How to File a School District Level Grievance

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There may be circumstances where you believe a student is being improperly denied enrollment in school. If you’ve already contacted the school principal and the Assistant Superintendent (or the Parent and Community Assistance Office for Houston ISD), and the problem still hasn’t been resolved, you can file a School District Level Grievance. Below you’ll find instructions for how to file a grievance and what to expect after the grievance is filed.

Requirements and Forms

You must file the grievance in writing on a complaint form provided by the school district within 10 – 15 days after the problem occurred. Some districts provide this form online; others do not, so you may need to request a copy of the complaint form from your school. The form, and any documents you might have that help explain or prove the problem, should be provided to the school Principal.

To file a grievance with Houston ISD, you will submit a Dispute Resolution Form for Students and Parents. To access the form, visit Houston ISD’s Grievance Forms webpage.

Typical Procedure and Timelines

A grievance could potentially move through three levels if it is not resolved at a lower level. You must describe the problem and how you want the school to resolve the problem on the complaint form. It is best if you can include as much detail in the complaint as possible, such as names, dates, times, and what was said.

Level One: Once the complaint is filed, the Principal usually has 10 school days to resolve the complaint. The Principal may hold a meeting or conference to discuss the problem, or they may just respond in writing. If you are not satisfied with the way the Principal has proposed to resolve the complaint, or the Principal does not respond within 10 school days, you can move the complaint to level two.

Level Two: The level two complaint usually involves sending a copy of the level one complaint, along with the Principal’s response to the complaint if one was provided, to the designated Assistant Superintendent. You will file this appeal notice in writing on a form provided by the district within 10 school days of receiving the Principal’s written response to the level one complaint, or if the Principal did not respond, within 10 school days from the day the Principal should have responded.

The Assistant Superintendent will have 10 school days to resolve the complaint after you submit the Level Two complaint. The Assistant Superintendent may request a meeting to discuss the complaint and how to resolve it. Only the issues and documents shared with the Level One complaint will be considered. The Assistant Superintendent must provide you with a written response within 10 school days after receiving the Level Two complaint. If you are not satisfied with the way the Assistant Superintendent has proposed to resolve the complaint, or the Assistant Superintendent does not respond within 10 school days of receiving the complaint, you can move to Level Three.

Level Three: At the third level, you may submit a request for review of the complaint to the Superintendent or the School Board. The request must be in writing and typically must be filed within 7 – 10 school days from the day you received the response from the Assistant Superintendent, or if the Assistant Superintendent did not respond, within 10 school days from the day the Assistant Superintendent should have responded. The Superintendent or School Board will review the relevant documents and schedule a meeting, or prepare a written response, within 10 school days.

Language Describing the Violation

On the complaint form, there will be a space for you to list the violation of the law or school board policy you are concerned about. Below is sample language for most of the possible reasons a school might give for denying a student enrollment. You should include any of the violations described below that apply to your situation in addition to the specific facts of your case.

Proof of Residency – TEC § 25.001(d): The school board may adopt guidelines to determine whether a student is a resident. Texas Education Agency guidance makes clear that this ability to adopt guidelines should not keep a student out of school while waiting for proof of residency.

Proof of Identity – TEC § 25.002(a)(1), (a1): Birth certificate or other suitable proof of identity can be required for enrollment, but the family has 30 days to provide that documentation. Student cannot be denied enrollment while waiting for proof of identity (School Board Policy FD(Legal), pg. 9).

School Records – TEC § 25.002(a)(2),(a-1): Previous school district has 10 business days to provide records to new district; family/guardian has 30 days to provide school records. Student cannot be denied enrollment while waiting for school records (School Board Policy FD(Legal), pg. 9).

Absence of Parent or Guardian – TEC § 25.001: Texas Education Agency guidance regarding enrollment states “The absence of a parent, guardian, or other person with legal control of a child… is not grounds for refusing admission to which the child is entitled.”

Homelessness – TEC § 25.001(b)(5): A person who is considered homeless under 42 U.S.C. §11302 is entitled to admission to school regardless of their residence or the residence of either of their parents, guardian or other person who has lawful control.

Placement at DAEP or JJAEP: A student who is not enrolled in school, but scheduled to attend the Disciplinary Alternative Education Program, or Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program, must first be enrolled in their zoned school while arrangements are made for that student to attend the alternative school.

Refusal to Enroll Due to Probation Status: There is no state or federal law prohibiting a student involved in the juvenile justice system from enrolling in school; TCCP §15.27(a) states that information about the offense will be provided by the District Attorney’s Office to the Superintendent.

Immigration Status – School board policy FD (Legal): Denying enrollment based upon immigration status to children who are not legally admitted to the U.S. violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Social Security Number – School board policy GA (Legal): It shall be unlawful for a district to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of the individual’s refusal to disclose their Social Security number.

Student Obtained GED – TEC § 29.087(h): A student who has obtained their GED is still entitled to attend school in order to earn their high school diploma.

Waiver of Immunizations – TEC § 38.001(c): Immunizations can be waived for reasons of conscience or religious reasons, or with an affidavit from a doctor where immunization would cause a significant risk to the health or well-being of the student.

Immunizations Begun but Not Completed – TEC § 38.001(e): A student may be provisionally admitted to school if the student has begun the required immunizations and continues to receive the required immunizations as rapidly as is medically feasible.

Sample Language for Requested Remedy on District Level Grievance Form

If you are filing a School District Level Grievance for denial of enrollment, you can use the sample language below when completing your school district’s grievance form. Individuals filing a grievance with Houston ISD will use the Dispute Resolution Form for Students and Parents, which is available on Houston ISD’s Grievance Forms webpage. For all other school districts, check the district’s website for a copy of their parent and student complaint form, or request one from the school’s principal.

Statement of Concern/Dispute: Denial of Enrollment in School

Remedy Requested: (include all three items)

(1) Enroll student in school immediately.
(2) Conduct transition meeting in accordance with TEC §37.023 to ensure youth has an appropriate plan in place that provides them with the academic, behavioral, and mental health supports they need to make progress in school.
(3) Provide opportunities to catch up academically due to the loss of instruction the student experienced while being denied enrollment.


Publication Code: ED34

This handout is part of the Texas School Reentry Toolkit.


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