These are the general steps that may be taken by parents, guardians and community members when they have concerns about public school districts or their governing boards.

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Local Remedies

Parents, guardians and community members should work with district staff to resolve disagreements or concerns. Potential actions include:

  • Contact the teacher or service provider
  • Contact the principal or direct supervisor for assistance
  • Contact the superintendent
  • Contact the school board
  • Make a formal request of or complaint to the school board

Some formal requests are made of local boards on a routine basis, such as open-enrollment. School boards may also take action on requests made of them by parents, guardians and community members that are not routinely found on the agenda. An example might be a request to review curricular materials. Parents, guardians and community members should read and understand their local board’s policies on making requests or filing complaints.

If a local school board makes a decision on a formal request, it may be subject to administrative review by the state board or the director of the Department and/or to further challenge in district court (Iowa Code 290.1).

House File (HF) 868 signed by the Governor on June 8, 2021 includes a requirement for a local board of directors of a school district to add a proposal to its agenda that is specified on a petition filed in accordance with law within 30 days of receipt of the petition. The petition must be signed by eligible electors of a school district equal to at least 10% of the persons who voted in the last preceding election of school officials, or 500 eligible electors, whichever is less.

Petition Process Guidance - Provides school districts, local school boards, and eligible district voters with information related to the petition process.

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Calls to the Department of Education

Parents or guardians who call the Department are generally provided with the contact information for the school improvement consultant who serves their area of the state. Consultants ask the same questions of all parents to determine how to handle their concerns, many of which help inform parents of potential next steps. In general, before the Department can or should take action that interferes with the local process for dispute resolution, parents should exhaust all opportunities available to them to settle disagreements by engaging with the district.

If the Department is contacted about any of the following, intervention may be required:

  • Potential violation of the rights of a student with a disability, including bullying
  • Potential bullying or harassment of a student on the part of a staff member
  • Potential harm to a child or student
  • Any other act in disregard of legal requirements that places students or staff at risk
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Board of Educational Examiners

Parents and guardians may file a complaint with the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE), if appropriate. Department of Education staff are required to file a report of any misconduct suspected of an educator licensed by the BOEE (Iowa Code 256.160(2)).

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Appeals and Petitions to the Director of the Department of Education


Certain decisions may be appealed to the director of the Iowa Department of Education as outlined in specific state statutes. See specific Iowa Code references, procedures and timelines for specific appeal types.

Petition for Review of Accreditation

Iowa Code 256.11, subsection 10, paragraph "b" requires the Department to conduct an accreditation review for any district or accredited nonpublic school if:

  1. A petition is filed with the director of the department signed by a number of eligible electors residing in the district equal to at least 20% of the registered voters of the school district, or
  2. A petition is filed with the director of the department signed by 20% or more of the parents or guardians who have children enrolled in the school or school district.
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State Board

The State Board of Education may hear from parents, guardians and community members if they have exhausted their local remedies. There are formal and informal options for bringing issues before the state board.


  • Parents, guardians, or community members may always speak during public comment at state board meetings. Public comment may also be taken in print and read at the meeting if the board president chooses to do so.
  • State board members have email addresses and receive messages from members of the public regularly.
  • Community members may provide information to the state board as a group, such as a letter or informal petition.


The state board hears formal appeals from students, parents, or guardians. See specific Iowa Code and Iowa Administrative Code references and timelines for formal appeals.

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District Court

Certain final decisions by a local school board will give rise to a right for the injured party to pursue the issue in district court. This is only true for final action of the local board for some decisions.

Only individuals sufficiently impacted by the board’s decision will have the ability to challenge the decision in district court.

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