Dos & Don’ts for Approaching School Officials

Here are some tips for approaching school officials with information or concerns:

Do … Follow proper procedures and chains of command.

When expressing concerns about what’s happening in your schools, be sure to follow the proper procedures outlined in school handbooks or on the Web. Also be careful to follow the chain of command, starting first with the teacher or appropriate educator in charge of the particular program you are concerned about–then, if necessary, request meetings with the principal and so on.

You don’t want to burn your bridges and offend educators by unnecessarily jumping immediately over their heads to higher level supervisors.

You also don’t want to give the school board or review committee a reason to dismiss your concerns later on simply because you didn’t follow proper procedures at the start. Oftentimes, parents will bring concerns directly to the school board or superintendent only to be asked, “Did you start with the teacher? If not, come back when you have.”

Do … research your school’s policies beforehand.

Read your school’s handbooks or do online searches for relevant policies on the school Web site. Taking the time to learn your school’s policies can better equip you to make astute points during a meeting with educators.

For instance, parents in one community discovered that their school had policies requiring campus libraries to reflect a diverse community. So they asked for the libraries to also include social conservative points of view on things like gay marriage or abortion. You may also want to review policies on parents’ rights to be notified about controversial lessons and to exempt their children from instruction on sexual topics.

Don’t … work alone.

When discussing concerns with school officials, it’s a good idea to bring at least one other concerned parent with you. This provides you with a witness—not to mention much-needed moral support— so that discussions do not degenerate into a “he said, she said” debate later on.

It also demonstrates to school officials that you’re not the only one with concerns. Sometimes officials will try to dismiss parental concerns with statements like, “You’re the only one who’s expressed this concern” or “No one else has complained about that.” So bringing more than one parent preempts that argument.

If that is not possible, try to bring a respected community leader along with you, as well as a written statement of concern signed by other parents in the school district.

Do …carefully document what happens.

In addition to bringing a witness, keeping detailed documentation of your interactions with school officials through written notes and emails. This is another important way to avoid “he said, she said” disputes later on. This documentation could also become important in the future, if parents and students find themselves forced to seek legal recourse to protect their rights.

Don’t just complain…do offer solutions.

It’s crucial to always present your case in a loving, respectful and factual way and to remain nondefensive regardless of the response. The truth is, actions do speak louder than words–and if your style or tone is abrasive, the truth you are trying to communicate will not be heard or remembered for the right reasons. Avoid using highly charged, emotionally loaded words to make your case.

Be prepared as much as possible with some positive solutions, like the model anti-bullying policy provided on TrueTolerance.org, or suggestions for what the schools can do–such as including parents on book and curriculum review committees, or strengthening parental notification policies, as well as parents’ rights to opt their children out of instruction on controversial sexual topics. See the model parental rights policy.

Do.. come prepared with examples.

Bring documented examples of the discriminatory or sexually explicit materials that you are concerned about (See Examples of Concerning Classroom Materials in our Take Action section). It’s hard to dispute visual, factual examples as mere parental overeactions.

Do… be encouraged with the knowledge that you, as a parent and a taxpaying community citizen, not only have a constitutional right, but also a God-given responsiblity, to protect your children. And with the knowledge that you are not alone. You have resources from national organizations and experts–compiled on this Web site–to back up your voice as a parent.

Based on the many facts documented on this Web site, you have logical, well-founded reasons to ask questions about what’s happening in your school. So let the facts on TrueTolerance.org inspire you with the confidence you need to approach your educators and ask them, politely, yet firmly, to see the curriculum, programs, videos and other materials being presented to your children.

Proverbs 14:26–“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”

To learn more about how to communicate your concerns to school officials in a fact-based and respectful manner, visit our Take Action center.