Beginning in August, school districts will need to prepare for a new process to address conflicts and complaints from citizens.

On August 11, the new/amended process, known as the “Conflict Resolution Process for Citizens (Conflict Resolution) will go into effect, replacing the former “Appeals Procedure for Citizens.”

The new Conflict Resolution policy/process can be found at West Virginia Department of Education Policy 7211.

The intent of the new Conflict Resolution policy is “to provide a way for citizens to work with county school district administrative officials in seeking solutions to problems when there is a failure to provide a high quality education that resources permit the school district to provide or for violation of any other legal duty. Both the schools and the citizenry of the community are better served when a sincere effort is made to find constructive solutions to problems that arise. It is the intent of this process to provide a simple, straightforward, and easily understood method for resolving problems at the lowest possible administrative level, as fairly and as quickly as possible.”

The new procedures for the Conflict Resolution process are as follows:

Level 1.  A written claim shall be filed with the principal by the citizen or by a group of citizens. The claim shall be on the prescribed form and be signed by all persons making the claim. The claim must assert a violation of state law or the policies, rules and regulations of the West Virginia Board of Education (“WVBE”). The written claim must identify the specific state law or WVBE policy, rule or regulation which is alleged to be violated, and shall include as much information as possible to describe the violation. The principal or his/her designee (“Level 1 administrator”) shall meet with the citizen claimant for an informal conference within 10 business days of receipt of the claim. All conferences and hearings held during the conflict resolution process shall be conducted in private. The citizen claimant may have the assistance of a representative at this level and any level. A written decision by the Level 1 administrator shall be made within 15 days after the informal conference. A copy of the Level 1 claim form shall be included with the decision.

Level 2.  Within 15 business days after receiving the decision of the Level 1 administrator, an aggrieved citizen claimant may request in writing a conference or a hearing with the county superintendent on the prescribed form. The county superintendent or his/her designee (“Level 2 administrator”) shall, within 15 days, conduct a conference or a hearing with the citizen claimant in an attempt to resolve the claim. In the event that the citizen claimant requests a hearing, he/she may present witnesses to testify under oath, and the Level 2 administrator may also take testimony from staff members deemed necessary to render a decision. The hearings will also be recorded. The Level 2 administrator shall issue a written decision within 15 days following a conference and 25 days following a hearing. A copy of the Level 1 claim form shall be included with the decision.

Level 3.  If the citizen claimant is not satisfied with the decision of the Level 2 administrator, he or she may request in writing on the prescribed form a review by the State Superintendent within 30 days of receipt of the decision. A copy of the Level 1 and 2 decisions and any supporting documents shall accompany the request for a review. In the event a Level 2 hearing was conducted, the Level 2 administrator shall forward a transcript of the hearing to the State Superintendent.

The State Superintendent or designee (“Level 3 administrator”) shall conduct a review of the claim, which will, at a minimum, consist of reviewing the record from Levels 1 and 2. He/she may also conduct an additional inquiry if necessary for resolution of the claim by contacting the citizen claimant, the county superintendent or any other individual who may be of assistance and by requesting additional documents from any source.

Upon completion of the review, the Level 3 administrator shall render a written decision within 30 days. The decision shall set out any information that the Level 3 administrator obtained during his/her additional inquiry and relied upon in making the decision. The decision by the Level 3 administrator shall be final.

The Conflict Resolution process does not apply to any situation where the school district is without authority to act, or where a remedy is specifically established by law, such as for the placement of exceptional children. Neither shall the process apply when a citizen has a personal complaint about a school employee.

A copy of the Conflict Resolution policy is required to be accessible at the office of each county board of education, the website for each county board of education and at each public school. Further, each county shall notify parents annually of this policy and its contents. Notification may be accomplished by use of a student handbook, inclusion on the county website or other reasonable means.

The State Superintendent shall prepare and make available appropriate forms for each claim level. Such forms will be available on the West Virginia Department of Education website, at the office of the State Superintendent, at the office of each county board of education, and at each public school.