What To Do First When School Trouble Strikes

Boy with hands over face and question mark

Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Did something big just occur at school to a student in your family? What happened? Is the student accused of a terrible act? Of bringing a weapon to a school? Of a fight? Are they up for suspension or expulsion? The world may seem to be crashing down right now.

What’s next?!

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Taking a moment before reacting may sometimes be advisable


Yes, breathe. Take a deep breath. Compose yourself. Take a walk to gain some perspective if you need to. Take a moment. This can help parents regain perspective during school troubles that may seem almost too big to overcome.

It is okay to take a short time period to just center ourselves. It may be a short time, but sometimes it is necessary due to the stress and emotional anguish caused by shocking news.

Keep Your Head On

Try to maintain composure, and a calm viewpoint that centers you. Don’t freak out.

Parents fighting with school officials can be viewed negatively
Fighting loudly or aggressively with schools is not a great option

We all have strong emotional reactions when our kids are in trouble. I get it. I would too if something terrible happened at school to students I love. But sometimes, while the urge is to cry, or scream, or be mean, or run and beg for mercy from the school, it is better to just not do this. Maintain composure and perspective.

Is the student accused of wanting to blow up the school? Stay cool. Investigate. Inquire. Remember that just because someone says it is true at school does not mean it is true. And even if it is true, the facts need to be determined before everyone can move forward to a positive student outcome.

Parents being under control may help the student in the end.

Put the Student First

Your child, the student, comes first. Parents are often the student’s only protection from school bullies, upset principals, school resource officers, and burly office personnel. The student is the most important person in the scenario as your family member; not the school, not the principal, not the other kids involved…. Parents need to act accordingly to befriend and support the student, until they know the real situation.

Allegations are just that- allegations. And often what is alleged may be false, exaggerated, or flat wrong. Don’t throw the student under the bus due to allegations which may not be true.

Don’t Follow School Officials Blindly

School picture of teen boy
The student comes first when dealing with schools.

Sometimes there is a feeling that just because some “school official” or the Principal asks for something or says something, they must be obeyed. School personnel are people to, and are not commanders which a parent must bow down before and follow like an obedient dog.

School personnel are people like everyone else, fallible, sometimes mean, and sometimes wrong. They may not be acting in the student’s best interests, so at the very least, parents need to protect the student.

Resist the urge to throttle the student before really knowing what happened.

Try to Remain Objective

One of the best ways to address issues is to remain as objective as possible, while also helping the student.

Try to see all sides of the situation, even the school’s side.

Try to act in a way that is not just based on emotions or a knee-jerk reaction.

See. Observe. Listen.

Really be there and try to understand what the school wants, what they are alleging, and what the student says happened. Decide for yourself what the truth may be.

If parents need more information before deciding on the school situation, try to obtain the facts and delay a determination or decision.

Sometimes signing things when a parent is emotionally distraught may also be inadvisable. Think.

Young student posing calmly
Parents and students should remain calm in difficult school situations

Remain Calm and Polite

In stressful school situations, parents and students should always use good manners, should not raise voices or yell, should not display inappropriate behavior or threaten any student or staff. All should act in a polite and respectable manner, regardless of the circumstances and the stress of the situation.

Although school personnel sometimes may feel like the enemy, or even be the enemy, maintaining friendly relations with them usually does not hurt. I have found that in tense situations, sometimes simple manners, collaborating (if possible), and professionalism can help situations turn from negative into positive.

Think Before Communicating

We all do it- we all communicate dumb things, then regret them later. We leave a stupid phone message, send a regretful text or a terrible email. This happens in schools also, and can be more damaging there than in “regular” life, as schools can use parents’ negative comments against them or even against the student.

If parents write a scathing email, it may be best that it not be sent to the school until someone else with a cooler head reviews and edits it to be more appropriate.

Don’t put the Principal’s email address on the top of any email until you know you really want to send the email. Or, that really mean email could suddenly get sent by accident and be forever out in the ether.

Parent smiling when dealing with school
Being pleasant and using your people skills can help when dealing with school problems

Use Persuasive and People Skills

People skills and using persuasive communication can be very valuable when dealing with schools. Use good communication to bring school officials to an understanding of the student’s and parents’ viewpoints. Appropriate communication is a powerful tool in resolution of school disputes and issues.

If parents can implement these things when the school world seems to explode, it may just help the student’s situation to go better, for all parties to feel better, and for the parent to succeed in obtaining a more positive outcome for their child.

Student lawyer Michelle Ball helps students and parents navigate school problems, such as transfer revocation, suspension, expulsion, special education, 504 and other problems. As an education attorney in Sacramento California, Michelle can assist statewide in Orange, Bodega Bay, Roseville, Auburn, Modesto, Galt, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Fresno and many more locales.