Office of the Ombuds

The Office of the Ombuds for Grand Rapids Public Schools is dedicated to empowering scholars, families, and caregivers, employees, and our community by providing a safe, impartial, and confidential space to navigate, mediate and resolve concerns, conflicts, and issues in our educational institution.

By advocating for fairness, transparency, and accountability, we strive to provide steps to resolution that will foster a harmonious environment for all. Complete our Ombuds Contact Form for more information or assistance. 

Your Ombuds is here to:


  • Listen to and clarify visitor concerns or complaints to seek resolution
  • Identify underlying issues and interests
  • Provide information on resources and referrals and relay information about GRPS programs, policies, and regulations
  • Explore options and empower visitors to advocate for their scholar’s education, themselves, and a thriving school/work environment
  • Provide legal advice or act as an advocate
  • Mandate policies, make binding decisions, or serve as an appeal process
  • Disclose confidential communications or act without the visitor’s express consent
  • Facilitate conversations to resolve issues, as appropriate
  • Collect data on emerging trends and patterns while safeguarding anonymity
  • Utilize data to provide systemic feedback to leadership, including recommendations for systemic and organizational change

The Ombuds does not:

  • Provide legal advice or act as an advocate
  • Mandate policies, make binding decisions, or serve as an appeal process
  • Disclose confidential communications or act without the visitor’s express consent

 

Contact the Ombuds when:


  • You don’t know where to go for help
  • You’re having trouble finding the information you need
  • You prefer working with a neutral, third party
  • There is a lack of trust, a breakdown in communication, and/or a power imbalance
  • You are concerned about confidentiality and/or retaliation
  • You feel your voice is not being heard

What is an [Ombuds] Ombudsperson?

An Ombuds [or Ombudsman] is an independent, neutral, informal, and confidential resource that assists parents and other members of the GRPS community in surfacing issues and in resolving complaints, conflicts, and other school-related issues in the district. The Ombuds will listen to your concerns, help you obtain necessary information, and offer impartial guidance on how you may raise or resolve your issue. The Ombuds also helps identify systemic issues for the district without disclosing your confidential communications with the Ombuds.

Why was the Office of the Ombudsperson created?

The creation of the Ombuds office stems from feedback received from the GRPS community regarding the difficulties individuals encountered when addressing concerns or conflicts within the school district. This initiative was established to offer an information and alternative channel for discussing and resolving issues raised by constituents. 

Who can utilize the services of the Ombuds?

Parents, scholars, employees, and members of the school community may voluntarily seek confidential, impartial, and informal assistance in resolving GRPS-related concerns. 

How can I make an appointment with the Ombuds?

Please click here to schedule an appointment, email Ombuds@grps.org or call 616-819-3006.

What does the Ombuds do?

  • Provides confidential, neutral, independent, and informal assistance to constituents.
  • Listens to concerns and provides guidance, information, and individual coaching.
  • Serves as a resource by providing information, helping locate the appropriate person who can assist with an issue, clarifying processes, and seeking options for resolution.
  • Explains district policies and procedures and how they relate to an individual situation.
  • Helps identify a range of resolution options, including formal and/or informal channels.
  • Helps bridge communication between visitors and others in the organization.
  • Identifies trends and makes recommendations for organizational improvement and policy or practice changes to prevent recurring issues.
  • Assists in achieving outcomes consistent with fairness and established policies.
  • Facilitates communication through a variety of techniques, including shuttle diplomacy.

What the Ombuds does NOT do?

  • Act as a place to receive notice of formal complaints against the district.
  • Act as an advocate for any individual or cause.
  • Breach confidentiality by revealing anything that could disclose the identity of a visitor.
  • Maintain permanent records of confidential communications.
  • Conduct formal or in-depth investigations.
  • Make management decisions for the district or school administration.
  • Create, change, or set aside established policies.
  • Replace existing formal channels of communication or reporting.
  • Testify or otherwise participate in grievances or other formal processes.
  • Offer legal advice.
  • Answer questions about visitors with whom the Ombuds may have spoken or disclose an individual visitor's name or a specific issue with anyone outside of the Ombuds Office, unless in the course of their confidential communications, the visitor gives the Ombuds consent and the Ombuds agrees to do so.
  • Determine guilt/innocence, right/wrong, etc.

Is visiting the Ombuds Office voluntary or required?

Visiting the Ombuds office is completely voluntary. It is not a required step in any other complaint or dispute resolution process. 

How is going to the Ombuds different from using other district channels or resources?

  • The Ombuds is a voluntary and informal process.
  • It is not part of any formal process for the investigation and resolution of claims.
  • The Ombuds is not authorized to receive notice of claims against the district, but the Ombuds can assist visitors in identifying formal channels for raising or giving notice of claims.
  • The Ombuds will not serve as anyone's advocate, lawyer, or counselor.
  • The Ombuds is committed to a fair process for raising issues and resolving conflicts.
  • The Ombuds Office and its published materials will provide information about formal processes if a visitor wants to put the district on formal notice of a claim or resolve claims through a formal process.

Does speaking with the Ombuds put the district on notice of claims?

The Ombuds program was created to be a confidential, informal, independent, and impartial resource for visitors to discuss issues or seek guidance or information, but it is not authorized to receive notice of claims against the District. If you want to place the District on notice of your claim, you must use one of the formal channels identified in district policies, the Ombuds Office's brochure, or other program information. The only exception to this rule is claims of sex-based or sexual harassment under Title IX. In this case, the Ombuds will take steps to guide you and ensure that your claims are reported to the appropriate department. (See section entitled "Are there exceptions to confidentiality?")

Are communications with the Ombuds confidential?

Confidentiality is essential to the effective functioning of the Ombuds Office. Ombuds assert that communications with the Ombuds are privileged with the privilege being held by the Ombuds Office. In addition, because the Ombuds program was created to be a purely voluntary, confidential, informal, impartial, and independent resource for district constituents, visitors to the Ombuds Office will be understood to have agreed to abide by the principles on which the office was established and made available to them, including not calling the Ombuds to testify in formal or legal proceedings concerning confidential communications.

Are there exceptions to confidentiality?

Ombuds are required by the Standards of Practice under which they operate (IOA Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice) to make a disclosure when the Ombuds determines that disclosure is necessary to prevent an imminent threat of serious harm to the individual or others or is a violation of Title IX. As an employee of the district, the Ombuds is also a mandated reporter. The Ombuds will endeavor to protect the confidentiality of communications with visitors, except in these instances where state or federal laws mandate disclosure or limit the ability of the Ombuds to keep certain discussions confidential.

Who does the Ombuds report to and why type of reports are made to the district?

While the Ombuds Office was created to be an independent, impartial, and confidential resource, the Ombuds reports for administrative purposes to the District Superintendent. In doing so, however, the Ombuds does not disclose the identity of visitors to the Ombuds Office or the substance of confidential communications unless required by law to do so. In addition, the Ombuds will regularly report trends and systemic issues to both the Superintendent and the Board of Education, without disclosing confidential communications or the identity of visitors.

Can the Ombuds work with union member employees?

The Ombuds cannot and will not participate in collective bargaining discussions or activities, but in many cases, the Ombuds can work with employees who are members of a union with a collective bargaining agreement with the district. For matters within the scope of the collective bargaining agreement, the Ombuds will refer union members to their respective union resources. For matters outside the scope of the collective bargaining agreement, the Ombuds may be able to work with individual employees to answer questions and help resolve issues. The Ombuds is also a resource for unions to help support their members.

 

Ombuds Contact Form:


Please note: Information submitted through this online form is not confidential and may be subject to disclosure under FOIA or similar regulations. You are not required to provide sensitive information here. Thank you.
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Meet Our Ombuds