Last Updated on July 28, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995
Has a student or your child told you they are being hurt or excessively punished by school staff? Do they complain about being targeted in class or being excluded by the teacher? Don’t just brush their reports away. Investigate.
Who Do Parents Believe? Students Or The School?
Parents know their children. They know they are fantastic, wonderful and amazing. Parents also know that students can be troublemakers, can be correctly disciplined by schools. Or, they can make things up.
Parents also naturally trust school staff as revered authority figures. The schools know this and use this to their advantage.
I know when I was a kid I never thought schools or school staff could do wrong. I thought schools were safe places and the school staff would always help me. It is this viewpoint that keeps parents doubting their kids when they may actually be reporting a REAL problem. As parents we may tend to doubt students if they say a teacher wronged them, as we think: “Teacher X would never do that to a student!” I am sorry to say, sometimes Teacher X may “do that.”
Student Abuse Reports May Be True
I have met with many parents who find a student is an inappropriate target of staff at their school. The student has either been labelled a troublemaker, and are then blamed for bad things happening around them; or a school staff member just does not like the student, and picks on them or excludes the student. Neither case is appropriate.
Basic Steps Parents Should Take When Student Abuse Is Reported
But what should a parent do about student maltreatment? There are some basic steps which could help.
First, get all the information from the student on what is happening at school, who is involved, and the circumstances.
Next, investigate further. Can you schedule a visit to the classroom or campus to observe? Can you speak with staff about how the student is doing and what is going on in class? It is possible this may solve it.
If this does not put an end to the student’s situation, a parent may want to have a meeting with the school administration to discuss. A written submission of the facts could be a good idea and daily email of student issues may be needed to keep a record, as well as put the school on notice.
The school district is a resource as well if things cannot be resolved at the school level for an abused or maltreated student.
Parents And Students May Be Doubted When Reporting
Often I find that parents are not believed either, as school/district personnel may have the “No staff member would do wrong” syndrome. Schools also tend to believe their staff over parents, and definitely pick and choose when to believe a child.
One minute a student is the source of all knowledge (for example when a student accuses another student of selling drugs or bullying) and another time the student will not be believed, when they are the victim. Who knows which time this is.
Ultimately, parents may end up needing to file a formal investigation request and/or personnel complaint on the student situation.
Safety School Transfers
If all else fails, parents can also seek an intradistrict or interdistrict transfer, but often this is a last resort. However, the student and their safety is paramount. If things can’t or won’t get corrected, sometimes parents need to do something else just to keep them safe.
Listen To Students
I think the message I have for parents is that you SHOULD listen to your kids on allegations they have. At least listen then investigate for yourself. Too much bad stuff goes on at school which parents find out too late.
What I have heard over the past 25+ years from parents is enough to make any parent run far away from any school…. but I only hear the bad stuff and am a tad jaded as a result. There is plenty of good in schools, but we need to help students when they tell us abuse is occurring. As, oftentimes the student may be right!
Education lawyer for students and parents Michelle Ball, helps prevent student abuse and remedy school problems from bullying and other abusive conduct. Located in Sacramento, Michelle Ball, attorney can assist statewide in places such as the Bay Area, Clearlake, Roseville, Merced, Sunnyvale, Petaluma, Elk Grove and other locales.