Plano Star Courier, March 5, 1999

Parents must demand to be treated as partners by schools

The Texas Education Code states that "parents are partners with educators, administrators, and school district boards of trustee in their children's education. Parents shall be encouraged to actively participate in creating and implementing educational programs for their children." However, parents who do get involved in their child's education, especially those who challenge fads and experiments or question hiring and promotion decisions, experience a strange phenomenon. They are rejected.

Parents will not be rejected rudely or dismissed abruptly, at least not initially. On the contrary, administrators will openly welcome us and usher us into their office as if we are long lost acquaintances. During that meeting, as we air our concerns, we will be showered with compliments. Then the administrator will gently inquire if we belong to any locally organized group of concerned parents or a specific national or religious group. After the interview, a smile, a hand shake and a pat on the back make us feel that the district shares our concerns and that these will be addressed shortly. However, we would later find out that nothing seems to happen. This is part of the frequently used "Delphi Technique."

If you remain persistent, the educators will appear affronted. You will be told that most parents do not have a problem (the implication being "you are the only one."). Subsequently, they will attempt to belittle you and curtly advise you that education is best left to the professionals. Derogatory labels like "right wing wackos," "fanatics," or "maniacs" will be your perpetual adornment. If you get agitated and angry, then you will be less likely to persuade others to your point of view which is exactly the goal of the Delphi Technique.

Parents who raise questions and concerns have somehow forfeited their right to choose what their kids learn in school. Parents who demand accountability from the administration will lose their rights enshrined in the Texas Education Code. Their constitutional rights are violated when they are prohibited from handing out fliers and summarily banished from parent meetings. This has been the plight of those who challenge unproven programs or question administrative decisions. The recent hiring of a new coach is not an anomaly. Instead, it is symptomatic of an administration which values institutional loyalty far above dedication and devotion to our children and community.

Parents with genuine concerns are deliberately manipulated by a bureaucratic machine that relentlessly execute its agenda. School districts are in the business of education but they can ignore their customers and still profit from it. They are public entities but they can denigrate taxpayers who entrust them with the lives and future of their children. They are bastions of this great democracy but they can brook no dissent from either within or without.

Communities in California are demanding accountability for the deplorable student performances left in the wake of failed educational fads. After more than a decade of relinquishing the business of education to the professionals, they are waking up to repair the breaches of trust. The wisdom of the statement in the Texas Education Code is thus manifested. Let us learn the lesson without paying the tuition fee. Parents are partners, we must play that role even in the face of opposition. The cost of abdication by any one of the partners is just too great.

Timothy Soh