Do not get caught in the middle by trying to interpret Court orders
Unless a court order specifically states something is to be done, don’t do it. When in doubt ask the requesting parent to get the court to make the order more specific. Where there is doubt, make decisions based on the child’s best interest. From the perspective of an educator, the involvement of parents in their children’s lives at school is a positive influence that has a tremendously positive effect on the child.
Encourage third party involvement
Educators can encourage parents to use the services of third parties who are trained to deal with the types of problems facing separated or divorced parents. Third parties such as mediators or family coordinators can act as a third party and provide services as a liaison between the school and the parents. It is important for educators to keep out the dispute as much as possible and let trained third parties deal with these kinds of problems. When schools deal with third parties instead of the parents when there is a dispute over access, then at least they know that the information they receive from a third party is reliable. If educators get involved in matters outside of those relevant to the best interests of the child, then they may find themselves at odds with one of the parents, which should be avoided if possible.
Never assume that a parent is a “risk” to their child
Sometimes schools over-react when a non-custodial parent shows up at the school. If a parent has been granted unsupervised access to a child, which most are, then it is safe to assume that the court has determined that the child is not at any risk with that particular parent. Most parents love their children, and those that bother to take the time to show up at the school often are the ones who are trying harder to be with their children. If a non-custodial parents shows up at the school to pick up their child, then why should they be treated or questioned any differently than any other parent? Once staff at a school know who a particular parent is, then they should not be treated any differently than any other parent.
In fact, questioning a non-custodial parent or interfering with them seeing their child, could be the basis of a human rights complaint or a lawsuit against the teacher and the school. Remember, it is not the job of the school to interpret or enforce court orders. Leave this is the job of the courts and the police.
For problem cases, keep court orders on file
In situations where a parent is wanting to have the school take action on a matter they “claim” is in a court order, ask the parent to bring in the court order so that it can be reviewed to ensure the accuracy of the parent’s claim. Court orders are considered public documents and are on file at the courthouse. If t is thought that there may be ongoing problems with a particular parent and it is expected that other teachers or staff may face similar requests in the future by the same parent, the school should keep a copy of the court order in the student’s file for future reference.
Encourage and Promote Parental involvement at their child’s school
Whenever possible, schools should encourage parents to become involved in their children’s activities at school. Many studies have confirmed that parental involvement with their children’s schools can have significant and positive impact on a student’s performance at school. Children of separation and divorce already are at a disadvantage with other students so anything that educators can do to help these children better their grades should be encouraged. A large study of almost 17,000 children, completed recently in the United States, clearly shows that students do better when parents are involved at their children’s school. This was especially true in cases where non-custodial parents became involved.
Do not be allow yourself to be used as a gatekeeper by a vindictive and controlling parent
Often parents with custody will come to the school and tell the school that the non-custodial parent cannot see the children before, during or after school. Politely tell these parents that schools are to educate kids not to fill the rolls of take the place of the courts or the police.
Treat all parents and family members with respect and give them equal consideration
Try to treat parents of separation and divorce no differently than you would any other parent. Give then the same consideration and respect as all the other parents. Try to understand that these parents, especially those who are considered as non-custodial parents are going through great hardships. The problems faced by these parents affects their children which in turn affects them as students.
Get involved when it comes to the best interest of the child!
Teachers and educators play an important and vital role in the future of our young people. They should take their important role as a member of our community seriously by helping those children and families who are in need. If you see a parent acting in a manner that is not in the best interest of their child, then if asked to do so by any party, report this. Too often, educators see vindictive and controlling parents try to destroy a child’s relationship with another parent, yet when asked by one of the parents to help bring this to the court’s attention, they say “I don’t want to get involved.” One old saying states that “It takes a village to raise a child.” Both parents and educators are part of the community’s village and all must share a responsibility for all those children who live within our “village.”
Recognize the signs of a hostile, controlling and alienating parent
All educators should read the list of items which help to identify a parent who is alienating the children. Recognize these signs and report them to the other parent. Parental alienation and hostile parenting is child abuse. Any parent who tries to keep another parent from taking an active role in their child’s activities at their school is not acting in the best interests of their child.