Conflict Resolution: Home and School - FamilyEducation

Conflict Resolution: Home and School

by Jerome J. Schultz, Ph.D.

Learn how parents and schools should deal with conflict and differences of opinion about IEPs and special education.

The issue:
Parents and schools should not shy away from conflict and differences of opinion, but strive to resolve any differences in a "win-win" manner.

The solution:
Special education laws were designed to make sure that parents play an active role in the development of a child's Individual Educational Plan (IEP). This process was developed to increase communication and collaboration between parents and schools. It's a very healthy sign when parents are able to take issue with professionals in the school about their child's instruction or management. This means that parents and teachers are really exercising their right and responsibility to be involved in the process. When parents accept a plan that the school develops, either in blind faith, in good faith, or in submission to the inherent authority of the school, the process is weakened.

When parents read over an IEP or any other educational document with a fine-toothed comb, or when they ask a professional outside of the school to examine and comment on the plan, they are exercising their right to be informed advocates for their child. Healthy schools see it this way, too, and welcome (even invite) this scrutiny by external parties. Subjecting their decisions to the review of a qualified outsider is much like a doctor asking for a second opinion. This is a process that enhances the likelihood of a successful outcome.

By the same token, a school needs to have the "guts" to deny a parent's unreasonable request and to demonstrate to the parent why her suggestion or request is not helpful, or perhaps even harmful. For example, teachers may need to have a serious discussion about dependency with a parent of a middle-school student who feels that it's necessary to follow her child from class to class so he won't forget his books, or to clean out his locker at the start of each day (I kid you not!)

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