How to Write a Complaint Letter to a Principal

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Nothing is more distressing than seeing your child come home from school in tears. As parents, we try our best to shield our children from bullies and discomfort, but when they get to school, our children are on their own. When a situation arises at your child's school and it wasn't handled properly or it resulted from an inadequate policy, you have a duty to inform the child's teacher or the principal.

1 Begin the letter

Begin the letter by typing your address without your name. Skip a space, and type the full date. Skip another space and type the principal's name and title, her school and the school's address.

2 Skip another space

Skip another space, and type "Dear Mr./Ms. (Name)" followed by a colon.

3 Open the letter

Open the letter by explaining that a situation occurred with your child and that it needs to be remedied. Be specific about the incident and what you would like to happen as a result. Direct requests usually get better results than indirect ones, so do not be afraid to ask for what you want in a firm but polite manner.

4 Write the details

Write the details of the incident in subsequent paragraphs. Keep the tone professional, but be firm throughout that this incident or policy is unacceptable.

5 Close the letter respectfully

Close the letter respectfully, and sign your name.

6 Make copies

Make copies of the letter in case further incidents occur and you need a legal record of your correspondence.

7 Mail the letter by certified mail

Mail the letter by certified mail so that you have confirmation that it was received.

  • If you do not hear back from the principal within two weeks, call her directly and inquire. She may not be able to tell you if an offending child was punished because of privacy laws, but you should at least know if the situation has been handled.
  • If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your letter, send a letter to the district superintendent. Refer to the letter that you wrote to the principal and outline what was or was not done to remedy the situation.

Natalie Smith is a technical writing professor specializing in medical writing localization and food writing. Her work has been published in technical journals, on several prominent cooking and nutrition websites, as well as books and conference proceedings. Smith has won two international research awards for her scholarship in intercultural medical writing, and holds a PhD in technical communication and rhetoric.