Dealing with Difficult Parents

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Presentation by Steve Williams to NCSA's School Law Update

Text of Dealing with Difficult Parents

  • Dealing with Difficult Patrons and Parents

    Steve WilliamsSteve WilliamsHarding & Shultz, P.C., L.L.O.

    (402) 434-3000(402) 434 3000swilliams@hslegalfirm.com

  • What are We Talking About?What are We Talking About?

    Endless e-mails to teachers, staff or administrators

    Repeated phone calls Unannounced personal visits Complaints about personnel atComplaints about personnel at

    board meetings

  • What are We Talking About?What are We Talking About?

    Frivolous or repeated public record requests

    File numerous or redundantFile numerous or redundant complaints

  • What is the Problem?

    H i d di th t i Harassing, degrading, threatening, or just plain inappropriate and j p pp pupsettingDi t d ti l Disrupts educational process

    Monopolizes HUGE amounts ofMonopolizes HUGE amounts of time and resources

  • What is the Problem?

    D t t i t i f d Duty to maintain a safe and secure school

    Liability concerns Harassment-free environment NSAA good sportsmanship NSAA good sportsmanship

  • When is Enough Enough?g g When it interferes with your staffsWhen it interferes with your staff s

    ability to carry out their dutiesB k Eld 108 N b 761 (1922) Brooks v. Elder, 108 Neb. 761 (1922) [T]he legislature . . . Has the power to

    bestow upon school authorities unlimited control and discretion in the use of school

    t ithi tit ti l li it property, within constitutional limits. State statutes give broad authorityg y

  • What Can You Do?What Can You Do?

    Least Restrictive to More RestrictiveExplain the problemPrioritize requestsPrioritize requests Limit amount of communication

    C i i Di Communication Diet

  • Communication DietCommunication Diet

    L tt i di ti Letter indicating: ALL written, verbal, or electronicALL written, verbal, or electronic

    communication through one personS h l ill d ti School will respond one time per week

    Visit school only upon request or by appointmentappointment

  • Communication Diet

    L tt i di ti Letter indicating:Limit communication toLimit communication to

    daily/weekly notebook exchange ORALL itt b l l t iALL written, verbal, or electronic communication through one person

    Visit school only upon request or by appointmentappointment

  • Communication Diet

    L tt i di ti Letter indicating:All school visits require advanceAll school visits require advance

    contact and written permissionF ll l d ll h l lFollow law and all school rules or escorted out by school officials or law enforcement

    Notify school officials upon arrivalNotify school officials upon arrival

  • Communication Diet

    L tt i di ti Letter indicating:Follow law and all school rules orFollow law and all school rules or

    escorted out by school officials or law enforcementlaw enforcement

    Personal escort while on school premises

    Copy to law enforcement Copy to law enforcement

  • School Grounds Ban

    N tit ti l i ht t No constitutional right to accessPierce v. Society of Sistersy fMeyer v. Nebraska

    No right to: monitor on playground No right to: monitor on playground, volunteer as playground monitor,

    tt d b k f i t h l it i hildattend book fair at school, sit in childsclass

    Mejia v. Holt Public Schools

  • School Grounds Ban

    L t t ll d f Last resort - generally reserved for dangerous or threatening conductRequirements

    Notice of trespass (Issuer, wording, service)Notice of trespass (Issuer, wording, service) Direct to Leave Call law enforcement Call law enforcement

    Exceptions - Be careful with special education Copy of letter and telephone call to

    law enforcement

  • Restraining Ordersg

    E t d i f f i di id l t Entered in favor of individuals, not school districts, that have been harasseda knowing and willful course of conducta knowing and willful course of conduct

    directed at a specific person which seriously terrifies, threatens, orseriously terrifies, threatens, or intimidates the person and which serves no legitimate purpose.no legitimate purpose.

  • Restraining Ordersg

    E j i d t f Enjoins respondent from:(a) imposing any restraint upon the person or ( ) p g y p pliberty of the petitioner(b) harassing, threatening, assaulting,(b) harassing, threatening, assaulting, molesting, attacking, or otherwise disturbing the peace of the petitioner, or (c) telephoning, contacting, or otherwise communicating with the petitioner.

  • School Board Meetingsg

    C t t b d t i ti ll Content based restrictions generally not allowedCriticism of school officialsSelection of subjectSelection of subjectSelection of speakers

  • School Board Meetings

    Allowable restrictionsTime limits

    Repetitious or irrelevant comments?Repetitious or irrelevant comments?Disruptive conduct

    reasonably perceive to be or imminently threatens to cause a disruption of the orderly and fair progress of the meeting

    Lewd, obscene, profane, fighting , , p , g gwords

  • School Board Meetingsg

    S ti 79 570 Section 79-570Disorderly manneryContinues after notice by president

    Order withdrawalOrder withdrawalOrder any person or persons to take

    h i t t d til thsuch person into custody until the meeting is adjourned.

  • School Board Meetingsg

    R d ti RecommendationsAllow open and frank public comment if p p

    it concerns an area under the control of the school board

    Adopt a policy containing time, place, and manner restrictions and enforce itand manner restrictions and enforce it

    Remind the speaker of the policy limitations before he begins to speaklimitations before he begins to speak.

  • School Board Meetings Recommendations

    Employee criticism - offer an alternative forum or procedure. If not, boardforum or procedure. If not, board members listen but do not respond. No give-and-take session.give and take session.

    Be calm and cordial.Ob f h til di tiObscene, profane, hostile, or disruptive comments Bd. Pres. interrupt and

    ti th kcaution the speaker.

  • School Board Meetings Recommendations

    79-590AG says closed session allowed forAG says closed session allowed for complaint if (a) employee had reasonablenotice and (b) open session notnotice and (b) open session not requested.If ll l f il th ti If all else fails, recess the meeting.

  • Public Record Requests Require requests be written identify

    specific information requested Charge fee that does not exceed theCharge fee that does not exceed the

    actual cost of making the copies available available.Paper, toner, etc. and staff time of

    public employees involved in locating records, making copies and returning g p gthem to proper files.

  • Public Record Requests 4 day rule

    Earliest practicable date to fillEstimate cost of copiesEstimate cost of copiesOpportunity to modify or prioritize

    requestrequest Require deposit if cost of providing

    $ 0records exceeds $50

  • Final Reminders

    K d Keep recordsParents behaviorSchools responses

    Consult schools attorney BEFORE Consult schools attorney BEFORE taking any drastic action

  • Dealing with Difficult Patrons and Parents

    Steve WilliamsHarding & Shultz P C L L OHarding & Shultz, P.C., L.L.O.

    (402) 434-3000swilliams@hslegalfirm.com