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 Filing Formal Complaints Under ESSA Programs

An organization or individual (“complainant”) may file a formal complaint [1] alleging a violation of the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 [2] (ESSA) against a Georgia school district, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) program, or the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) itself.  

Why File a Formal Complaint?

The formal complaint process provides an opportunity for organizations and individuals to report possible ESSA violations. Prior to filing a formal complaint, we encourage individuals to read the frequently asked questions(FAQs) which provide additional information regarding the complaint ​process.​ 

What is Included in a Formal Complaint?

The complaint must include:

    • The complainant’s contact information (name, address, phone number, and email address);

    • The date(s) on which the alleged violation(s) occurred and the date(s) on which any school district, 21st CCLC program, or GaDOE action or decision regarding the alleged violation was issued, if applicable;

    • The facts and documentation on which the complaint is based;

    • The specific federal requirement allegedly violated (include citation to the federal statute or regulation, if known);

    • Documentation or an explanation of efforts to resolve the complaint;

    • Contact information for other individuals who can provide additional information, if applicable (name, telephone number, address, and email address);

    • Whether a complaint has been filed with any other agency and, if so, which agency; and

    • A proposed resolution to the complaint.

When May a Formal Complaint be Filed?

A formal complaint may be filed when an organization or individual believes that a recipient of funding has violated a requirement of a federal statute or regulation related to the administration of a program.​ The complaint must allege a violation that occurred not more than one (1) year prior to the date that the complaint is received, unless a longer period is reasonable because the violation is considered systemic or ongoing. The federal ESSA programs for which formal complaints may be filed and investigated are:

    • Title I, Part A – Improving Basic Programs Operated by Local Educational Agencies

    • Title I, Part A – School Improvement Grants, referred to as 1003(a) and 1003(g)

    • Title I, Part C – Education of Migratory Children

    • Title I, Part D – Prevention and Intervention Programs for Children and Youth Who Are Neglected, Delinquent, or At-Risk

    • Title II, Part A – Supporting Effective Instruction

    • Title III, Part A – Language Instruction for English Learners and Immigrant Students

    • Title IV, Part A – Student Support and Academic Enrichment

    • Title IV, Part B – 21st Century Community Learning Centers

    • Emergency Relief Funds CARES Act, CRRSA Act, ARP Act​

McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. A parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth may also file a complaint under Title IX, Part A – the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, and the process for filing a complaint is the same as it is for the ESSA federal programs.  Unique to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, however, is the GaDOE’s role in also resolving disputes regarding a final decision over eligibility, school selection or enrollment in a school made at the school district level. Each school district must have a McKinney-Vento dispute resolution process to address issues regarding eligibility, school selection or enrollment in a school. If the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth disagrees with the school district’s decision and the school district’s appeal process has been exhausted, a request may be filed within 10 business days for the GaDOE to review the final decision of the school district.


Equitable services. Formal complaint procedures regarding a school district’s or a 21st CCLC program’s equitable services for children attending private school are found on the State Ombudsman webpage. 

How is a Formal Complaint Filed?

Complaints are best filed electronically through GaDOE’s secure online complaint link.  The link below may be used to submit the online complaint.  Supporting documentation should be provided, if applicable and available.

GaDOE Online Complaint Link: Complaint/Comment

A formal complaint may also be mailed to the following address:

​Georgia Department of Education
Federal Programs Director
205 Jesse Hill Jr. Drive SE
1854 Twin Tower East
Atlanta, Georgia 30334


General Complaint Investigation Overview

Once GaDOE receives the complaint, the federal programs director will review the matter to determine if it is properly before GaDOE.  If so, the Federal Programs director or his or her designee will conduct an investigation and examine all pertinent  information. The investigation may include confirmation of details; clarification of the issues; interviews with the person filing the complaint, the school district or 21st CCLC program, GaDOE program staff, or other individuals; observations; on-site visits; and other activities as determined by the nature of the allegation.  The general complaint investigation time frame is 30 days. 

The following are some general actions that take place during a complaint investigation: 

    • The assigned GaDOE staff member notifies and works with the school district, 21st CCLC program, or GaDOE program to understand and resolve the complaint. 
    • If appropriate, opportunities to submit additional information are given to the complainant once GaDOE staff has received the response from the school district or 21st CCLC program.
    • Within 30 days of the receipt of the complaint, the GaDOE will issue a written decision to the complainant and the school district or 21st CCLC that addresses each allegation in the complaint and contains, if appropriate, findings of fact and determinations of compliance or noncompliance.  Please note that the timeline may be extended to accommodate for mediation or other extenuating circumstances with respect to a complaint.
    • If there is a violation of the law or regulations, a resolution will be required. The resolution may include technical assistance activities, corrective actions, or both to achieve compliance.​​
    • If the complainant and the school district or 21st CCLC program resolve the complaint before the GaDOE investigation is complete, the complaint will be closed without making a determination regarding compliance.

[1] Georgia public school districts, 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) programs, or the Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) are all recipients of federal ESSA funding.

[2] The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA).


 Contact Information

John Wight
Federal Programs
Phone: ​404-463-1857