Well-informed parents are critical both to improving the achievement of individual students and that of school systems. The educational advocacy role of parents may not seem worthy of a headline, but better engaging parents and realizing their potential can make a real difference in our children’s academic performance. Our work to enhance parental involvement is a centerpiece of Connecticut Appleseed’s project portfolio. It includes two projects described under the “Education – Past Projects” prompt and continued through 2012.
Parents aren’t always aware how to work within the legal/bureaucratic process at school districts and individual schools to ensure that their child gets the necessary support; as a result, parents at many times feel frustrated, isolated and unsure of their legal rights. Our Parents’ Access to Information project is providing legally-based but easily accessible informational guides and public parent forums to help parents feel more confident about their ability to navigate through the educational system and work with schools and school districts on their child’s behalf.
INCREASING PARENT ACCESS TO BASIC EDUCATION LAW INFORMATION
Parents whose children are having problems with the school system many times feel isolated, frustrated and unsure about their legal rights. Lacking familiarity with the legal/bureaucratic process, parents are often confused about how they can work with a school to ensure that their child gets the resources and support that they need. Appleseed’s surveys found that more than 90% of parents were eager for more information on legally-related topics ranging from schools’ zero tolerance and suspension policies to Special Education.
Our Parents’ Access to Legal Information project responded by developing and providing 5 legally-based but clearly-written informational guides. The project also includes “Ask a Lawyer” forums where related questions will be answered in order to help parents feel more positive about their ability to navigate their educational system and work with the school on their child’s behalf. The following handbooks in both English and Spanish are available in hard copies and can be downloaded from our Publications section:
- Special Education: The Policies and Your Rights After the Planning and Placement Team (PPT) Process
- Zero Tolerance Suspension & Expulsion Policies
- The Nuts and Bolts Of How Your School Is Funded
- Rights and Regulations in Working Proactively with your Child’s School District & Teacher
Pro bono attorneys at Day Pitney LLP and Robinson & Cole LLP spent more than 300 hours researching, writing, and editing these five booklets. Distilling complex information on educational law into easy-to-understand guides for parents is an ideal task for Appleseed’s pro bono partners.
Our “Ask a Lawyer” parent forums, conducted in partnership with school districts and parent-leadership/support groups, provide low-income and minority parents with a chance to get accurate and useful information on their legal rights and emphasize ways for parents to work with – rather than against – their school district.
Forums to date have been held in Waterbury, Stamford, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Danbury and New Haven, while others are being scheduled across the state in collaboration with parent-serving organizations that can connect with the interests of parents and mobilize forum attendance. The combination of Appleseed’s handbooks and forums give parents both written and in-person legal resources to answer their questions.