptable agreement through the use of an impartial mediator. Mediation must be voluntary and requires the mutual agreement of both parties. It may be terminated by either party at any time during the mediation process. It may not be used to deny or delay a complainant’s right to utilize the complaint procedures.
Mediation must be conducted by a qualified and impartial mediator who may not: 1) Be an employee of any school district, public charter school, or other public or private agency that is providing education related services to a student who is the subject of the complaint being mediated; or 2) Have a personal or professional conflict of interest. A mediator is not considered an employee of the district or charter school or other public or private agency solely because he or she serves as a mediator.
If the parties reach agreement through mediation, they may execute a legally binding agreement that sets forth the resolution and states that all discussions that occurred during the course of mediation will remain confidential and may not be used as evidence in any subsequent complaint, due process hearing or civil proceeding. The agreement must be signed by the complainant and a district representative who has authority to bind the district.
D. Preservation of Records
The files containing copies of all correspondence relative to each complaint communicated to the district and the disposition, including any corrective measures instituted by the district, will be retained in the office of the compliance officer for a period of six years.