Civililty a must when visiting schools

Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 3, 2012 at 1:16 p.m.

There is the notion that if I am rude, raise my voice and use profanity toward teachers and administrators, I will get my way.

In this approach, the squeaky wheel does not get the oil nor does it have a positive outcome. Here in Alachua County, we have a civility policy and a Student Code of Conduct guide that spells out expectations and responsibilities for children and their parents.

Once these policies are broken, the district will take a strong position to maintain order in schools and at school-sponsored events. Parents and others should adhere to the policies in place or they may run the risk of not being able to have an active role as partners in our schools.

In other words, there are consequences for people who demonstrate poor behavior in our schools. It is our approach when there are differences and disputes to settle that we engage ourselves through discussion, mediation and compromise to meet and resolve concerns on common ground. Much can be accomplished through mediation and civil dialogue. When there is discourse, little is achieved.

So often, I am faced with mediating irate parents who will lash out at staff before knowing the facts. It is very difficult to make gains when inflammatory and insulting language is used throughout the conference to determine the facts. In some cases, reckless threats are made toward staff. This is vehemently unacceptable behavior by district policies and could merit an arrest by law enforcement. Please note that we attempt to avoid involving law enforcement, but on occasion, it is necessary.

Parents must keep in mind that administrators have options when parents exhibit poor behavior. A parent's right to visit a campus could be denied with a trespass citation and they may forfeit privileges to participate in their child's after-school activities. In some cases, recommendations are made to change students to another program.

The process for parents to pursue when there are issues of disagreement is to first speak to a school administrator. If necessary, the principal will review concerns and he/she will make the final decision.

In the event that parents are not fully satisfied with the response and the outcome, parents may express their concern in writing via a grievance form. The process allows for district staff to review the complaint to provide clarity of the concerns.

Hopefully, through investigation and interviews, the facts will surface to make the proper determination concerning the issue to bring closure.

One point I would like to make to all parents is that schools and staff members are not out to make families feel unwelcome. We want to provide the best of customer service. Every opportunity is geared toward satisfying our customers, who are the children and their families.

We are acutely aware of the difficult perils facing our families, with unemployment, economic instability and basic needs to keep the family in tack. So for us, it becomes an issue of being sensitive to the needs of the children in our schools.

Because of the stress and conditions facing our families, we take extra measures to be accommodating when necessary, if possible, because we value you as stakeholders in our community. So, as we make strides to educate your children, I am recommending that we adopt the raising of a child in the village concept to promote harmony in our schools with our stakeholders.

Networking as partners is better than being adversaries to one another. The outcome has far better results than pointing fingers or playing the blame game. Let's work together in a cooperative spirit to demonstrate to our children the model in which they should follow.

The word for this year is "civility." This is a concept we all should practice and embrace.

Philoron Wright is assistant to the superintendent of community and schools for Alachua County Public Schools.

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