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Complaints & Compliance

Program Quality Assurance
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Program Quality Assurance Services (PQA) of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education implements the Department's compliance monitoring and complaint management procedures for school districts, charter schools, educational collaboratives, approved public and private day schools, and residential special education schools. PQA also provides technical assistance to school personnel and the public regarding the implementation of laws and regulations including Section 504, Title IX, ADA.

Contact Program Quality Assurance Services at:

Program Quality Assurance Services
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street
Malden, MA 02148-4906
Telephone: 781-338-3700
TTY: N.E.T. Relay: 1-800-439-2370
FAX: 781-338-3710
Email: compliance@doe.mass.eduWeb: http://www.doe.mass.edu/pqa

Special Education Appeals
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The Bureau of Special Education Appeals ("BSEA") conducts mediations, advisory opinions and due process hearings to resolve disputes among parents, school districts, private schools and state agencies concerning eligibility, evaluation, placement, individualized education programs (IEPs), special education services and procedural protections for students with disabilities. The BSEA derives its authority from both federal law and regulations (the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, "IDEA") and Massachusetts law and regulations.

A parent or a school district may request mediation, advisory opinions and/or a hearing at any time on any matter concerning the eligibility, evaluation, placement, individualized education program (IEP), provision of special education in accordance with state and federal law, or procedural protections of state and federal law for students with disabilities.

Mediations, advisory opinions and hearings are conducted by impartial mediators and hearing officers who do not have personal or professional interests that would conflict with their objectivity in the hearing or mediation. The BSEA consists of eight hearing officers, all of whom are attorneys, eight mediators, a coordinator of mediation, a scheduling coordinator, support staff, an assistant director and a director.

Newburyport’s mediator is: Rebecca Stone, 617-626-7298

Office of Civil Rights
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Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Procedures

WHERE TO FILE A COMPLAINT

Any Newburyport Public School District (NPS) student, employee, or third party who believes that a NPS student, employee, or third party has discriminated against or harassed them because of their race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability in admission to, access to, treatment in, or employment in its services, programs, or activities may file a complaint with Superintendent Sean Gallagher, Office of the Superintendent of Schools, 70 Low Street, Newburyport, MA, 01950, Telephone Number: (978) 465-4456, or the Superintendent’s designee, Nancy Koch, Director of Student Services, 70 Low Street, Newburyport, MA, 01950, nkoch@newburyport.k12.ma.us, Telephone Number: (978) 465-4456, who will serve as the grievance officer in such matters, or LisaMarie Ippolito, Assistant Superintendent, 70 Low Street, Newburyport, MA, 01950, Telephone Number: (978) 465-4456, who will serve as the grievance officer if the Superintendent and Director of Student Services are named as parties to the complaint. 

CONTENTS OF COMPLAINTS AND TIMELINES FOR FILING

Complaints under this procedure must be filed within twenty (20) days of the alleged discrimination or harassment. Complaints filed after this 20 day period will be accepted, however, the investigation may be impacted due to the passage of time.  Complaints may be submitted orally or in writing. The complainant may select another person to help with the filing of the complaint.  Any responsible employee who receives an oral complaint will memorialize the allegations in writing and forward the written allegations to the Office of the Superintendent or the Superintendent’s designee by the following school day. The written complaint should include the following information:

  1. The name and grade level (or address and telephone number if not a student or employee) of the complainant;
  2. The name (and address and telephone number if not a student or employee) of the complainant’s representative, if any;
  3. The name(s) of the person(s) alleged to have committed or caused the discriminatory or harassing action, or event (respondent);
  4. A description, in as much detail as possible, of the alleged discrimination or harassment;
  5. The date(s), time(s), and location(s) of the alleged discrimination or harassment;
  6. The names of all persons who have knowledge about the alleged discrimination or harassment (witnesses) as can be reasonably determined; and
  7. A description, in as much detail as possible, of how the complainant wishes to see the matter resolved.

INVESTIGATIONS AND RESOLUTION OF THE COMPLAINT

Complaints will be investigated promptly and resolved as quickly as possible. 

Due process procedures apply to issues of identification, evaluation, and placement under Section 504.  Any person who alleges discrimination on the basis of a disability relative to the identification, evaluation, or educational placement of a person, who because of a disability is believed to need regular or special instruction and related aids or services, pursuant to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Massachusetts General Law chapter 71B, and/or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, may use the procedure outlined in the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Parents’ Rights Brochure, rather than this procedure.  Information on this alternative process may be obtained from the Director of Student Services for the NPS.

The Discrimination/Harassment Complaint Procedure applies to issues of discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, national origin, or disability.  See Title IX Procedures for Responding to and Investigating Allegations of Sexual Harassment.  Respondents will be informed of the charges as soon as the grievance officer deems appropriate based upon the nature of the allegations, the investigation required, and the action contemplated, and in no case later than fifteen (15) school days following receipt of the complaint. The grievance officer will interview witnesses who are deemed to be necessary and appropriate to determine the facts relevant to the complaint, and will gather other pertinent information. Interviews of students will be conducted in such a way as to reflect the age and emotional condition of the student. The complainant(s) and respondent(s) shall have an equal opportunity to present witnesses and other evidence. Such interviews and gathering of information will be completed within fifteen (15) school days of the receipt of the complaint.

Within twenty (20) school days of receiving the complaint, the grievance officer will meet with the complainant and/or his/her representative and the respondent and/or his/her representative to review information gathered and, if appropriate, to propose a resolution designed to stop the discrimination or harassment, prevent its recurrence and to correct its effect. 

Within ten (10) school days of meeting with the complainant and/or his/her representative and the respondent and/or his/her representative, the grievance officer will provide written disposition of the complaint to the complainant and/or his/her representative and to the respondent(s) and/or his/her representative, including a statement regarding whether the complaint was found to be credible and whether discrimination was found to have occurred.  Where the grievance officer finds that discrimination has occurred, NPS will take steps that are reasonably calculated to end discrimination that has been found; prevent recurrence of any discrimination, and correct its discriminatory effects on the complainant and others, if appropriate. The grievance officer will contact the complainant within 10 school days following conclusion of the investigation to assess whether there has been on-going discrimination or retaliation, and to determine whether additional supportive measures are needed. If the grievance officer determines that additional supportive measures are needed, he or she shall offer such measures to the complainant within fifteen school days following conclusion of the investigation. 

Notwithstanding the above, it is understood that in the event a resolution contemplated by the grievance officer involves disciplinary action against an individual, the complainant will not be informed of such disciplinary action, unless it directly involves the complainant (e.g., a directive to “stay away” from the complainant, as might occur as a result of a complaint of harassment). Any disciplinary action imposed upon an individual will be subject to applicable procedural requirements. All the timelines indicated above will be implemented as specified, unless the nature of the investigation or exigent circumstances prevent such implementation in which case the matter will be completed as quickly as practicable. If the timelines specified above are not met, the reason(s) for not meeting them must be clearly documented.  

Confidentiality of complainants/respondents and witnesses will be maintained, to the extent consistent with the obligations of the NPS relating to the investigation of complaints and the due process rights of individuals affected.  

A Complainant has the right to file a complainant with the Office for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, 8th Floor, 5 Post Office Square, Boston, MA 02109-3921, Telephone: (617) 289-0111, Facsimile: (617) 289-0150, Email: OCR.Boston@ed.gov. 

RETALIATION PROHIBITED

Retaliation against someone because he/she has filed a complaint under this procedure is strictly forbidden. Retaliation against someone who has participated in an investigation is strictly prohibited. NPS will take appropriate steps as necessary to prevent retaliation. Acts of retaliation may result in disciplinary action, up to and including suspension or expulsion/discharge.

Upon request, the grievance officer will provide the complainant with the names and addresses of those state and federal agencies which handle discrimination and harassment matters.

Please see this document for full information on filing a complaint with the Office of Civil Rights.