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Conflict Resolution

Your Right to Participate

As a parent or legal guardian, you are guaranteed the right to participate in decisions concerning your child’s education.  To exercise this right, you have the responsibility to actively participate in the decisions made by the school about your child’s education.

School personnel also have the right to disagree with you, and to put forward solutions.  However, they do not have the right to eliminate you from the process of making decisions about your child’s education.  School personnel in this partnership are responsible for recognizing the value of your opinions, and for facilitating or making parent participation easy.

The right to participate in decisions concerning your child’s education can be taken away if you do not act in a respectful and non-threatening way.

See Section on Access to School Premises

Your Right to Disagree

As your child’s best advocate, you have the right to disagree with teachers or other service providers about your child’s education needs, and whether the school is meeting those needs.

Parents and school staff do not have to like each other personally to be able to work together effectively (though it helps).  It is important, however, for both parents and school staff to respect each other’s roles and positions.

Look for Common Ground

Sometimes parents and school staff will not see a situation or incident the same way.  When working with your child’s education team you may thus experience differences of opinion or conflict.  Remember that the members of your child’s education team are individuals with different experiences, outlooks, and values.  This means that they will begin meetings with different ideas about what the problem areas are and what the possible solutions might be.

When there is a disagreement between you and other members of your child’s education team, the disagreement should be resolved as soon as possible.

When you are speaking with school staff, listen to their ideas, and make suggestions.

If you do not agree with, or understand, decisions made in a meeting with school staff, ask to schedule another meeting for the following week, to clarify decisions, or think about other possible solutions to a problem or concern.

As a first step to solving problems, look for common ground.  Try to see things from the other person’s perspective.

Recognize when there is agreement, and move on to the next issue.

If you are getting angry or confused, tell school staff that you would like a few minutes to yourself to calm down or gather your thoughts, or ask school staff to reschedule the meeting.

Positive Disagreement

Disagreement can be positive, if it helps to bring your child’s education team to a shared solution, or consensus.

Most members of your child’s education team will have the interests of your child in mind when negotiating with you about the best plan for your child.    Parents and school personnel may, however, disagree about what is an appropriate solution to a problem or concern.

When there is conflict between you and the other member’s of your child’s education team, the final obligation for both parent and school personnel is to stop looking at each other as adversaries and to start working together to meet the needs of the child.

Resolving Conflicts So that You Can Go Back to Planning

One basic process for resolving conflicts among members of your child’s education team is to re-focus on what is really important, your child’s well-being and education.  Probably, the first and hardest step in resolving conflicts is to stay calm, and to arrange a meeting of your child’s education team.  Your child’s education team needs to come together when there are serious conflicts.  You or the principal can invite a social worker, or arrange to have a supervisor from the school board be at the meeting.  Bring a support person to the meeting.

The first thing your child’s education team needs to do is to come to agreement on the problem or problems.  This is a time for the members of the child’s education team to re-focus on the child’s needs and to really listen to each other.

Make sure that you and school staff have agreed on what the problem is.  Once you and school staff agree on the problem, the focus of the discussion should turn to looking for ways to resolve the problem, or ways to make sure that the problem does not happen again in the future.

Once your child’s education team has come to an agreement on problems, you can return to the planning process.  If your child’s education team can agree on the problems, they can begin to work to find solutions to each problem.

  • Prioritize the problems.
  • Brainstorm solutions.  This is a time to be creative, not critical, so welcome all suggestions or ideas.
  • Evaluate the suggestions.  Eliminate those that will not work. Then discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the others.
  • Choose the best solution.  The best solution will be the one that meets the needs of the student, and that all members of your child’s education team can agree on even if it wasn't their first choice.
  • Decide what steps need to be taken, by whom, and by when.  Get this plan in writing.
  • Implement the plan.
  • Evaluate the plan.  A date and time should be set to talk about how the solution is working.
  • If there is a problem, make improvements to the plan.
  • If the plan was not implemented properly, make sure that the Principal or School Board supervisor accepts responsibility for making sure that the plan is implemented, and that they understand that they will be held responsible if the plan is not implemented properly.
  • Maybe a different solution is needed.  Go back to brainstorming and work from there.

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