How to File a Uniform Complaint Procedure Form

When it comes to defending the civil rights of children, youth, and staff of any school district, do you know that there’s a California state mandated process called the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP) that gives you the right to file a complaint with your school or district or ultimately the California State Department of Education to resolve injustices occurring in your school or district? 

The following is a brief summary of the UCP and the process for filing a complaint. This article does not address every aspect of the UCP process. You will need to investigate the particular procedures to follow for your school or district. However, if the process seems complicated, there are legal services that can assist you in filing a UCP complaint.

What the UCP Covers

The UCP complaint is a written and signed statement alleging a violation of select federal and state laws. 

The UCP addresses forms of discrimination including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Unlawful discrimination based on race, gender, or mental or physical disability
  • Sexual harassment
  • Health and safety complaints
  • Bullying and intimidation of a student or students
  • Disciplining of students
  • Homework policies and practices
  • Dress codes and uniforms
  • The selection of textbooks and materials
  • The lack of adequate textbooks and school materials

The UCP has been used to also address complaints for state and/or federal laws in the areas such as adult education, bilingual education, child care and development, course periods without education content, eduction for students in foster care and homeless children, migrant education, and lack of English Language Learner programs. 

When and How to File a Complaint

A complaint can be files on your own, but you can join forces with other parents whose child or children are impacted by forms of discrimination other violations the UCP covers.

Put your complaints in the form of a letter to your school or district administrator and/or school board representative. Be sure to include the names of school or district administrators. 

Every school and district (or what is legally called Local Education Agencies (LEA)) are required to post and make available Uniform Complaint Procedures. You want to first check your school’s or district’s website for a posting of the UCP form and process. At the end of this article, we include links to UCP procedures for a few schools and districts in the Central Valley.

Some districts have the complaint form available that you can review and fill it out. Some districts may not have a form. Here’s a sample form from the California Department of Education. You can also write the complaint as a letter.

Members of the Central Valley Movement Building team and associated legal services can also help you fill out the complaint form. 

What Happens Next 

  • After the form is submitted to the California Department of Education, the department will review the complaint to see if falls within the purview of UCP. 
  • The LEA (your school or district) must investigate the complaint or issue and provide a written response within 60 calendar days. 
  • The complaint is agreed upon by the LEA, the agency (school or district) is required to develop corrective plan of action. If the complaint is deemed not valid, the complaint is closed. 
  • If the complaint is deemed valid and the LEA fails to adequately address issues raised in the complaint, the complaint is referred back to the LEA once more to resolve within 20 calendar days. 
  • If the LEA doesn’t address and resolve the complaint, the State Superintendent (or his or her designee) may respond to the matter and may require corrective actions if it deems the complaint valid. 

Sample Complaint Forms and Postings  

Your Questions?

Now that you’ve had the opportunity to read this article, let us know what questions you have about the Uniform Complaint Procedures. If you have experience using the UCP process, we would love to hear from you about that process went.

Regional Update Conference Call

Thursday May 23, 2019 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

On Thursday, May 23, 2019 (1pm), we will hold our second Central Valley Movement Building (CVMB) Conference Call. We want to invite you to participate in the call along with other organizers from Fresno, Kings, Merced, Madera, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Tulare, Kern, South Sacramento County to provide updates on what we’re doing in each of our areas.

Purpose of the Call
In 2018, Central Valley Movement Building partners had many successes, culminating in a very successful April 2019 Convening in Fresno (read more about it here.) When you participate in this upcoming phone conference you’ll learn about the powerful actions taking place with groups like yours in the Central Valley.

The vision of Central Valley Movement Building is to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline (including no cops on campus) and implement school-wide and district-wide restorative justice practices and programs geared toward building cultural sensitivity and positive school climates.

Central Valley Education Justice Forum Hosted in Fresno, CA

Over one hundred and forty parent activists, youth, and Central Valley organizations attended the annual Central Valley Movement Building (CVMB) Education Justice Forum hosted at the Falls Event Center in Fresno, CA.

The purpose of the CVMB forum is to create a unique space for networking, to increase awareness and engagement about school discipline reform, and to redefine a healthy school environment.

As part of CVMB’s mission, the annual forum critically examines the school-to-prison pipeline which hinders positive interactions for students in schools. Instead, punitive practices funnel students from schools into to the juvenile and adult criminal system, and essentially pushes them into prisons.

The forum drew together parents, community members, and youth from the nine Central Valley counties—Kern, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Merced, South Sacramento, Stanislaus, and Tulare.

Groups and organization represented include the Dolores Huerta Foundation, the Black Parallel School Board, Fathers and Families of San Joaquin, Fresno Barrio Unidos, Yo Cali!, Tower of Youth, Hmong Innovating Politics, and Merced Black Parallel School Board, Gay Straight Alliance, East Bay Asian Youth Center, Youth Leadership Institute, Fresno Metro Ministry, Dignity in School California, NoMedia, and Weaver Unified School District.

Keynote Speaker

Fresno native and community activist, Dayana Contreras, moderated the Education Justice Forum, and Reyna Castellanos provided professional translation and interpreting services.

Tia Martinez

The forum kicked off with a presentation by Carrie Ayala, CVMB’s own regional connector. Carrie provided an overview of the purpose and work of the CVMB and how it works to connect organizations and people throughout the Central Valley.

The next presenter was Tia Elena Martinez from Forward Change. Tia is currently an independent consultant doing work on dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline and transforming life changes for boys and men of color.

Tia’s presentation consisted of powerful data highlighting student suspensions and arrests occurring throughout schools and districts in the Central Valley. More importantly, she conveyed the urgent need for community organizing to eliminate punitive disciplinary practices, especially for vulnerable student populations such as foster students, Black students, and students with disabilities.

Know Your Rights Training

In order to inform participants about the law to better protect students in situations involving law enforcement, Nicole Bates, Julia Love, and Melina Hettiaratchi of Legal Services for Children, provided an informative and popular Know Your Rights training. Participants learned about the fourth and fifth amendment in relation to the educational system and the history of Student Resource Officers (SROs) on school campuses.

400%: Schools employing school police see increases in student offenses and school-based arrests by as much as 400%.

Though the intended purpose of the SROs is to “prevent crime and respond to emergency situations” on school campuses, the reality is that the increased police presence leads to more school based arrests and referrals to law enforcement, particularly for students of color, LGTBQ students, and students with disabilities. Cops on campus also result in the criminalization of minor student behavior in classrooms and schools in general.

Student Breakout Session

For the first time at CVMB, the annual forum included a breakout session for the 20+ student attendees. Students held small group discussions to discuss what supports and changes they would like to see in their schools in order to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.

Thank You

On behalf of the Central Valley Movement Building Coordinating Team, and especially Maria Madril Hernandez who lead the preparation of the forum, we want to thank all those who participated. The work you do in your school and communities is instrumental to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in the Central Valley and all of California.


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Why CVMB Backs Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (PBIS)

Members of the Central Valley Movement Building, a coalition that works with parents and education activists in regions of the Central Valley in California, are dismayed and concerned about the reported lack of confidence that Visalia Unified School District has in using Positive Behavior Intervention and Suports as a way to address disciplinary related issues in the classroom and schools.

The recently published article, the Visalia Times, titled “VUSD trustee: PBIS is broken, not worth fixing. Is he right?” raises more questions than it answers. Among the questions we have include:

  • What are parents and students saying about the reported incidents of misbehavior in schools?
  • What type of resources and supports (Third Tier) have schools been using to help students who are the most disruptive?
  • And how have schools and teachers tried to reach out to parents and invite them to be partners in creating a positive school climate?

We are aware that many teachers are calling for using school suspensions and expulsions as a form of behavior management, but research shows that these punitive policies and practices disproportionally impact Black and Brown students, and it means that the more time students miss school for whatever reason, the more likely those students will have difficulty graduating, and many will end up in juvenile detention centers or jails.

research shows that these punitive policies and practices disproportionally impact Black and Brown students, and it means that the more time students miss school for whatever reason, more likely those students will have difficulty graduating, and many will end up in juvenile detention centers or jails.

PBIS Properly Implemented

If PBIS is properly implemented it results in all students developing and learning social, emotional, and behavioral competence, which supports their academic engagement. Additionally, all educators develop positive, predictable, and safe environments that promote strong interpersonal relationships with students through teaching, modeling, and encouragement.

PBIS properly implemented also results in:

  • Reductions in major disciplinary infractions, antisocial behavior, and substance abuse
  • Reductions in aggressive behavior and improvements in emotional regulation.
  • Improvements in academic engagement and achievement
  • Improvements in perceptions of organizational health and school safety
  • Reductions in teacher and student reported bullying behavior and victimization
  • Improvements in perceptions of school climate
  • Reductions in teacher turnover

We think Visalia USD should review its PBIS programs, and actively partner with parents and community groups address issues of bullying, problems with classroom management, and other various complaints.

Examples of PBIS Resources

  • an on-site mental health clinic
  • art and music classes to help students express themselves
  • on-call support for teachers
  • ongoing professional training for teachers
  • behavior circles
  • student referrals to a psychologist or social worker
  • work and recreational supports for students
  • enrollment in a program teaching prosocial behavior or anger management participation in a restorative justice program
  • after-school programs that address special behavior issues or expose students to positive activities and behaviors
  • participation in an on-site or community-based restorative justice program

Our Recommendation

We think Visalia USD should review its PBIS programs, and actively partner with parents and community groups address issues of bullying, problems with classroom management, and other various complaints. No single solution will fix the problem.

CVMB Participates in Equity on the Mall 2019

Organized by the San Joaquin Valley Health Fund, the Center at Sierra Health Foundation and community partners, including the Central Valley Movement Building, the annual Equity on the Mall was held in Sacramento on March 6th.

The event culminating at the State Capital included presentations by elected representatives community leaders, music, dance, spoken word and legislative visits about pressing issues impacting communities in the San Joaquin Valley.

As part of the Equity on the Mall event, a policy statement was released that focuses on Senate Bill SB 419, authored by Sen. Nancy Skinner, would do the following:

  • End Willful Defiance from the Education CodeSB 419 will improve student outcomes and encourage schools to adopt alternatives to suspensions and expulsions by:
  • Eliminating defiance/disruption suspensions and expulsions for students in grades 4-8;
  • Eliminating defiance/disruption suspensions and expulsions for students in grades 9-12 until January 1, 2025; and
  • Encouraging the use of Multi-Tiered Systems of Support to help students gain critical social and emotional skills.

Download the Word Version of this statement, which includes footnotes to the sources.


  1. In 2017-18, foster youth, Black students, and students with disabilities were four, three, and two times more likely to be suspended than their peers, respectively.
  2. State data reveal that students with disabilities were less than 13% of California’s student enrollment in the 2017-18 school year, yet they comprised 31% of disruption/defiance suspensions.
  3. Black students were less than 6% of enrollment, but nearly 16% of disruption/defiance suspensions in 2017-18.
  4. Further, research suggests that disparities in discipline for students of color are due in partto both unconscious and intentional discriminatory practices, which is particularly true for highly subjective offenses like disruption/defiance.
  5. Several studies confirm that Black students receive harsher punishments for minor and more subjective violations than White students. Studies also confirm that there is no evidence that Black students misbehave at higher rates.

Educational Justice — No LCFF Funding for SROs

Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as “zero tolerance policies,” the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007.1 Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities’ entire police force.

The question of school safety is about healthy educational environment.

The presence of SROs and cops on campus undermines the responsibility and agency of students, school administrators and staff, and the communities they serve to build transformative and positive school cultures that teach respect for students and commitment to student’s academic success.

In 2015/16, Central Valley school districts are among the top 5% of districts with the highest rates of school related arrests. In 2015-16, 158 student arrests were made in Sacramento City Unified, 159 in Fresno Unified School District, and in Clovis Unified, 114.

Reports also show a rising trend in students in disability being arrested. Central Valley districts represent only 23% of all districts with 1000 or more students, but 33% of the top 30 highest suspending districts for students with disabilities. 

Furthermore, in 2015/16 the Central Valley had 1,079,038 students enrolled, plus 607 full time police officers and 737 full-time security officers. There are more police officers and security guards in Central Valley schools (1,345 combined) than counselors (1,315.)

We need legislation that end the use of Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funds for School Resource Officers in school districts

The presence of SROs and referrals to police as feeding into the school-to-prison pipeline, we contend that the solutions to system-wide discrimination and violations of student rights requires not just changes in programs but also systemic changes in the culture of schools.

Regional Update Conference Call

Last Thursday 1:00 PM

Our monthly update call for CVMB partners to discuss local activities, upcoming meetings and events, and movement work. (You can click on one of the calendar icons to add the date directly to your supported calendar.)

Regional Update Conference Call

Thursday April 25, 2019 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Our monthly update call for CVMB partners to discuss local activities, upcoming meetings and events, and movement work. (You can click on one of the calendar icons to add the date directly to your supported calendar.)

Event Types:

Regional Update Conference Call

Thursday March 28, 2019 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM

Our monthly update call for CVMB partners to discuss local activities, upcoming meetings and events, and movement work. (You can click on one of the calendar icons to add the date directly to your supported calendar.)

Event Types: