In the capacity of an educational consultant, I am working with one of the largest school districts in our state. This school dismissed five teachers in the last nine months due to parental pressure exerted through the airing of grievances in the media. And the hits keep on coming.
School began eight days ago and already nine parents called or e-mailed to complain about the teaching staff. As described by the principal, vitriol e-mails are no longer three paragraphs. Instead, these electronic “notes” are configured in four to five pages of rambling rhetoric ultimately demanding their child be given what is rightfully his: entitlement to success at any cost. Even Back to School Night was not without issues. One parent verbally accosted an administrator about his role in disciplining students, with her final words drifting off as she abruptly turned to leave, “I already don’t like you.” What is really alarming about this? When I taught, parents hid behind their computer screens when composing mean-spirited letters. Now our culture accepts public verbal volleys without any recourse except for the teacher or administrator to stand in the line of fire, remain respectful while at the same time being pummeled with demands and complaints. And we wonder why there is a teacher shortage?!
When I asked this administrator why he is not able to tell these parents, in a professional way, to find another school, he informed me the school board and superintendent are seemingly petrified of any parent dissent. This school is at capacity with a waiting list. Yet the principal’s hands are tied when dealing with a few parents determined to control the teaching philosophy of the school. When the majority of his supportive parents tried to silence the naysayers, these well-intentioned parents experienced bullying not unlike the playground thugs who rule by intimidation. So these kind parents relegated themselves to silence.
As I became consumed in research for my book, I discovered a neighboring school district where constantly raging parents are told they are no longer welcomed in the district. Yet within miles of that district lies a school system where parents appear to run the table with no limit to the havoc they are allowed to wreak. Where is the justice? More importantly, where is the logical explanation of this behavior? Have you been in an advisory position, confronted with no win facts and fought for words of hope? Consulting is not for the faint of heart.
If you possess an answer for these situations, please respond in the Comments below. As a consultant, I want to deliver legitimate solutions regarding how school districts, staff and administration could stave off these brazen, thoughtless assaults on today’s educators. In a time of teacher shortage, we cannot afford to have a minority of vocally empowered parents destroy the environment for positive teaching practices.