Cartoon: Signe Wilkinson, May 2012
Back to School Update: Exercise your legal rights!

As we enter the school year, the purposeful underfunding and abuse of the state-run School District has never been more clear: 24 school closings. Children headed to schools even worse off than the ones they attended. Every single school across the city crippled by the deliberate refusal to staff them safely and responsibly. As the school year begins, it has become more important than ever for us to document and register formal complaints on the neglect and abuse of Philadelphia's children.


Parents are working with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia to document and report any and all complaints of the new school year. This process is for all students and families not just students with disabilities or IEPs.


The Pennsylvania state constitution mandates that students be provided with a

Photo: Matthew Hall Photography

"thorough and efficient system of public education." The state code requires that the curriculum in schools includes the instruction of art, music, dance, and theater, as well as "comprehensive and integrated K-12 student services" and, in particular, guidance counseling services. There are also specific provisions requiring schools to have "sufficient numbers of qualified professional employees" to enforce the curriculum requirements. If children are being denied these services, you have the right to file a complaint, and the Secretary of Education has a responsibility to investigate any complaints of deficiency.


Our goal is to document and illustrate the widespread and harmful impact of the District's violation of the state constitution and state code. The purpose of this effort is not to file complaints against principals or school staff but to focus on the mandates of the state constitution. 


It's important to also make clear this is not a lawsuit. These are administrative complaints that are intended to document and make public how terrible the impact is on young people across the city.


We ask educators, teachers, students and parents to file complaints as frequently and as soon as possible.


Take Formal Action

Beginning on the first day of school and any or every day thereafter, if you encounter a problem with services, file a formal complaint:

  1. Call the state department hotline to complain: 800-879-2301. This state hotline must log and record all calls. A state department of ed employee is supposed to provide guidance to you. Please note the date you called and let us know as well;
  2. File a legal complaint with the state department. You can find those forms for any student and for students with or seeking an IEP or G-IEP. These complaints can be emailed (with scanned signature), mailed or faxed; and
  3. Make a copy of the complaint and send one to us or the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia for documentation.


This information and other advice on the opening of school is available for download on the Parents United for Public Education websiteand on the website for Public Interest Law Center of PhiladelphiaIf you need any help or have any questions, please contact us. We are scheduling regional meetings around the city and would love to host one in your area.


Many of us feel exhausted, worried and dismayed by the start of the year. We are hoping this collective action begins a process for us to find new ways to address the long-standing injustices of our schools. As parents we are angry and frustrated at the level of neglect which led to this chaotic opening of the school year. But now more than ever we must be vigilant and empowered. We must remain defiant about what's happening in schools and we refuse to stop until this situation gets fixed.


Praying for a safe and responsible school opening,


Helen, Gerald, Rebecca, Robin, Sabra, Tomika, and all of us at

Parents United for Public Education

About Us
Parents United for Public Education is a citywide organization of parents in Philadelphia's public and charter schools. We are proud public school supporters who believe in investing in and supporting quality neighborhood schools. Since 2006 we have focused on the District's budget and to help parents engage with city and District budget issues that impact the level of services and supports in our public school classrooms. Contact us at