Sunday, November 26, 2006

Query on unscheduled parent meeting

An elementary chapter leader asks:

I want to know if a teacher has the right to leave an unscheduled meeting with a parent and an administrator when the parent is rude, offensive and very hostile and the administrator does nothing to mediate/intervene on the educator's behalf. Personally, I think anyone who feels that the atmosphere in a meeting is unsafe, physically or emotionally, ought to be able to remove themselves.

Any ideas?


  1. We worry too much about the opinions of others. As teachers, we are conditioned too often to be conciliatory even when we're the targets of hostility.

    I've been taught by brave, thoughtful, mature people to stand up for myself. To value myself and hence not consent to let others abuse me.

    Short answer: a brief, respectful, explanatory remark as to why you're taking your derriere out of your seat and your body out of the room in which you're being abused is THE right thing to do. And then leave immediately.


  2. I would hope the administrator would stick up for you. I would assume you have that right. I would announce exactly why I was leaving, and then leave. You don't have to put up with abuse. That is very different than simply dealing with a "difficult" parent.

  3. i do not think there are any hard and fast rules on this.
    however, examining the schools safety plan should reveal that if there is an unscheduled meeting AND the teacher is available AND wishes to they can meet with the parent. If the parent becomes abusive, then the teacher can and should excuse themselves. if the admin orders them to stay, it might be enough to force them to go to a bathroom.

  4. Happened to me when the principal was on a path to work up a portfolio against me (I was chapter leader and in the eyes of the district, too strong; he was new and was trying to "please" the superintendent).

    If the principal supports you in this situation, you're probably doing well at the school. When he feels disinclined to make life comfortable for you, or worse: if he's are on a path to "get" you, he'll do anything he wants to manipulate situations that fall into his lap like this. [That goes for She-Principals also.] It's kind of like manna from heaven for them.

  5. MS CL:
    I believe the teacher has the right. It wasn't open school night. I think however a conversation with the principal as to this matter is absolutely necessary.

  6. HS CL:
    My initial reaction would be to surely document what was said exactly, and agree to meet next time with your CL or another witness.

  7. As with most difficult questions, the have complicated answers. The only word I would change in the question is the word “right.” A right assumes some enforceable provision which protects us. There are precious little protections for teachers. That being said I do believe you should politely remove yourself from such a meeting when you perceive it unsafe or inappropriate to stay. What turns such an incident into a letter to the file or worse is that the teacher does not clearly explain him or herself to the parent and administrator as to why he or she is leaving the meeting. To be cautious I would explain to the best of my ability at the time right before you left why you were leaving and then immediately follow-up with a letter to all involved.

    How this letter or memo is drafted is important and I would have someone I trust review it before it was distributed.

    Hope this helps.


  8. I did just that several years ago when a father was very rude and out of control. Thank goodness there was a baby carriage between us or he might have took hold. I told him that we could discuss the matter further when he was calmer and walked away. No one came o assist me. The next day I spoke with his wife and cooler heads prevailed. About four years later I had this father's daughter in my class and he was my best ally in a health situation that occurred in my classroom and was always quite respectful...almost a different person. Even if the meeting was scheduled, I would excuse myself if things were disrespectful and not in control. I would also make sure an administrator knew and perhaps another family member of the child. Just two weeks ago, I had to speak to a mom about the rudeness of a child's father and she took care of it and apologized. I have not seen the father since.

  9. HS CL:

    The first thing that the new chapter leader should do is establish that no teacher is required to attend an unscheduled meeting. At our school we had a procedure whereby the teacher was called and if he/she did not find a meeting convenient, an appointment was made. Since hostile parents can be dangerous, this was included in our school safety plan. Any violation could then be the subject of a safety plan violation
    complaint (Article 10B). If the principal, in this case, takes any disciplinary action against the teacher the chapter leader must use every technique available to defend him/her-persuasion, chapter news
    letter, a letter to the superintendent and or parent co-ordinator, contacting the UFT parent co-ordinator for the district, a school wide petition, etc. and filing for a "special complaints" procedure under Article 23.


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