shameful school principle needs to be exposed
September 15, 2010 6:32 PM   Subscribe

How can I get the word out about a bad school principle?

My wife and I went through months of abuse trying to get our daughter's special needs met at a private elementary school that she was attending at the time.

This new principle, initially, seemed concerned and willing to help but, as time went on, we began to realize that nothing was being done and that she was just stringing us along. When we tried to ask her about specifics or some kind of time line she turned on us becoming belligerent and just plain nutty. We kept our cools throughout, however, by the end of last school year we were basically tossed from the school, accused of being pushy parents.

I feel that her behavior was, at best, shameful and want the world to know what we went through.
posted by tangyraspberry to Education (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sounds like a job for the local journalists. Make some calls to the paper and the local TV station(s). Especially if your nightly news has one of those Problem Solvers segments where they shame people for doing shit like this.
posted by griphus at 6:34 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

If this is a private school, in the States, I would recommend that you carefully document your experience and formally submit it to the governing board of the school. Any other course of action, such as taking it to the media, probably won't be as effective, especially if you haven't taken it through logical channels first.

And, before going public with accusations (media exposure), you might want to check with an attorney.
posted by HuronBob at 6:37 PM on September 15, 2010

What kind of private school did your child attend? Is there a strong parental organization, or a founding organization? Do you still have phone trees, or email lists of other parents from last year? Depending on how strongly you feel about this issue, you could contact other parents to discuss your concerns to see if anyone else has experienced problems. If the school has some founding organization, for example, if it is a Catholic school, or a Montessori school, you could contact leadership in their organization. Don't underestimate the power of parent groups in driving change- if you can enlist the support of several other motivated parents, you might be able to have real change made.

When making contact, be sure to take a moment ahead of time to think about how you will present your concerns. A laundry list of things that she did that irritated you (e.g., "And she always kept us waiting ten minutes! And she always parks in the visitor parking rather than in the staff lot!") might result in your concerns being dismissed. Instead, make your complaint focused and to the point, and say what you'd like to have happen (would you like to have your child re-enrolled? have the principal fired?).

It is good that you're not at a public school. Principals who lost their positions this summer in California because they were on a list of the lowest performing 5000 schools in the country were able to get new positions as principals, albeit in different schools. In three schools in my area, all of the "fired" principals are already in charge of new schools.
posted by arnicae at 6:44 PM on September 15, 2010

Lawyer. You want to be absolutely certain that you do nothing that could be considered libel or slander.

The last thing you want/need is this school suing you for decreased enrollment, or for this principal to be suing you for lost income/emotional whatever if she gets fired.

If you're going to go public with this information, you need to have thoroughly documented dates, times, what she said, what you asked for and what she offered or did.

And you need a lawyer to bless the whole mess before you get started.

Can't afford a lawyer, you say?

Then you can't afford to say these things about this woman.

Also, this "just plain nutty is" not something that your lawyer will give an ok on. It is subjective and insulting, neither of which forwards your case, and both of which make you look rude and unprofessional.
posted by bilabial at 7:13 PM on September 15, 2010 [8 favorites]

What is it that you hope to accomplish by "getting the word out"? The most effective approaches will vary, depending on what your goal is.

Is your goal to warn other parents of special needs children that they shouldn't attend the school as long as that principal is running the place? Or maybe to warn all parents away from it?

Do you want an apology, a cash refund, or to get the woman fired? Do you want to find a way to encourage her to do better next time?

Without knowing what you want to accomplish, it's hard to answer your question.
posted by alms at 7:24 PM on September 15, 2010

I might be wrong, but I don't think that private schools are obligated to accommodate special needs students (this is based on my knowledge of the school systems in my state). Additionally, private schools can choose to deal with (or not deal with) whomever they like. That's kinda the nature of being a private entity.If you were indeed led to believe otherwise by this principal then that sucks, but I'm not sure you have any real recourse.

If you are in the US (and again - this is based only on my knowledge of my state's educational system), you can access services through the public school system and still have your child attend a private school. I'm not sure how these discussions went down, but maybe asking for suggestions rather than timelines may have better results in the future?
posted by lilnublet at 7:29 PM on September 15, 2010

"I might be wrong, but I don't think that private schools are obligated to accommodate special needs students"

Actually, that might depend on the state. In Michigan, a student in a private school is eligible for services from the public district in which the school is located. The public district is obligated to provide the same services they would to their own students. I'm not sure if this is true in other states, but would suspect that it is due to federal mandates.
posted by HuronBob at 7:50 PM on September 15, 2010

Right - that's why I said they could access services through their public system, but that the private school wasn't obligated to provide (direct) accommodation. I agree that there may be differences between states.
posted by lilnublet at 8:00 PM on September 15, 2010

lilnublet, got it, thanks. I thought you were suggesting that they would have to transfer the student to a public school.
posted by HuronBob at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2010

I should read more carefully!
posted by HuronBob at 8:07 PM on September 15, 2010

I'll second the comments warning you about being careful what you say in a public context because of the legal implications. "Wanting the whole world to know" is an understandable motivation, but make sure that any base motivations which may be present (venality, vindictiveness, revenge, angler, pride) are not going to cause you to bite off more than you want to, or can, chew. Remember too that you would be an individual fighting an institution, at least at first. The Principal might have painted you as nutty and it might take extra effort to overcome that - indeed, the harder you fight the more the other side may entrench its received view of you. In sum: "letting the whole world know" might instigate a dirty, long and difficult fight with unforeseen consequences. Be very clear what you hope to get out of it.

And, because it disproportionately matters to be scrupulously correct when writing about education, it is Principal of a school, not Principle - I don't mean to be snarky: I've seen a lot of education-related letters and memos unfairly dismissed because of poor usage.
posted by Rumple at 8:15 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

It would be helpful to know more about your daughter's special needs -- are we talking special ed, or food allergy accommodations, or physical disability, or what? Whether the school is obligated to accommodate her will depend, and in some cases there may be state bodies you can take your complaint to.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:27 PM on September 15, 2010 [1 favorite]

Did the school not honor her IEP? If so, there is likely a state-level organization that you can file a complaint to.

You may also want to consult an advocate to help you articulate your position - exactly which parts of her IEP weren't met?

The IEP is what you have to stand on.
posted by k8t at 9:22 PM on September 15, 2010

Theres two sides to every story..namely yours and the prinicpals,
; "going public" without documented solid evidence of wrongdoing can #1 make YOU look like the problem, and #2 get you sued depending on how you take this public. If there are specific problems, why don't you seek a legal remedy (ie: ADA accomodations, etc)?
posted by MsKim at 9:39 PM on September 15, 2010

As a parent who's been through a similar situation. you have nothing to gain. Nothing. The board is unlikely to remove the head of the school due to one disgruntled parent.

I'd say, move on, and look for the best place for your child.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:49 PM on September 15, 2010

A lot of city lifestyle magazines will do an annual "Best Local Private Schools" edition. You could contact an editor or writer and let them know your story.

Beyond that, there's nothing you can do that won't make you look bad as MsKim says. Any attempt to start a website or blog will immediately turn you into "that crazy lady." Having taught in an American private school (and a bad one, to boot) these are incredibly insular and defensive institutions that operate on the thinnest of financial margins. The faculty and parents will drop on a dime to close ranks and adopt a defensive posture because, well, private schools (espcially weaker and/or second/third tier ones) are incredibly tribal in nature.

Your first-tier Andovers and National Cathedral Schools? One complaining parent doesn't work either, because literally hundreds of others are desperate to get their kids into them.

"The IEP is what you have to stand on."

At least in the state I taught, this means nothing to private schools, legally, educationally, or otherwise.
posted by bardic at 11:09 PM on September 15, 2010

GreatSchools is a website that lets parents and students write reviews about their school.
posted by jrichards at 6:44 AM on September 16, 2010

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