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Parents’ Legal Rights

Successful education requires collaboration between educator and parent. Unfortunately, educator-parent relationships are not always as positive as either party would wish. Educators need to know what a parent can demand to avoid creating unnecessary conflict. Some parent rights are based on decisions by the courts, and others are based on specific provisions of the Texas Education Code. See what the Education Code Provides in Chapter 26 (Parental Rights and Responsibilities).

Parents have strong but limited rights to participate in their children's education. They have no right, however, to disrupt their child's school or monopolize a teacher's time.

Visiting the school
Although parents don't have an absolute right to access classrooms, most schools allow them to visit classrooms for limited periods of time. Generally, parents are only bound by reasonable rules of visitation such as scheduling appointments ahead of time, not visiting during testing or not staying longer than a specified time. Many times, teachers also prefer to have no more than one or two visitors at a time. Parents who fail to adhere to schools' visitation rules or who repeatedly cause disruptions can be restricted from the classroom. Also see Unexpected Parent Classroom Visits (video).

Moving their child to another class
Parents can request that their child be assigned to—or away from—particular teachers or classes. A school cannot unreasonably deny such a request, but it doesn't have to honor such a request if it would affect another student's assignment. Although many administrators have a policy of requiring or encouraging a meeting with the teacher prior to a reassignment, such a meeting is not legally required.

Reviewing their child’s records
Schools must give parents access to any school records pertaining to their child. This includes instructional material, lesson plans, tests (after the test has been administered) and subjective evaluations of students made as part of entry into cocurricular activities.

Receiving updates from school
Parents have a right to full information regarding their child's school activities, so communication from the school, particularly the child's classroom teacher, is essential. (Classroom newsletters are a good tool for this.) Teachers should also answer parents' specific questions in a reasonable manner via personal conferences, phone calls or notes sent home with the child.

Exemption from instruction
Parents have the right to temporarily remove their child from instruction or another school activity when it conflicts with the parents’ religious or moral beliefs. The parent must provide a written statement authorizing the removal to the district. The parent is not entitled to remove the child in order to avoid a test or to remove a child for an entire semester.

Refusal of psychiatric treatment or testing
Parents have the right to refuse their child’s undergoing psychiatric treatment or testing. Unless serious physical or mental injury could reasonably result from the parents’ refusal, an educator is prohibited from making a report of child abuse or neglect against a parent on the sole basis of the refusal to agree to psychiatric testing or the administration of psychotropic drugs. There are special rules relating to a parent’s refusal to allow testing to determine a child’s possible entitlement to special education services.

Consent to tape record students
In many cases, prior parental permission is required before an educator videotapes or audiotapes a student. The law provides potentially broad exceptions to this requirement; however, any educator should receive guidance from administrators prior to taping a student.

When problems arise with parents

Knowing parents' rights helps teachers avoid many potential problems, but there will always be a few. Thus, school districts should have procedures in place for parents to bring concerns to the attention of the appropriate employees.

When teachers cannot resolve parents' concerns, they should direct the parents to the principal, who might then direct them to the district's grievance procedure. This gives the district a chance to investigate and resolve parental concerns, and it lessens the chance of parents' venting potentially incorrect and harmful information to other parents.

As with any interpersonal relationship, courtesy, respect and communication are key in maintaining good teacher-parent relationships. Remember that parents, just like educators, have a job to do. Clear guidelines and expectations, as well as quick responses to parental concerns, will go a long way toward creating an exceptional learning environment.

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The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.
 

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