Parents: Do You Know Your Rights?

By Meryl Ain, Ed.D.

childrenAs schools grapple with their 2012-2013 budgets in this difficult economy, parents should be speaking up for programs that benefit their children. From full-day kindergarten to AP classes, I have seen time and again that services and programs slated for the chopping block are often saved when enough parents rally. Similarly, parents should not be afraid to express their concerns about their children's day-to-day experience in school.

A generation ago, conventional wisdom dictated that if you complained to personnel in your child's school you might be considered a nuisance and this would reflect poorly on your child.  Surprisingly, I still encounter parents who are afraid of retaliation against their child if they have a grievance.  Actually, the opposite is true. In my official capacity, I have seen time and again, that the parent who advocates for his or her child gets better results than those who remain silent.

Whether you are a parent of a special needs child, a gifted child who is not challenged, a child who is afraid of her teacher, or a parent questioning a policy or practice, you need not be shy when it comes to advocating for your children. It is your right and responsibility. You know better than anyone that this is your child's only chance to experience kindergarten or sixth grade or 12th grade. You want your child to have the best possible experience in that particular grade despite budget woes, logistical problems, or personnel issues. Here's a Parents' Bill of Rights to help you be a better advocate for your children in school.

Parents' Bill of Rights

1.    You have the right to be your children's best advocate and expect that their unique and special needs are met by the schools in a safe and supportive learning environment in each grade in each school year.

2.   You have the right to communicate with your children's teachers, principal, and school nurse as often as you see fit.

3.   You have the right to easily access and understand information about your children's schools, school district, teachers, administrators, facilities, policies, procedures, and programs.

4.   You have the right to have access to your children's educational records, information regarding services offered by the schools, and expectations about your children's instructional programs, grading criteria, attendance and behavior.

5.   You have the right to be treated with respect, fairness, and understanding, free of discrimination and prejudice, by all staff, faculty, and administration in your children's schools and school district.

6.   You have the right to attend all public meetings, including PTA, Board of Education, and committee meetings.

7.   You have the right to complain, without fear of retaliation, to teachers, building and district administrators, and Board of Education.

8.   You have the right to attend Board of Education meetings and address the board during the public audience part of the meeting.

9.   You have the right to know official complaint procedures within the school, school district, and outside agencies, and pursue them if necessary, without fear of retaliation.

10.  You have the right to ensure that your children are learning in safe, healthy, and caring schools, free of discrimination, prejudice, bullying and harassment, and that their physical, emotional, social, academic and special needs are met on a daily basis.

Posted on February 14, 2012 by Meryl Ain, Ed.D.

Dr. Meryl Ain has worked in several large New York school districts as a central office administrator, teacher, and school building administrator. She writes about education and parenting for several publications and on her blog, You can also follow her on Twitter

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