Code of the District of Columbia

Chapter 3A. Ombudsman for Public Education.


§ 38–351. Office of Ombudsman for Public Education; establishment; term.

(a) There is established within the State Board of Education an Office of Ombudsman for Public Education ("Office"), which shall be headed by an ombudsman appointed by the State Board of Education.

(b)(1) The Ombudsman shall be a District resident within 180 days of appointment.

(2) The Ombudsman shall serve for a term of 5 years, and may be reappointed.

(3) After notice and an opportunity to be heard, the Ombudsman may be removed only for cause that relates to the Ombudsman’s character or efficiency by a 2/3 vote of the State Board of Education.

(c) If a vacancy in the position of ombudsman occurs as a consequence of resignation, disability, death, or other reasons other than the expiration of the term, the State Board of Education shall appoint an ombudsman to fill the unexpired term within 75 days of the occurrence of the vacancy.

(d) The purpose of the Ombudsman is to serve as a neutral resource for current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians in the resolution of complaints and concerns regarding public educationin a way that, in the opinion of the Office, furthers students' best interests.

(d-1) The Ombudsman shall serve as the exclusive personnel authority for employees of the Office, and may hire staff to support the Office's operations consistent with the Office's budget.

(d-2) The Ombudsman shall have exclusive authority to administer the Office's budget, subject to the oversight of the State Board of Education to ensure compliance with District law.

(e) For the purposes of this chapter, the term “public school” means District of Columbia Public Schools and public charter schools in the District of Columbia.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 602, 54 DCR 4102; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-284, § 3(a), 60 DCR 2312; Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-76, § 102(a), 61 DCR 39; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-252, § 3(a), 64 DCR 1656.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 38-1802.04 and § 38-2652.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-284 rewrote the section; and added “for Public Education” to the section heading.

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-76 added (d) and (e).

Applicability

Section 7029 of D.C. Law 22-33 repealed § 6 of D.C. Law 21-252. Therefore the changes made to this section by D.C. Law 21-252 have been given effect.

Applicability of D.C. Law 21-252: § 6 of D.C. Law 21-252 provided that the change made to this section by § 3(a)(4) of D.C. Law 21-252 is subject to the inclusion of the law’s fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan. Therefore that amendment has not been implemented.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) repeal of § 6 of D.C. Law 21-252, see § 7029 of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-167, Oct. 24, 2017, 64 DCR 10802).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of § 6 of D.C. Law 21-252, see § 7029 of Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2017 (D.C. Act 22-104, July 20, 2017, 64 DCR 7032).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-130, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11384, 20 DCSTAT 1827).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-204, October 17, 2013, 60 DCR 15341, 20 DCSTAT 2311).

Short Title

Section 7001 of D.C. Law 20-61 provided that Subtitle A of Title VII of the act may be cited as the “Subject to Appropriations Repealers Amendment Act of 2013”.

Editor's Notes

Applicability: Section 607 of Law 17-9 provided that this title shall apply upon Congressional enactment of Title IX. Congress enacted the provisions of Title IX in Pub. L. 110-33, approved June 1, 2007.

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-284: Section 5 of D.C. Law 19-284 provided that section 3 of the act shall apply upon the inclusion of its fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan, as certified by the Chief Financial Officer to the Budget Director of the Council in a certification published by the Council in the District of Columbia Register.

Section 7016 of D.C. Law 20-61 repealed D.C. Law 19-284, § 5.


§ 38–352. Qualifications.

The Ombudsman shall:

(1) Be appointed without regard to party affiliation;

(2) Be appointed on the basis of integrity;

(3) Possess a demonstrated ability to analyze issues and matters of law, administration, and policy;

(4) Possess experience in the field of social work, counseling, mediation, law, policy, or public administration or auditing, accounting, or other investigative field; and

(5) Have management experience that demonstrates an ability to hire and supervise qualified staff.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 603, 54 DCR 4102.)


§ 38–353. Duties.

The Ombudsman shall:

(1) Provide outreach to current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians, and to further this purpose, have the cooperation of all individuals within the public school system;

(2) Encourage communication between public schools and current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians regarding public education;

(3) Serve as a vehicle for current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians to communicate their complaints and concerns regarding public education through a single office;

(4) Respond to complaints and concerns in a timely fashion with accurate and helpful information;

(5) Receive complaints from current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians concerning public education, including policies and procedures;

(6) Determine the validity of any complaint quickly and professionally;

(7) Examine and address valid complaints and concerns;

(8) Generate options for a response, and offer a recommendation among the options;

(9) Refer complainants to a public school official, agency, department, or resource, when appropriate;

(10) Except where the parties have initiated legal or administrative proceedings involving the complaint, resolve complaints presented by current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians, either through complaint resolution services as established pursuant to § 38-356 or through other informal measures;

(11) Develop and maintain a database that tracks complaints and concerns, identified by grade level and by the public school, and the resolution of complaints and concerns;

(12) Repealed;

(13) Identify systemic concerns and recommend to the State Board of Education policy changes, staff training, and strategies to improve public education and communication between public schools and parents and guardians;

(14) Repealed;

(15) Within 120 days after the end of each school year, submit to the State Board of Education, and make publicly available, a report summarizing the work of the Ombudsman during the previous school year, which shall, at minimum, include an analysis of the types and number of:

(A) Complaints received;

(B) Complaints examined and resolved informally;

(C) Complaints examined and resolved through a formal process;

(D) Complaints dismissed as unfounded;

(E) Complaints pending; and

(F) Recommendations made;

(G) Repealed.

(16) Identify school-level concerns based upon a pattern of complaints or concerns and recommend changes to improve the delivery of public education services; and

(17) Have the authority to issue reports and recommendations related to the Office of Ombudsman's work without prior review or approval by another entity.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 604, 54 DCR 4102; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-284, § 3(b), 60 DCR 2312; Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-76, § 102(b), 61 DCR 39; Mar 10, 2015, D.C. Law 20-196, § 302(a), 61 DCR 12425; Oct. 8, 2016, D.C. Law 21-160, § 4132, 63 DCR 10775; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-252, § 3(b), 64 DCR 1656.)

Section References

This section is referenced in § 38-191.

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-284 rewrote (12); and in the introductory language of (15), substituted “45 days” for “90 days”, and substituted “Deputy Mayor for Education, the Council, the State Board of Education a report, which shall be posted on their websites” for “Deputy Mayor for Education a report”.

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-74 deleted the subsection (a) designation; substituted “current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians” for “residents and parents” in (1); substituted “current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians” for “citizens” in (3); rewrote (2), (5), (9), (10), (11), and (15); and repealed (12) and (14).

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-196 added (16) and made related changes.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-130, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11384, 20 DCSTAT 1827).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-204, October 17, 2013, 60 DCR 15341, 20 DCSTAT 2311).

Short Title

Section 7001 of D.C. Law 20-61 provided that Subtitle A of Title VII of the act may be cited as the “Subject to Appropriations Repealers Amendment Act of 2013”.

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-284: Section 5 of D.C. Law 19-284 provided that section 3 of the act shall apply upon the inclusion of its fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan, as certified by the Chief Financial Officer to the Budget Director of the Council in a certification published by the Council in the District of Columbia Register.

Section 7016 of D.C. Law 20-61 repealed D.C. Law 19-284, § 5.


§ 38–354. Authority.

The Ombudsman shall:

(1) Have access to books, records, files, reports, findings, and all other papers, items, or property (“documents”) belonging to or in use by all departments, agencies, instrumentalities, and employees of public schools necessary to facilitate the purpose of this chapter excluding the Executive Office of the Mayor, the Council, and the District of Columbia courts; provided, that such access is limited to documents related to the student or parent or guardian that the Office of Ombudsman is assisting;

(2) Have full access to student educational records as allowed by federal and local law;

(3) Speak in regard to educational issues under the purview of the Office of Ombudsman with any official or employee within the public school system without the permission of the individual’s supervisor;

(3A) Have the authority to observe instruction at any District of Columbia public school (“DCPS”) or public charter school; provided, that DCPS or the public charter school may require advance notice before an observation may take place, but shall impose no other conditions or restrictions on such observations except those necessary to:

(A) Ensure the safety of children in a program; or

(B) To protect children in the program from disclosure by an observer of confidential and personally identifiable information if such information is obtained in the course of an observation;

(4) Examine and investigate an act or failure to act of any public school official or employee, including whether actions or failures to act are unreasonable, unfair, or discriminatory, even though in accordance with the law;

(5) Determine which complaints and concerns warrant further examination and investigation;

(5A) Bring persons together to resolve conflicts that are not in formal legal or administrative proceedings[;]

(6) Examine any matter under the purview of the Office of Ombudsman, whether initiated by a complaint or another means;

(7) Forward to the Office of the Inspector General all complaints and concerns that require an audit or investigation of a school or a program, agency, or department within DCPS that falls within the purview of the Office of the Inspector General; and

(8) Forward to the Deputy Mayor for Education any policy recommendations that the Ombudsman determines would be helpful to prevent and detect corruption, mismanagement, waste, fraud, and abuse within DCPS.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 605, 54 DCR 4102; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-284, § 3(c), 60 DCR 2312; Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-76, § 102(c), 61 DCR 39; Mar. 10, 2015, D.C. Law 20-196, § 302(b), 61 DCR 12425; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-252, § 3(c), 64 DCR 1656.)

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-284 added (5A).

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-74 rewrote (1); and substituted “Office of Ombudsman, whether initiated by a complaint or another means” for “Office of Ombudsman absent a complaint” in (6).

The 2015 amendment by D.C. Law 20-196 added (3A).

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-130, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11384, 20 DCSTAT 1827).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-204, October 17, 2013, 60 DCR 15341, 20 DCSTAT 2311).

Short Title

Section 7001 of D.C. Law 20-61 provided that Subtitle A of Title VII of the act may be cited as the “Subject to Appropriations Repealers Amendment Act of 2013”.

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-284: Section 5 of D.C. Law 19-284 provided that section 3 of the act shall apply upon the inclusion of its fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan, as certified by the Chief Financial Officer to the Budget Director of the Council in a certification published by the Council in the District of Columbia Register.

Section 7016 of D.C. Law 20-61 repealed D.C. Law 19-284, § 5.


§ 38–355. Limitations; protections.

(a) The Ombudsman shall not:

(1) Disclose personally identifiable information regarding a student without the specific written consent of the student or parent, as required by federal and local law;

(2) Repealed.

(3) Disclose the identity of any person who brings a complaint or provides information to the Ombudsman without the person’s consent, unless the Ombudsman determines that disclosure is unavoidable or necessary to further the ends of an investigation;

(4) Have the authority to take any personnel action, except with regard to the employees of the Office of Ombudsman;

(4A) Examine or investigate any matter that would be under the jurisdiction of the Office of the Inspector General or the Office of District of Columbia Auditor;

(5) Examine the Executive Office of the Mayor, the Council or its personnel, the District of Columbia courts or its personnel, other elected officials, private schools, or private organizations or businesses; or

(6) Provide legal advice or legal representation.

(b) The Ombudsman shall not:

(1) Be compelled to testify in a legal or administrative proceeding regarding a current or past Office of Ombudsman examination or investigation or to release information, including documents or records, gathered during the course of an examination or investigation;

(2) Be held personally liable for the good faith performance of his or her responsibilities under this chapter, except that no immunity shall extend to criminal acts, or other acts that violate District or federal law; or

(3) Be subject to retaliatory action for the good faith performance of his or her responsibilities under this chapter.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 606, 54 DCR 4102; Apr. 27, 2013, D.C. Law 19-284, § 3(d), 60 DCR 2312; Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-76, § 102(d), 61 DCR 39; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-252, § 3(d), 64 DCR 1656.)

Effect of Amendments

The 2013 amendment by D.C. Law 19-284 added (a)(4A).

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-76 rewrote (a)(5); and added (a)(6) and made related changes.

Emergency Legislation

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-130, July 30, 2013, 60 DCR 11384, 20 DCSTAT 1827).

For temporary (90 days) repeal of D.C. Law 19-284, § 5, see § 7016 of the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Support Congressional Review Emergency Act of 2013 (D.C. Act 20-204, October 17, 2013, 60 DCR 15341, 20 DCSTAT 2311).

Short Title

Section 7001 of D.C. Law 20-61 provided that Subtitle A of Title VII of the act may be cited as the “Subject to Appropriations Repealers Amendment Act of 2013”.

Editor's Notes

Applicability of D.C. Law 19-284: Section 5 of D.C. Law 19-284 provided that section 3 of the act shall apply upon the inclusion of its fiscal effect in an approved budget and financial plan, as certified by the Chief Financial Officer to the Budget Director of the Council in a certification published by the Council in the District of Columbia Register.

Section 7016 of D.C. Law 20-61 repealed D.C. Law 19-284, § 5.


§ 38–356. Complaint resolution services.

(a) The Office of Ombudsman shall provide complaint resolution services, which shall be available to current and prospective public school students and their parents or guardians.

(b) Participation in complaint resolution services provided by the Office of Ombudsman shall be voluntary.

(c) Before submitting a complaint to the Office of Ombudsman, the complainant shall make reasonable efforts to resolve the issue at the school level.

(d) Complainants may submit complaints by phone, in writing, or electronically.

(e) Except as provided in subsection (f) of this section, the Office of Ombudsman shall review and investigate each complaint and shall do one or more of the following:

(1) Resolve the complaint;

(2) Refer the complainant to another agency or department;

(3) Require the complainant to submit documentation to support the complaint;

(4) Provide an opportunity for the complainant to meet with the subject of the complaint;

(5) Conduct mediation proceedings;

(6) Dismiss the complaint as unfounded; or

(7) Take any other action determined necessary and appropriate by the Ombudsman.

(f) The Ombudsman may refrain from investigating a complaint if the Ombudsman reasonably believes one or more of the following:

(1) It is plain from the face of the complaint that an adequate remedy is presently available, such that investigation is unwarranted;

(2) The complaint relates to a matter that is outside the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman;

(3) The complaint relates to an act of which the complainant has had knowledge for an unreasonable length of time before the complaint was submitted;

(4) The complainant does not have a sufficient personal interest in the subject matter of the complaint;

(5) Investigation of the complaint would not facilitate an action authorized pursuant to subsection (e) of this section;

(6) The complaint is made in bad faith; or

(7) The resources of the Ombudsman are insufficient for adequate investigation.


(June 12, 2007, D.C. Law 17-9, § 606a; as added Feb. 22, 2014, D.C. Law 20-76, § 102(e), 61 DCR 39; Apr. 7, 2017, D.C. Law 21-252, § 3(e), 64 DCR 1656.)

Effect of Amendments

The 2014 amendment by D.C. Law 20-76 added this section.