Pupil Nondiscrimination Guidelines for Filing a Complaint under Wisconsin's Pupil Nondiscrimination Law

State law prohibits discrimination against a pupil because of the pupil's:

  • sex
  • race
  • religion
  • national origin (including a student whose primary language is not English)
  • ancestry
  • creed
  • pregnancy
  • marital or parental status
  • sexual orientation, and, or
  • physical, mental, emotional or learning disability

A pupil may not be excluded from a public school (pre-kindergarten through grade 12), or from any school activities or programs, or be denied any of the benefits of school activities or programs, or be treated in a different manner for any of these reasons.

Each public school district is required by law to have written policies that prohibit discrimination against pupils for any of the reasons listed above. Each district must also have some way for pupils, their parents or guardians, or residents of the school district to file complaints of discrimination. The school board must approve a procedure for filing complaints of discrimination. The complaint procedure must be in writing. And each school district must name an employee of the school district who will be responsible for receiving complaints of discrimination against pupils. Schools must include information about these policies and procedures in any handbooks they have for teachers, students and parents.

If you believe the school district has discriminated against your child, you may file a complaint with the school district. You may contact the school or district office and ask for copies of the pupil nondiscrimination policies and complaint procedure. To file a complaint, follow the directions in the school district's written complaint procedure. If you have questions about the procedure, you should ask who in the school district handles pupil discrimination complaints. Contact that person and ask that person to explain the complaint process to you.

In some cases, the complaint procedure will involve several steps. If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your complaint at the end of any step, you should go ahead to the next step, always following the instructions in the district's written complaint procedure. You should always file your complaint in writing. The school district must acknowledge your complaint within 45 days, in writing, and the final decision on your complaint must be made within 90 days.

If you have gone through all the steps of the school district's complaint procedure and you are not satisfied with the outcome, you may file an appeal with the Department of Public Instruction. Any appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date of the school district's final action on your complaint. The Department of Public Instruction may not consider your appeal unless you have gone through all the steps of the school district's complaint procedure and a final decision has been issued by the school district.

An appeal to the Department of Public Instruction should be in writing and signed, and should include the following information: the reason for the appeal; the facts that make you believe discrimination occurred; and the relief or outcome you are requesting if you are successful in your appeal. It is a good idea to include a copy of the school district's final decision or letter to you.

If the school district does not have a pupil discrimination complaint procedure, you may file a complaint directly with the Department of Public Instruction. The complaint should be in writing, signed, and should contain the same information that is required in an appeal: the reason for the complaint; the facts of the complaint; and the relief you are requesting. You may also file a complaint with the Department of Public Instruction if the school district does not make a decision on your complaint within 90 days. In most cases, if the school district has not made a final decision on your complaint within 90 days, the department will return the complaint to the school district to make a final decision. In an appeal, if the department determines the school district has acted in violation of the Wisconsin pupil nondiscrimination law, the superintendent can issue an order requiring the school district to comply with the law, and require that the school district develop and submit a corrective action plan to prevent further discrimination. The superintendent does not have the authority to award monetary relief, or impose or order discipline on teachers or school district staff.

For more information about Wisconsin's pupil nondiscrimination law, you may call the Department of Public Instruction, Pupil Nondiscrimination Program. The telephone number is, (608) 267-9157.

If your complaint is about discrimination because of race, sex, age, disability or national origin, you may also file a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights of the United States Department of Education. A complaint must be filed with the Office for Civil Rights within 180 days (about six months) of the date the discrimination occurred. You do not have to file a complaint with the school district before filing a complaint with the Office for Civil Rights, and you may file complaints with both the school district and the Office for Civil Rights if you wish to do so. OCR Contact Information

If your complaint is about the special educational needs of a child, there is a different complaint and appeal process. For information about the IDEA complaint process, contact the Special Education Team at (608) 266-1068.