Resolving Conflicts with Your School
It is an unfortunate fact of life that we will, occasionally, encounter conflict. While the majority of interactions between parents and school district are amicable, there are times when there are differences of opinion. Parents have several informal and formal options available to help resolve disagreements with the school district. Parents are strongly encouraged to exhaust all informal options available to them before taking a formal dispute resolution action.
The first step in addressing issues with the school district is to contact your child’s teacher or case manager. Communication is key. Write a polite note/letter/email explaining your concerns and asking for clarification. Make sure that you have included all relevant information. Don’t assume others are aware of what your concerns are.
Be sure to share important information about your child to the school. There are many things that only parents know about their children. It is important that parents share their knowledge so that the school may utilize the information and act accordingly. What motivates your child? What does your child try to avoid? When faced with obstacles, what supports do you provide to help your child move forward? Don’t assume, communicate.
If a note / letter / email does not alleviate your concern, ask to speak with your child’s principal/area coordinator/process coordinator, etc. so that you may share your concerns with him / her. Continue communicating up the chain of command until you have resolved your concerns or have exhausted all resources the school has to offer. By following the chain of command you have demonstrated that you are aware and respectful of school procedures. Try not to go over someone’s head unless it is simply unavoidable.
Make sure to document along the way (keep track of who you spoke to, what your concerns were, what the outcome of the conversation was). Be sure to keep to the facts, leaving as much emotion as possible out of the conversation. Request that you receive responses in writing. This way you can ensure that you understand what action the school will be taking, or what will be the next step in the process. Remember that your letter will live on, once sent it cannot be retrieved. Write the letter as if it were to a stranger who has no knowledge of the situation or the history involved.
Along the same line, be sure to document and acknowledge when things are going well, when someone has done a good job, or when someone has taken the time to work with you, even if the outcome is not what you anticipated it to be.
Dispute Resolutions Options
If you have tried all of the above avenues in attempt to resolve a disagreement with your child’s school but have been unable to reach an agreement, you may need to consider other resolution options. Parents have informal and formal options available as guaranteed by IDEA. MPACT encourages parents to always seek the lowest level of resolution when attempting to resolve conflicts with their child’s school.