Monday, August 19, 2013

School Retaliation: School Bullying?

What is School Retaliation?

In my naive worldview, retaliation could not happen.  Schools are a place of learning and working to develop our next generations.  Teachers and schools have the best interests of their students at heart.  If parents have problems with the school it is probably because the parents had inappropriate notions of the school's abilities or roles.

I was wrong.  I was very wrong.

What is Parent Retaliation? It is NOT parents retaliating against anyone. It happens when parents advocate for their child with a teacher or school official and the parents or student suffer consequences.  A quick search on the internet for school district retaliation yields 1.7 million responses.  Add parenthesis and the results are almost 20,000.  There are lawsuits pending and decisions rendered in cases where school districts have retaliated against parents who are simply trying to be parents.

Wrightslaw.com is a wonderful resource for legal information about special education law and disabilities.   On their page related to retaliation, 10 cases are linked and discussed as well as the legal definition and the Office of Civil Rights recent letter reiterating the unlawfulness of this practice.  http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/retal.index.htm

Teachers and schools are not perfect. Many realize this and have no problem discussing issues. Others are threatened when a parent raises a legitimate concern.  Most parents do not feel comfortable continuing to question the school's practices. They back off as the school wished. These parents are not to blame. Most do not have a background in education and they believe what the school says.   Or they simply don't have the time, strength or money to stand up for their child and themselves.  Advocating for my children has taken a great deal of my time and energy.

I have a background in education.  I got my degree to teach math and science grades 7-12 with an emphasis on middle school education.  Both my parents spent their professional careers as special education teachers and supervisors.   I know what should be happening in our schools.  I also realize the limits of what teachers and therapists can do.  They are human after all.

I have been learning about retaliation against parents first hand for years. I just didn't realize it was as widespread as it is. It should not and can not be allowed to continue. Parents and students suffer emotional distress at the least, financial and physical distress at the worst. It often silences the parents for years so as to not cause further harm to the student.

As a parent, I spoke up when my typically developing child had an issue.  I spoke up as a substitute teacher when I saw blatant and undeniable teacher error.  I did so quietly and professionally to the principal.  I assumed the administration would want to know about problems that effect their students.  I was wrong.  Since that time I have suffered retaliation in many and increasingly severe forms.

I can not help but see the similarities of retaliation and bullying.  It is ironic that at a time when schools are heavily pushing and anti-bullying campaign they are often the biggest bully of all.   All the schools claim to fight Bullying and have a Zero Tolerance for it. I have found the only place I am bullied is in the schools and by school personnel.

Hypocrisy at its worst.