Complaints Against Charter Schools
Process for Charter Complaints
The State Public Charter School Commission (Commission) functions as the authorizer for high quality charter schools in Hawaii. Charter school authorizers are responsible for making sure that each charter school executes, and performs within, the guidelines, standards and goals set forth in its Charter Contract and that the charter school complies with state and federal laws and regulations.
Charter schools are publicly funded schools that are open to all students through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery. Each charter school has an independent governing board that is responsible for the financial, organizational, and academic viability of the school. Charters have the freedom to establish their own policies, design their own educational program, and manage their own human and financial resources.
As the authorizer, the Commission will review complaints pertaining to charter schools which constitute violations of state and federal laws and breaches of the State Public Charter School Contract. The Commission does not review or overturn policy decisions by a charter school's governing board or matters related to collective bargaining and/or labor relations.
The steps below provide the process for filing a complaint with the Commission, as well as provide clarification on the Commission’s level of involvement.
If a complainant wishes to make an anonymous complaint concerning fraudulent or unethical behavior, the complaint can be submitted through the Department of Education’s Fraud and Ethics Hotline. These concerns can be reported through the Hotline via a feedback form, or anonymously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to a confidential toll-free hotline or online service:
More information on the DOE Fraud and Ethics Hotline is available on the Department’s website here.
Step 1: Familiarize yourself with the school’s guidelines and contact the school’s leadership
You should initially contact school leadership to try to resolve any issues or complaints at the charter school. School level matters, such as attendance, student discipline, and issues involving other students or school staff, should be addressed by school leadership at the school level.
You should also familiarize yourself with the school's policies, guidelines, and reference materials. Such items include, but are not limited to, parent handbooks, student discipline policies related to your concern, and school-issued memorandums. The charter school’s complaints policy should describe a process of how a charter school will address complaints from parents and the public. The Charter Contract requires that charter schools post the following policies on a readily accessible area on the school website:
Student Conduct and Discipline
Accounting Policies and Procedures
The Commission’s website includes a directory of all charter schools in Hawaii; the directory includes contact information for the school director and governing board chair, as well as a link to each charter school’s website. The directory is available here.
Step 2: Contact the school’s Governing Board
If, after discussing the issue with the school’s leadership, you are not satisfied with the outcome or decision pertaining to the complaint, you may bring your issue to the school's Governing Board. Governing Board meetings are public meetings and should be scheduled on a regular basis. A schedule of Governing Board meetings and Board contact information should be available on the school’s website and in the school office.
The process by which the Governing Board handles complaints may differ from school to school; however, the charter school’s complaints policy should describe a process for addressing the issue which should include an opportunity to directly address the complaint with the Board. Complainants should request that communications with the governing board and school administrators be in writing, once a complaint has been raised. All written communications should be saved and may be requested as a complaint is being reviewed.
The Commission’s website has an informational spreadsheet with the members and contact information of all charter school governing board members in Hawaii. The spreadsheet is located on the Governing Boards page of the website and can be accessed under the “About Schools” tab and selecting “Governing Boards” from the dropdown menu.
Step 3: Submit a complaint to the Commission
After working with school administrators and the Governing Board, should your complaint not be resolved, you may submit a complaint to the Commission. The Commission will review and investigate a complaint if it meets the following criteria:
The complaint involves a health or safety issue to students, school staff, and/or the public that does not require immediate intervention from law enforcement or emergency personnel.
The complaint involves a violation of federal law, state law, or any provisions of the Charter Contract which school administrators and/or the governing board have not resolved.
The complainant provides evidence that the school did not follow its complaint/conflict resolution policy. Evidence should be provided that the complainant has been in contact with school administrators and the school governing board, submitted the complaint in accordance with the school’s complaint policy, and can provide correspondence from school administrators and governing board or governing board meeting minutes which may corroborate the complainant’s claims.
Complainants will need to submit their complaint in writing; complaints may be submitted electronically on the Commission website here.
Written complaints may also be mailed to the Commission at:
State Public Charter School Commission 1111 Bishop Street, Suite 516, Honolulu, HI 96813.
Within ten business days of receipt of a written complaint, complainants will receive a written letter informing them of whether the complaint meets the criteria for the Commission to investigate the matter.
Please be aware that certain issues may be referred to another agency that has jurisdiction over and is better suited to handle the issue. For example, allegations of conflict of interest may be referred to the Hawaii State Ethics Commission, the agency with oversight authority over the State Ethics Code.