Seattle Public Schools Ethics Office
The Ethics Office is responsible for investigations related to the District’s Ethics Policy and for investigations involving whistleblower retaliation. Whistleblower complaints are also received by the Ethics Office, but depending on the nature and complexity of the complaint, the investigation may be conducted by the Ethics Office or it may be referred to District management for investigation. Complaints will never be assigned to someone directly associated with the allegations, and all whistleblower complaints received by the Ethics Office are reviewed with the Chair of the Audit & Finance Committee to ensure appropriate assignment. The Ethics Office will also provide training and advise District employees about the application of the Ethics Policy to particular situations as they arise.
An FAQ document is available under the Additional Links section of this web page to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
The Ethics Office is not responsible for personnel related complaints related to harassment, intimidation, bullying (HIB), discrimination, retaliation, grievances, Collective Bargaining Agreements, promotions, and performance evaluations. Please visit the District’s Labor & Employee Relations website for information on how to submit these types of complaints.
How to Report an Ethics Complaint or a Whistleblower Report
Seattle Public Schools offers three ways to report complaints about suspected misconduct:
- Online Form
- Phone: 206-252-0004
- Email: email@example.com
- Mail: PO Box 34165, MS: 33-347, Seattle, WA 98124-1165
The following form is provided to assist you when reporting by mail:
Commitment to Anonymity
The Ethics Office is committed to protecting the anonymity of reporting individuals within the confines of the laws related to public records requests. We will never release your information without your permission, unless legally required to do so. If you wish to ensure your anonymity, do not provide any personal information in your report. If you choose to report anonymously, please contact the Ethics Office again, three weeks after your initial report, to determine if additional information is needed to complete the investigation.
For details on the information that can be protected from public records requests, see the section titled More about Anonymity and Public Records Requests below.
The Ethics Office reports directly to the School Board. The superintendent has no management authority over the office. This reporting structure ensures the objectivity and independence of investigations, and allows the Ethics Office to conduct investigations freely, without fear of retribution. The Ethics Office is committed to remaining independent and objective in its investigations.
Seattle Public Schools is committed to transparency and accountability, and believes that this reporting structure provides the best opportunity to conduct Ethics Office investigations.
The Ethics Policy and state laws govern the conduct of Seattle Public Schools employees. The Ethics Policy covers the following general categories:
- Conflicts of Interest
- Limits on Acceptance of Gifts
- Limits on Outside Employment and Compensation
- Limits on Financial Interest in District Transactions
- Limits on Personal Use of District Resources
- Use of Confidential Information
- Retaliation is Prohibited
A link to the Policy is included in the Additional Links section. Frequently Asked Questions are also available under the Additional Links Section. Employees may be subject to disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment for violating the Ethics Policy.
Whistleblower Policy and Procedure
The Whistleblower Policy, Procedure, and state laws govern the conduct of Seattle Public Schools employees, and provides protection to employees who report whistleblower allegations. This includes:
- Reporting Improper Governmental Actions by District Officers or Employees. Improper Governmental Actions include actions that violate the law or District policy, are an abuse of authority, pose a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or constitute a gross waste of public funds.
- Reporting Retaliation against Employees who Report Improper Governmental Actions.
A link to the Policy and the Superintendent Procedure are included in the Additional Links section. Frequently Asked Questions are also available under the Additional Links Section.
Training and Advice for Employees
The Ethics Office is available to provide advice to employees about the Ethics and Whistleblower Policies. Employees are encouraged to review the policy and consult the Ethics Office to address any questions or to obtain guidance on how the Policy applies in a particular situation. For advice, please contact 206-252-0004 or firstname.lastname@example.org
An FAQ document is also available under the Additional Links section of this web page to answer some Frequently Asked Questions.
More about Anonymity and Public Records Requests
If you wish to report anonymously, do not provide any personal information in your report. The Ethics Office is committed to protecting your identity, but we must comply with the law as it relates to public records requests. Certain items are exempt from public records requests, but the safest way to protect your identity is not to include it in your report. The following information is provided to assist you in deciding how to file your report:
- Caller ID has been disabled on the Ethics Office phone line.
- Emails, including the associated metadata, are subject to public records requests. If you report via email, your information may be subject to disclosure under a public records request.
State law protects the identity of employees who report improper governmental action, but this protection is not extended to non-employees. In addition, your identity may not be protected if your report fails to meet the definition of improper governmental action as defined by RCW 42.41.020 (1).
If remaining anonymous is a priority to you, then the best way to protect your anonymity is to NOT provide any personal information in you report. If you choose to report anonymously, please contact the Ethics Office again, three weeks after your initial report, to determine if additional information is needed to complete the investigation.
The Seattle Public Schools is a member of the NW Ethics Network. NWEN is comprised of ethics officers.