As of September 1, 2015, the Ontario Ombudsman can take complaints about the province’s 82 school boards.
Anyone with an unresolved concern about a school board – including parents and family members, school board staff and trustees, teachers or special interest groups – can contact the Ombudsman by using the online complaint form here. Complaints can also be filed by phone (1-800-263-1830), or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
WEBINAR: COMPLAINTS ABOUT SCHOOL BOARDS
Video transcript (accessible PDF) - Closed Caption enabled
SPEECH: Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé speaks to the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation
Speech text (accessible PDF) - Closed Caption enabled
What kinds of issues can the Ombudsman help with?
The Ombudsman can review complaints about the administrative actions and decisions of school boards. The Ombudsman is an office of last resort. This means that you should try to address your issue through any available complaint or appeal mechanisms before contacting our Office.
We commonly receive complaints about busing and transportation services, special education services, suspensions and expulsions, and complaints from school board employees.
If I have a complaint about a school or a school board, what should I do first?
The Ombudsman is an office of last resort, so you should attempt to resolve your complaints directly with the school board first. You may wish to discuss your concerns with a teacher, vice-principal or principal. If that does not resolve the matter, you may wish to speak with a school board superintendent or other board official.
If you are unable to resolve your concerns by taking these steps, you are welcome to contact our Office and we will determine if we can provide assistance or referrals.
I called your office to complain before Bill 8 was in effect. Will you investigate my complaint?
If you made a complaint to our Office before September 1, 2015, you will need to contact us again and we will assess it and any updated information you can provide.
What should I do if I have a complaint about:
Busing or transportation?
You should discuss your complaint directly with the bus driver or school staff first. If that does not resolve your concerns, you can check the school board's website to see if there is a complaint process for busing and transportation issues. Some boards have superintendents who are responsible for transportation services, while others provide busing and transportation through a third-party consortium. If you are unsure about where to go with your complaint, or if you are unable to resolve your complaint directly with the school board and/or the transportation consortium, please call our Office to see if we can help.
Special education services?
You should discuss your concerns with your child's teacher and principal. If that does not resolve your concerns, you may wish to elevate them to the superintendent responsible for your child's school or a superintendent responsible for special education at the school board.
The Ministry of Education's website also contains information about special education services, here.
If you are not happy with the responses you receive from the school board and have exhausted all available appeal avenues, please contact our Office to see if we can help.
Student suspensions or expulsions?
Notices of suspensions and expulsions should contain information on how to appeal. You should follow this appeal process before making a complaint to the Ombudsman, as we are an office of last resort. However, we may be able to help if you are having trouble getting information about the process or if you still have concerns once you made an appeal.
Teachers are regulated by the Ontario College of Teachers. The College's website explains its complaint process here: https://www.oct.ca/public/complaints-and-discipline/complaints-process
You may wish to discuss your concerns with the teacher directly, or speak to the school principal and then the school board if necessary. If you are still unable to resolve your concerns, please contact our Office to see if we can help.
I work for a school board and have questions, not complaints. Whom do I contact?
Our Communications team can determine where best to direct your question.
What happens if the school board I work for or represent is the subject of a complaint?
An Ombudsman staff member may contact representatives of the school board and advise them of the substance of the complaint. The staff member may request information relevant to the complaint and attempt to resolve the issue. If a formal investigation is necessary, the school board will receive a written notice and an opportunity to respond. Representatives, officials and staff may also be interviewed and asked to provide documentation in response to the complaint. For the integrity of our process, the Ombudsman’s Office determines which officials we need to contact and/or interview.
What should I do if I am an employee of a school or school board and have a complaint?
The Ombudsman does not replace the role of public sector unions or grievance processes, or interfere in collective bargaining. Employment-related matters should be directed to the relevant union officials or managers first. If you have concerns about wrongdoing at a school or school board, please call our Office so we can see if we can help. Complaints are confidential – we do not identify complainants without their consent.