Communicating With Schools On Behalf Of Your Child
Children should not be subjected to harassment or discrimination at school. Whether school administrators actively participate or simply fail to respond properly to the situation, parents or guardians need to take control. If your child has experienced problems regarding an Individualized Education Program (IEP), harassment, bullying or discrimination, there are several things you should consider when communicating with the school and its personnel. At Costello & Mains, we have three simple rules we always suggest clients and potential clients follow when communicating about their children. If you follow these three rules, you’ll find that you’ve put yourself in the best position to advocate for your child.
RULE ONE: It Isn’t About You
We understand that you love your child. Almost all parents do. We understand that watching your child suffer is one of the most difficult things you can endure. We understand that when you advocate for your child, you feel very emotionally involved and want other people to “feel” your emotional investment, so that they’ll react the way you wish them to.
Unfortunately, that is a very subjective and dangerous view.
We instead recommend that you remember that whatever the issue, it’s about your child, and not about you. Avoid arguing how this affects you, avoid arguing how frustrated, annoyed, depressed, frightened, scared or angry you are in dealing with these issues, and avoid suggesting that the school “owes” something to the parent (whether for time or money spent or for emotional compensation). The law may or may not support such a claim, but arguing such a perspective tends to undermine your credibility.
RULE TWO: Just The Facts
Following on the first rule, edit out of your email communications anything that looks like hyperbole, exaggeration, arguing the emotionality (of your child), making threats or anything else that would undermine your credibility. Try at all times to stay chronological and factual, distinguishing between what you can prove (or at least what isn’t disputed) on the one hand and what you suspect or believe, based upon the information you have, on the other. Believe us; the more factual and less emotional you are, the more dangerous an adversary you’ll seem to be.
RULE THREE: Everything Should Be In Writing (email)
Wherever possible, make sure that your communications are in email form and that you’ve copied yourself (at your personal email, not your office email) any back-and-forth communications with school personnel or district personnel. An email is forever. It can’t be denied or challenged the way a person’s subjective memory of an oral conversation can be. If you only talk about things, the other side can remember the conversation differently than you do (or simply deny the conversation ever took place), putting another “speed bump” on the road to any justice you seek for your child.
Likewise, simply following up a verbal conversation with an email doesn’t really do the trick, because, once again, such a follow-up can be one-sided and self-serving. The other side can deny that you’ve gotten it right in your summary.
It’s always best to exchange substantive information, strategies, requests, determinations, goals, etc., in writing via email, so that there can be no confusion later about what was and wasn’t said, what was and wasn’t promised, and what did and didn’t happen.
If you follow all of these rules scrupulously in your communications, you’ll find that you’ve put yourself in the best position to advocate for justice for your child and you’ve put Costello & Mains in the best position to take you the rest of the way. To discuss your case, call us at 856-291-0642 or contact us online.