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Entries in PTA. PTO (1)

Wednesday
Oct262011

Parents’ Bill of Rights

I’ve never been real clear on what Parent Teacher Associations, or Parent Teacher Organizations do.

They seem to be great at raising some money, and making modest improvements or scholarships in schools.  Heck, I even remember going door to door selling geraniums for the PTA as student.  (They still do it back in the old home town…amazing.   Thank goodness my Dad helped deliver all of them!)

As a parent, I always thought it would be more powerful to have the parents and teachers talk about broad issues rather than Geranium Sales.  Kids don’t come with user guides, teachers are professionals….and parents can help bridge the gap.  Alas, unless there’s “an issue” (spoken in a dramatic whispered voice) this didn’t seem to happen.

So it was great news when a (now retired) Middle School Assistant Principal (by the name of Ed Sullivan…not the TV host Ed Sullivan) got parents together to talk to each other.  Middle School in this case was grades 7-8, for my Midwestern readers “Junior High.”

The parents had similar issues…mostly around what were “age appropriate” things for the parents to do.  In this context, “age appropriate” related to the students’ age.

All parents were in the same conundrum based on feedback from their children. 

  • “Nobody calls the other parents”
  • “Nobody checks up on where other parents will be.”
  • “Nobody checks up on where their children are.”

This reasoned group of parents discussed what was reasonable.  This was not a case of a few “helicopter parents” wanting to hover over their children.  This was a case of reasonable parents, discussing reasonable behaviors, with the goal being consistency in the dealings with the students.

We jokingly called it the Parents’ Bill of Rights.  While a humorous name, the parents took the items on the list seriously.

As a parent, I have the right to:

  • Call other parents and make sure I know what is going on in their home
  • Call other parents and ask who will be the adult at events
  • Call other parents if I’m going to be away (at a movie, or dinner) in case they need to reach me OR so the party doesn’t move to an unsupervised venue

There were other items on the list, and the bottom line is the middle school parents were going to talk to each other for any reason we wanted.

As this discussion got reiterated in homes across town, there was a uniform and predictable outcry from the students…where their informal divide and conquer approach was met with a uniform, caring message.

As this unfolded, it became an acceptable, expected norm to check with other parents.  It was a quick conversation…generally just a conversation followed by small talk.

Mr. Sullivan’s little meeting set an acceptable behavioral norm for parents and students.  In my opinion, it was very effective.  What’s your view?