Maine DOE's Authority to Respond to Complaints
The Legislature designed the education system in Maine so that “the control and management of the public schools shall be vested in the governing bodies of local school administrative units, as long as those units are in compliance with appropriate state statutes.” 20-A M.R.S.A. § 2(2). This policy of “local control” provides communities with a stronger voice in critical decisions in how education is to be provided. It also means that the Maine Department of Education has limited or no authority to intervene in many situations.
If you are a parent and you are concerned about what is going on in your child’s classroom, you should start by speaking with the teacher. If you are not comfortable speaking with the teacher, or you are not satisfied with the teacher’s response, try speaking with the building principal. If speaking with the principal does not resolve your concern, or if your concern is about a policy or practice that is bigger than just one building, contact someone at the district level, such as the director of special education, business manager, curriculum coordinator or, ultimately, the Superintendent. If you are still not satisfied, you can bring your concern to your school board. The school board is the Superintendent’s (and the principal’s, the other administrators,’ and the teachers’) employer as well as the entity responsible for providing your child with a free, public education.
Processes for Filing Specific Complaints with the State:
Reports of Suspected Abuse, Neglect or Exploitation: Maine law states that certain people must report suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of a child and/or an adult if they believe the adult is incapacitated or dependent. Maine law also states that certain people must report to the Maine Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) if they know or have reasonable cause to suspect that a child has been or is likely to be abused or neglected. To report child abuse or neglect call the DHHS hotline at 1-800-452-1999. Find more information about Mandated Reporting on the Maine DHHS Website.
Special Education Disputes: The Department offers three types of special education dispute resolution: (1) mediation, which is an entirely voluntary process that parents and schools can use to resolve any issue relating to special education; (2) a state complaint, which causes the Department to investigate any alleged non-compliance by any public agency that is involved in special education, and, if non-compliance is found, leads to a corrective action plan overseen by the Department; and (3) an administrative due process hearing, which is available only to parents and school administrative units when there is a dispute over the identification, evaluation, placement or the provision of FAPE. Learn more on the Maine DOE’s Office of Special Services Effective Dispute Resolution web page.
Complaints of Discrimination: The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights enforces several Federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Education. A complaint may be submitted online or by downloading the complaint form and submitting it by mail or email. For more information and access online visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights Complaint Forms web page.
Request an Inspection: Pursuant to 20-A MRS §258-A, the commissioner shall inspect a school or schools in a school administrative unit and report the findings and recommendations to the school board, addressing the concerns of the petition in light of applicable school approval standards, when:
A. Petitioned by 60% of the parents of the children of one school;
B. Requested by the school board or superintendent of schools; or
C. Petitioned by 20% of the registered voters of the unit.
Non-Renewal of a Probationary Teacher: Pursuant to 20-A M.R.S §13201, prior to May 15th before the expiration of a first or 2nd year probationary teacher’s, the superintendent is to notify the teacher in writing of the decision nominate or not nominate that teacher for another teacher contract. If the superintendent fails to provide such notification, the teacher may submit a complaint to the Commissioner. If the Commissioner finds that the superintendent failed to provide proper notification the SAU shall pay a forfeiture to the teacher that is equal to the teacher’s per diem salary rate time the number of days between the notification deadline and the date on which notification is made or on which the complaint is filed, whichever occurs first.
How to File a Human Resources Complaint about a Department of Education Employee: If you wish to make a complaint about the actions of an employee/employees of the Department of Education, contact the Maine Department of Administration and Financial Services: Breena Bissell, H.R. Director at 624-7421 or Doreen Brown, H.R. Manager at 624-7419. For TTY: dial Maine Relay 711 or in writing at 74 State House Station, Augusta, Maine 04333-0074. The complaint should identify yourself, provide contact information and contain specific details about your complaint. The receipt of your complaint will be formally acknowledged in writing or by phone and your complaint will then be investigated and processed as expeditiously as possible. You may be contacted to provide additional information about your complaint. When the investigation of your complaint has been completed, you will receive a written explanation of the final disposition of the matter, within the limits of confidentiality laws.