Anxious Parents in a Litigious Age

Category: Published Articles
Date: Jul 20, 2018 06:20 PM

This article was published in the July/August 2018 issue of the National Business Officers Association (NBOA)’s Net Assets Magazine.

Managing relationships between schools and parents is becoming more, not less, difficult.  Parent anxiety generally reflects concerns about their children: social interactions, academic achievement (at increasingly younger ages), and eventually college enrollment.  The result can be parents behaving badly by making unreasonable demands, refusing to hold their children accountable, engaging in harassing, threatening or bullying behavior, launching unfair criticism online, and even initiating litigation.  The list goes on and on.   

We have seen a marked increase in parents lashing out at administrators, teachers, other parents, and even children, in response to alleged wrongs, no matter how slight.  Yet schools can take steps to hold parents accountable:

  • Make sure handbooks explain conduct expectations clearly, and that enrollment contracts require parents to maintain a positive and constructive relationship with the school.  Parents may disagree, but they must do so in a constructive manner. 
  • Hold parents responsible when they do misbehave. Failing to call out bad behavior will only encourage more bad behavior. 
  • Communicate transparently and enforce policies consistently.  The majority of parents who sue schools are not those who have strong claims, but rather those who feel wronged or that they have not been heard.

Though there is no one-size-fits-all approach, taking these steps will put schools in the best position to maintain parental relationships, to separate a family if necessary and to defend against claims if they arise.

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