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Transparency helps

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Marisol contacted us with concerns about the process School District 61 followed in medically excluding her child, Jordan. Marisol disagreed with the decision but was unaware she could appeal the decision and said the District did not explain this to her. Marisol also said that the District undertook a Violence Threat Risk Assessment (VTRA) process about Jordan but the District did not provide her with any information about what the VTRA process was beyond letting her know that it would occur.

We investigated whether the District followed a reasonable process in excluding Jordan from school, including whether the District reasonably communicated with Marisol about the exclusion.

In speaking with the District, we noted that the District’s letter to Marisol advised of the decision to exclude Jordan but it did not include information about her right to appeal the decision to the Board of Education. When we inquired about this gap, the district indicated its complaints policy and appeal process bylaw was available online and noted that it clearly outlined the steps required to appeal a decision. We explained the importance of providing information about a person’s appeal or review rights with a decision.

To address this fairness concern, we asked the District to ensure that staff inform parents and guardians about the right to appeal a decision to medically exclude a child. The District accepted our recommendation to review and revise its written communications about and policy documents for medical exclusions.

We also spoke to the District about Marisol’s concern that it did not provide adequate information about the VTRA process. The District explained that VTRAs are intended to assess risk to the school and that the school had a safety plan document that outlined the procedures to be followed in emergencies, including VTRAs as well as the requirement to provide fair notice to parents. We reviewed the safety plan document and noted that it explained when a VTRA may be necessary, but provided few details about what the VTRA process involved. Based on our review, it did not appear that there was District-wide, public-facing information about the VTRA process. In Marisol’s case, although the District advised her that the VTRA would be conducted, we were concerned that it did not provide adequate information about the process. We were also not satisfied that the safety plan would have furthered her understanding of the situation had she known to review it.

We asked the District to resolve this concern by developing a District-wide, public-facing document about the VTRA process and to proactively provide it to parents/guardians when the process is undertaken with respect to their child.

The District agreed to our suggested resolution.