NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Are Federal Rules Turning Parents Defensive

December 11, 2000

Veteran educators say parents have done a complete turnaround and are now blaming teachers and school officials when their children misbehave in school. Prior generations of parents routinely chastised their offspring for acting up and supported school personnel -- but do so no longer.

When their children are disciplined, parents' responses range from vehement arguments on their behalf to threats to call in the lawyers. Educators describe this as the dark side of soccer moms.

Experts warn that in some cases federal rules are encouraging such challenges.

  • Under recently tightened federal laws, public schools can't suspend youngsters with a learning disability or emotional disorder for more than 10 days in a school year without a hearing to determine whether the misconduct was caused by the disability.
  • So a growing number of parents are getting their children diagnosed with such conditions as attention deficit disorder and then claiming any misbehavior was caused by the disability -- finally demanding special academic programs, as required by law.
  • Some experts theorize that parents are becoming more combative as a way to compensate their children for long hours they spend away from the home - - and 11 fewer hours a week with their children than they did in 1960, according to a report from the National Research Council last year.
  • Observers also point out that parents who are most militant on the need for zero tolerance of drugs and alcohol are often the ones who fly into a fit against the authorities when their own children are caught.

Another factor prompting parents to protest school discipline is the realization that expulsions and a record of disobedience may make it more difficult for their children to be admitted to better colleges.

Whatever the reason, behavioral experts warn that parents who leap to the defense of their misbehaving children are sending them exactly the wrong message. Parents should hold their children accountable for their disruptive behavior.

Source: Marilyn Elias, "Parents Battle Schools Over Discipline for Kids," USA Today, December 11, 2000.


Browse more articles on Education Issues