Procedures for Handling Complaints
Independent Schools Association of the Central States
Updated June, 2017
Independent schools are by necessity responsive to the families they serve—every member of the school community has the option to leave. In addition, independent schools are structured in such a way that there are many levels at which to resolve a concern or complaint. It is likely, therefore, that a person or persons with complaints about a school will be able to resolve any concerns with a school at one level or another at the school itself. Accordingly, ISACS will not file or investigate complaints unless all means of appeal have been exhausted at any given school.
A person or persons who believe they were seriously wronged by a school may file litigation against a school or ask the police to investigate. ISACS will take no action on any complaint while the matter is under police investigation, litigation, or judicial consideration.
In the event that a complainant may have exhausted all avenues of communication at a school, and the matter is not under police investigation, litigation, or judicial consideration, he/she may approach ISACS to review the issue by lodging a formal complaint. As an accrediting association, ISACS is concerned that each of its schools is acting in the best interests of its students and families as defined by the mission of the school and the standards of the association. Therefore, the association will hear complaints that contain substantially supported allegations of practices that could seriously violate the school’s mission, procedures, student life, and/or the association’s standards.
- ISACS is an accrediting body; thus, the only actions that ISACS can take resulting from a complaint are those pertaining to the school’s accreditation status. ISACS cannot redress a grievance resulting from a decision at a school or an action, or inaction.
- When ISACS does take action on accreditation status, it usually does so as a result of a pattern of behavior, not an individual incident or series of incidents with one individual or family. Accordingly, in many cases the immediate action taken as a result of a complaint will be to put it on file and the school informed that a complaint has been filed. Further action may be taken at a later date if a pattern emerges. On the other hand, if previous complaints of a similar nature have been filed, action regarding accreditation may be taken right away.
- When ISACS does take action on accreditation status, it usually does so in incremental stages, first giving the school time to correct the procedures and practices or to meet the standards that are in question. The school is asked for a written course of action. ISACS then reviews the school’s response and determines whether it is sufficient to remedy the issue. If not, the school can be put on conditional accreditation, delayed accreditation, or, if no remedy is forthcoming, disaccredited.
- Oral complaints can be discussed with the director of accreditation at any time. ISACS will explain the policies and procedures outlined herein.
- To be considered, complaints must be submitted in writing to ISACS and signed with a copy sent by certified mail to the head of the school the complaint is against. ISACS will acknowledge all such complaints and an initial review will be made by the director of accreditation and executive director of ISACS.
- If ISACS finds a complaint to be outside its policies and procedures for complaints, the complainant will be so informed. The decision may be appealed, in writing, to the executive committee of the ISACS board of trustees.
- If the complaint appears to fall within ISACS policies and procedures for complaints, the head of the school at issue will be asked to respond to the complaint to ISACS.
- On review of the response from the head of school, the ISACS executive director and director of accreditation will recommend to the Accreditation Review Committee (ARC) that (a) the matter be dropped, or (b) the complaint should be filed at the ISACS office and the school informed, or (c) (usually in cases where there is a pattern emerging at the school in question) the complaint will be referred to a special ARC committee for consideration.
- If either step (b) or (c) is taken, a report will be made to the ARC at its next regular meeting after the consideration is completed. The complainant will be informed of any action taken by the ARC once it has been approved by the ISACS Board of Trustees. Any decisions may be appealed, in writing, to the executive committee of the ISACS board of trustees, whose word is final.