Archive for the 'Parent Involvement in Schools' Category

Cease and Desist (C&D) Letters to Parents


Sometimes parents are seriously discouraged from pursuing complaints or criticism through receipt of cease and desist letters from a School Board, teacher union, or other public service union related to schools.  Here is an interesting article:

Goliaths vs. Davids
Teachers’ unions suing parents
By Andrew Nikiforuk
Canadian Family, March 2005, p. 28

In Alberta and British Columbia, two powerful teachers’ unions are suing parents for defamation. Although both unions claim to champion the downtrodden, the lawsuits also deliver another, less comforting message. The targets of both of these actions are blue-collar families whose alleged defamations arose in the course of advocating for their children’s education.

Let’s begin with Dawna McGowan, a 42-year-old mom and former school volunteer in Hinton, Alta. The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) is suing her and her husband, Ken, a Canadian Pacific engineer, for $210,000 and has placed a lien on their home. It started when McGowan challenged a principal for releasing pupil information to a photographer. Before long, things turned ugly.

She is now one of four Albertans being jointly sued by the ATA for defamation. After defendants received unusual "cease and desist" letters from the ATA in 2001, they contacted Denis Lapierre, a longtime parent advocate who posted the letters on his website, Schoolworks!_now shut down. Deluged with support and inquiries, they posted other items on the site, explaining parents’ respective complaints. Though none accused a specific teacher or school district of offensive behaviour, the ATA deemed the material defamatory to the profession and sued Lapierre and the four for $1.8 million.

Robyn Reid, a single mother with three special-needs boys in Red Deer, still can’t believe the union’s tough stance. After one of her sons had been placed in a special-needs class, Reid identified several educational gaps in his program. When the local school and school district refused to provide extra tutoring, she took her case to the province. "I wasn’t out to get teachers, I was out to get the right education for my child," she says. The ATA disagreed to the tune of $150,000. One of the sued parents has already declared bankruptcy.

For posting the original letters, Lapierre is facing a lawsuit of more than $1 million. He’s shut down his advocacy business and his website. "The purpose of the lawsuit is to silence us, and it has worked," says Lapierre, who now drives a truck and can’t afford his legal bills.

Sue Halstead, a mother of five children in Comox Valley, B.C., agrees. The well-known child advocate operates a feisty website that among other posted criticisms, dares to itemize the behaviour of teachers who have been criminally charged or disciplined by the profession. Her site is still active but now displays several apologies since her receipt of a "cease and desist" letter. But neither apologies nor the removal of the offending documents stopped nine teachers, a former trustee and a parent represented by the British Columbia Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) from suing Halstead last spring for "using the internet to wage a personal attack on certain participants in the B.C. education system." That’s already cost Halstead $23,000, and she and her husband, a school janitor, can’t afford a lawyer for her trial. "We’re going to lose our house, and all I tried to do was tell the truth and protect children," she says.

Neither of these lawsuits strikes me as wise or civil, not to mention just, Terri Watson, president of the B.C. Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, describes the BCTF’s legal action as "inappropriate" and operating with a "clear imbalance of power and resources." Democratic institutions such as schools, she adds, need people like
Halstead to test the system and foster improvement.

Jinny Sims president of the BCTF, counters that the suit against Halstead was in no way launched lightly and is "not about pitting one parent against the might of the BCTF. It’s about defending our members, who are being damaged in their work and personal lives." Dr. Gordon Thomas, executive secretary of the ATA, admits that his association is "not ecstatic about representing teachers in a defamation suit" and notes that it has launched only two such actions in the past 82 years. "What we are after is the fair representation of our teachers."

The ATA claims that one of its primary mandates is "to arouse and increase public interest in the importance of education." The BCTF makes similar claims. But how do these lawsuits support that goal, let alone help children? To restore civility to the educational arena, both provinces need to set up an ombudsman’s office, where parents and educators can hash out their differences on equal ground. When teacher unions start suing parents, the behave more like punitive corporations than enlightened public organizations. Strangling dissent, even allegedly hurtful dissent, doesn’t strengthen education any more than it strengthens democracy.

Privacy in the Internet Age


On July 30/09 I saw this interesting interview with the host on CNN with Kyra Phillips:


It relates to parent rights and duties and student rights.



Parent Rights a Top Priority for Education Responsiveness


How well parents exercise their rights determines what degree or quality of services they get in public schools.  It is quite different in independent or private schools as there the customers are usually treated as paying customers.  So, how can parents exercise their expectations and rights better, across the socio-economic spectrum?

People often think that by moving to an affluent district the schools are better.  And this is generally true, even though there are exceptions where schools in poorer areas achieve excellent scores. We can learn from this demographic skew and adopt some of the characteristics of parents in rich districts. It is not necessarily the money that makes the difference!

First:  High Expectations. They are used to good service, and can afford to shop around.  For doctors, for accountants, for cars, for groceries, whatever. If they make mistakes, the costs are not earth shattering.  Whether from their parents or from experience or both, they soon embody the ancient dictum:  Caveat Emptor, buyer beware.

Second:  Using Choices and Competition. They know how to handle shoddy goods and services.  They do not patronize them. They shop around.

Third:  Complaining is Effective.  They know how to get results, especially if public services are at issue. Whether roads, sewage, zoning or public health, complaints take many forms:  letters to the editor, using your elected officials for remedies, law suits, etc.

Fourth:  Knowledge of Rights is Inherent in their Bones.  They seem to know and expect what they have a right to, and as citizens and taxpayers, have a keen awareness of what to expect from public service providers.  Furthermore, they use information systems, including the Internet, to augment information on what to expect and what constitutes good practice.

So it is with public education.  Even though parent rights in education are not usually enshrined in legislation or printed in school handbooks, somehow parents from responsive school districts have a good sense of how to negotiate the system to benefit their children. 

If you seek more information on Parent Rights, Google will yield many references, especially for special needs.  However, we have an already compiled document which has been around since 1977 and still stands the test of time in empowering parents.  Whether you use it as a starting point for your own needs or as study material with other research and tools to develop new material, here it is:

Parent Rights and their Children's Education

On visiting this site…

On first coming to this site please be aware:
I'm using this site to gather, record, sort, etc. tons of archive material I’ve gathered regarding the struggle for effective parent involvement in education. Much of the material relates to my own personal involvement and thoughts.
I also include tools produced to help parents and public in support of meaningful parent involvement. These tools can generally be accessed here:

–          Starting a Parent Advisory Council from Scratch

–          School Checkup

–          Do’s and Don’ts for PAC’s

–          Levels of Parent Involvement

–          Effective Schools Checklist

–          Functions of a Parent Advisory Council

–          Projects for a Parent Group

–          Essential Features of a PAC

–          Parent Advisory Councils

–          Why a Parent Group in Every School


B) The following documents can be retrieved in PDF form from here:

    * Home Education: the third option (1987, 5pg)

    * Indoctrination Laws and Guideline for Schools

    * Effective Schools Checklist

    * The BLOB (Obstacles to Education Reform)

    * Parent Rights and their Children’s Education

Parent Volunteers Resent “Scab” Label

Jan 5/83, North Shore News, North Vancouver, BC, Canada

(Continuing to archive past education struggles to inform current struggles … )

That was the front page headline of a story by Bill Bell, the story continues …

 “Union intimidation”: is keeping parents from volunteering their services in West Vancouver’s schools, claim representatives of the Hillside Parents Group.

Co-chairpersons Tunya Audain and Suzanne Latta have told the school board that since the teaching aides were laid off last September, parents have not been allowed to volunteer in areas where they were normally welcomed….. 

Audain later told the News that her group had been sent a letter from the West Vancouver Municipal Employees Association which she said gave her a very quick ‘political lesson’ in how ‘rough’ unions can be…..Audain point out that the parents did not want to replace the teaching aides but only wanted to continue in the volunteer positions held before the aides were laid off. She told the News she resented the parents being labeled ‘scabs’ for doing volunteer tasks.

“Our first concern is the students, the union is way down the list,” Latta said….

Newly elected school board chairman, Norm Alban, refused to comment on the situation, fearing that the confrontation could escalate.