Saturday, April 2, 2011


Patience and Preparedness Are Key


On March 29, 2011 in Thomaston, CT a mother was arrested and charge with second degree breach of peace. (She will appear in court next month to determine if she is guilty of these charges / allegations). This mom came to Thomaston High School and (as reported in the news) went on a profanity-laced tirade. The school administrators called the police because they felt this parent who came to the high school at 8: 00am to talk about her daughter had become unruly. During the discussion, the mother became belligerent and was raising her voice in the office using profanity, and started throwing papers around. She was asked to leave and she refused. She then departed the school before the police arrived as the Principal escorted her from the building. She continued to yell and curse in the hallway and foyer during her departure as students and other school visitors witnessed. The mother turned herself in once she found out there was a warrant issued for her arrest, she was released with a promise to appear in court later next month.

  • Parents, students, teachers, and administrators are a "team" that needs to cooperate and collaborate to ensure that everyone's best efforts and student learning results are achieved. 
    • Like any team, each team member can have good days and bad days, possess different levels of understanding of what is appropriate and acceptable, as well as opinions on how a particular situation should be resolved.  
  • School administrators and teachers always want to be available for parents and guardians that have concerns about students. However, that is not always possible or the best course of action should the parent / guardian show up IRATE and unannounced.
    • A parent can certainly come to school unscheduled and unannounced, but they need to know that unless it is a dire emergency (student safety or security related), they may be expected to wait and sometimes perhaps for a long time.
      • Teachers have classes to teach and extra duties to perform AND school administrators
      • Other parents and guardians have scheduled meetings (progress review, PPT, etc.) with teachers & administrators
  • If a parent is irate and shows up unannounced, school administrators and teachers may not know what the problem is so it is imperative for a school representative to try and find out the nature of the parent / guardians concern. This screening allows the school to be able to properly and accurately respond to the parent's concerns and issues 
    • The situation may even require a period of time for the school leadership to investigate or gather information about the irate parent's concerns. Accurately defining an issue, problem, or concern is critical to solving it vice responding to a perception of what might be going on.
  • Many teachers, guidance counselors, or school administrators are parents themselves so they are aware of the emotional concern for their own children and how intense those emotions can become in situations where a son or daughter's academic performance or school behavior is below their acceptable standards.
    • Acknowledging a parents frustration and the school's earnest desire to satisfy the parents concerns is critical to determine a "win /win" mutually beneficial end result.
    • Letting a parent know that if a mistake was made by the school that it will be rectified once the school leadership is aware of the specifics and can determine the best response.
  • On some occasions a parent or guardian may come with other family members or unknown persons. You need to clarify who is who and discreetly verify the person you are dealing with is in fact the parent  or guardian. Non parent / guardian members showing up at an impromptu meeting you are responding to requires discretion. 
  • If parents / guardians become irate where civility, safety, or security comes into question, then the school needs to have certain protocols to ensure professionalism and safety in the school environment.
  • School Protocols such as:
    • Raised Voices = a response of a tactful warning requesting the parent to please lower their voice or we will have to reschedule this meeting at a later date when all parties are calmer. If they do not comply you need to terminate the meeting and ask them to leave politely.
    • Profanity or Insulting Comments = a response for terminating this meeting until the discourse is more civil. Prompting a fellow school official to make the School Resource Officer (SRO) aware, visible, or join the meeting is always prudent. 
      • If you anticipate or interpret a developing negative situation and there is no SRO, calling the police to have an officer available is key to controlling a situation. 
    • Any Aggressive Action (invading someone's personal space, throwing paper, slamming a door, getting up aggressively from a chair causing it to fall, etc.) = a response for terminating the meeting and requesting the irate parent to leave the school premises, if they do not comply contact the police immediately.
    • Any Evidence of Unstable Behavior or Alcohol / Substance Abuse Use = contact SRO, if necessary the police. Notify them the meeting will be rescheduled and they will need to leave the school as there are other scheduled meetings you must attend. 
    • Violent Action or Threats = contact SRO, 911, and possibly consider putting the school into a lockdown if there is concern about violent acts continuing within the school. Ensure 911 knows the nature of the situation so they don't misinterpret a hostile parent with an active shooter situation.
  • Ensure everything said or done is documented (statements written) to include viewing security camera tapes.
  • School security and access control personnel should be made aware of any disgruntled persons  removed from school, so they are not allowed back into the building. 
Final Comment: The school leadership and all of the members of the school community are human beings as well, with personal feelings. It is imperative to always try to professionalize and stabilize every situation. The school should always seek to maintain the moral and professional high ground if a parent or guardian unfortunately loses control in what they say or how they act. Student and Staff Safety and Security are paramount. 

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