Part five in the Series: Unfortunately, prevailing in a legal dispute against your school district is very difficult, so if you can avoid some common traps, why not just avoid them? If you’ve already done one of these things, don’t give up hope, but do try to rectify the situation. If you haven’t done any of these things, DON’T.
MISTAKE #5: Not notifying the school of important information about your child until it’s too late.
Too often parents wait until their child is in serious trouble, such as a psychiatric hospitalization or major disciplinary trouble at school, before they begin discussing issues they are having with their child with the school. Even when a kid has been struggling for months or years, many parents I talk to have been reluctant to tell the school district about events like suicide attempts, “cutting” and self-injurious behaviors, or other “red flags” like ongoing school avoidance.
Therefore, what often occurs is that it takes a crisis for the parents to reach out to educational and other professionals. Unfortunately, if the first time you are bringing your concerns to the district’s attention is when your child happens to be up for an Expulsion Hearing, the school district and some Hearing Officers will not see your concerns as longstanding, but reactionary.
Tell your school district if your child is exhibiting significant behavioral difficulties. Call the guidance counselor, school psychologist, or social worker if your concerns persist. Many parents worry that if they tell the school district then “everybody will know.” Remember, your child’s educational records are private and school district staff are not lawfully allowed to disclose this information to individuals who do not have authorization. If it makes you feel more comfortable, let the school know that the information is sensitive and should be handled with discretion.
If the situation does not improve over time, and you have documented your efforts to keep the school informed, you will have more credibility when you approach them asking for help and, if they don’t, evidence of their lack of response.