Legal Issues and Public School

Updated on August 24, 2010
G.W. asks from Portage, WI
13 answers

I am wondering how to find out answers from a legal perspective about my child's public school. Where can I find out reliable information without hiring an attorney? I'm not interested in filing a lawsuit or anything, I just want to talk to the school board and have some knowledge on my side before I state my case.

For example:
If my child is out of dress code, but it's not distracting (like, missing a belt) is the school allowed to keep him out of the classroom until I get to school with a belt (i.e. he would be missing instruction time)?
Can they restrict my access to my own child? Like, no visitors at lunch, no visitors during recess, no walking your child to class, etc?

Any help would be really appreciated! I'm not really looking for answers to my examples (that is, unless you know the legal answer!) but just want to know how I can find out the answer reliably.

Edited to add: My kids' school is very safe and it's not that I want to be up there all the time. If anything, I'm rarely up there, so if I come up once a quarter, I'd like to be allowed to see my child, not restricted from doing so because some parents have abused the priviledge in the past. Like I said, I"m not looking for an answer to the scenarios unless you do know the answer. I'm really asking if you know of a way I can get legal advice.

What can I do next?

  • Add yourAnswer own comment
  • Ask your own question Add Question
  • Join the Mamapedia community Mamapedia
  • as inappropriate
  • this with your friends

So What Happened?

Thanks for the advice ladies. Unfortunately only Leslie really answered my question. I'm going to continue to be an advocate for my child. All the specifics of our school experience are too lengthy to go into detail here, so I'll just say that I try to question my kids' school because I KNOW it can be better and I'd like them to consider other possibilities, which they aren't. I know some families really love their public schools so I believe it is do-able. But, moms, I get the message: let the schools make rules and sit back and just let them do their thing. Getting involved in change is a dead end.

Featured Answers


answers from Fresno on

As some others have mentioned, the student/parent handbook is the first place to look. Guaranteed that if it's a public school district, everything in the handbook has been researched for compliance with the law prior to being published. If the handbook has it written that students can be held out of the classroom until they are properly clothed, for instance, then that's legal where you live.

4 moms found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Sacramento on

I imagine this is all in the student handbook that you likely have to or had to sign when your child enrolled. Look on the school district web-site. I know many bigger public school campuses are "closed campuses" for outsiders for lunch and recess; this is done for security reasons and to prevent disruptions with your child. SOme school allow parents and relatives to come and sign up to volunteer in the classroom, if this is allowed or enrouraged. At my daughter's old elementary and middle school you had to be security clearance checked by the district to be allowed to volunteer on campus and I had no problem with that. I imagine what a nightmare and disruption it would be at my her school (of almost 1000 students) if many parents and or relatives like Gpa, Gma etc. wanted to come and go at your child's school at will. Anyone claiming to be a parent or family member could come on campus and snatch up your child, or harm them if not it were not monitored and screened. Not sure about the belt thing, but ck the handbook. I know it can be really hard if this is your 1st child in school, but sounds to me like you may need to let go a little Mom, your son or daughter will be fine at school w/ out you and will be well cared for. Hope this helps

Added after your comments: Mom it truly sounds like it may be in your best interest to try to home school your child so you have more parental control. You may also want to consider running for election when the next local School Board election occurs so you can attempt to change the things you are not happy with at your area public schools. If you are volunteering at your child's school weekly, like I did for 5 years, while I worked too, you would see how hard the teachers and admininstrators work for the children's safety and betterment of the school. They are over-worked and under paid and things will likely not get better in the next few yrs with budget cuts in education in most public schoools. The safety of the children must always come 1st at school then their education, not parents who want to visit their children at school. I worked in a public school for 4 yrs in a major metro city in a very nice and safe neighborhood. Even in this area periodically there were "lock downs" on our elementary campus if a crazed, upset non-custodial parent came on campus trying to take their child away while ther were at school. Once we even had a person try to come on campus trying to hide from police who were looking for him. He had was on drugs and had just assaulted and robbed a jogger a near by neighborhood park. Thank heavens for school security who prevented him from coming on campus with 1000 young children. I am all for closed school campuses and visitors/volunteers who are screened.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I think what you really want is a way to find out if the Student/Parent Handbook's rules and regs are in compliance with your rights as a parent according to the law. Well..... If you are not familiar with the nuances of searching through laws and public codes, etc, I would recommend finding someone who is. Do you have a local law school? Perhaps try to find a student looking for a research paper topic who can help you through the intricacies of searching the laws. Otherwise, you can spend a lot of time combing through laws and precedents and not really get anywhere. I recommend finding someone who is used to digging into this sort of thing.

Best of luck to you.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbus on

You could consult an attorney if you wanted to, civil rights, but you wont have much to discuss, and it will be expensive becasuse you have no damages for them to pursue. The school can restrict your presence at the school, and unless your son has an IEP, they are free to keep him out of the classroom for as long as they wish, for what ever diciplinary infraction you signed off on in the student code of conduct, which you would be required to sign before your son would be allowed in school. Even if he had an IEP, they could hold him out for ten days before they had to answer for it, and then only to determine if his misbehavior was due to his disablity. As long as the school provides your son with educational benefit such that he makes a year of progress, they have not done anything that can get them into legal trouble.

If you want to address the school board becasue you do not like the policy, you can do that without an attorney. You will need to write to the school boards attorney and get a copy of the proceedures for addressing the school board and getting on the agenda. You must play by their rules, much like your son. There are many things that are not legal issues that parents can change. However, unless you are part of a large group of parents who is of a like mind, it is probably going to fall on deaf ears. The reasons they have these policies will be far more beneficial to the school boards liability than your personal discomfort. You are out of gas.


You are about to get an earful now...from someone who used to sue school districts in Texas...change is not a dead end, you are stamping your feet when you said that because so many of us told you in so many words that from our perspective, what you were upset about was unreasonable. If there are other reasons that you did not state in your post that make you want to change this rule that is more reasonable than what you wrote, then go for it! What you are up against is something called "site based management" and I can promise you, the school board will defend that principal to the death over something so trivial as what you posted, unless there is a lot more to what you said.

It is unlikely that a law student will be able to help you do anything more than research, one of the first things they learn is that they cannot practice law until they are admitted to the bar. You do not need a law student. Texas Educational Code is at your fingertips on the web. Read it. Here is a tip for you from an educational advocate who dealt whe TEC all the time when I lived in Texas: You may think that there are so many laws here in the United States that you can add up together when they are voloated simultainously, but you can't. TEC is what matters here. Your son's "freedom of expression" to wear what ever he pleases ends at the school doors, which is why you have no damages (read, all that an attorney is interested in, because that is how they win and get paid.) There is no violation of TEC if they hold your son out of class for any amount of time, unless he has a disablity, then, they can pretty much do it anyway, but have to follow another set of rules about it. TEC codifies Federal statues, one of which is NCLB. As I said, as long as your son makes one year of progress in one year, or close to that, they have met the standard in TEC that covers them on the NCLB and they can hold your son out of class as much as they please. My suspicion is that the belt is more important than you making the belt manditory, and applying the rule to every child in the same way, they prevent gang memebers or wanna be gang members from wearing pants that fall down. Same reason that they do not allow girls to wear bandanas anymore. They apply the rule to everyone to weed out the few that they target. Do you want them to wait for the parent of a suspected gang memeber to get to the school to bring their child a belt? How long do you think that might take?

The other ladies have covered why you are not allowed to visit (legal, btw) but you can volunteer. Let me give you another clue...if you make a stink and appear litigous they will not welcome you to volunteer either. I have been in that category, and as an advocate for special ed kids, my own school district in Texas had me on a list of unwelcomed individuals. Fair, no, but leagal, you bet. Since I made a habbit of suing them under IDEA and TEC (allowed by advocates under federal law) they did not want me there gathering information, and as soon as you appear to be that way, you will be on that list too. Your access will actually be less than before. I could only be in my own child's school with an escort. Each district employs a lawyer. They have an office on the campus of your adminstration building. They attend frequent seminars and conferences about the rules and regulations and reveiw hearing officers decisions and 5th circut decisions about every single ruling. They know how far they can go.

You poo pooed a lot of answers here from some people who did know the answer. For instance, Marda gave you very good advice. She discussed Site Based Management which is HUGE in Texas. In essance, the principal has the discression to do what ever he needs to do to run the school. When I told you to write and ask for a copy of the rules to speak to the board, I knew that the rules were going to tell you that if you have not addressed this issue with your princlipal first, they won't put you on the agenda. BTW, these rules are not published. You must write to get a copy, and the reason you must write your letter to the attorney is that they want to know who has taken the time to find out what the procedure is, because if you do not follow the procedure to the letter, they have every right to ignore everything you say and do, so that is part of the trigger that gets you in the door, whether you want to open that door is another question. That is standard pracitce to frame questions in terms of being only about the principals decisions, and it will be the very first question you get from the board. That way, the whole incident has been subject to Site based management, and the issue you will be discussing is in their court, thier langague, all about the decision of the principal, and nothing else. It simplifiies things. Either the board sees a glaring issue with the conduct of the principal, or they don't. Principals go to a great number of conferences themselves, and they know exactly where the lines are. If you have a principal who is overstepping those lines, you might get the attention of the board, but know this, by the time a parent complaint gets to the board of education it is framed in only one way: how did the principal handle this sitiuation, and was he following district policy and/ or did the site based management meet the expectation fo the district.

If you want legal advice, you need to employ a lawyer. I don't know why you would, but that is your answer. If you don't like that, you won't like what the lawyer says either. There is not a lawyer who just specializes in schools doing the right thing in general, if you want to pursue wearing clothing the way you want, that is a civil right, but nothing else you are after has a specialty, and for good reason, because each of the issues related to the alphebet soup that is educational law (TEC, IDEA, NCLB, ADA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, Title IX, and on and on and on...) has its own set of rules related to something called "Administrative Exhaustion" which means that you must start with the very smallest individual in that complaint process, and proceed all the way to the top, with resolution (read-rejection) of your complaint not just possible, but probably at every level. Each one is separate. You may have elements of each one that add up to something in your family, but in reality, you cannot add them together to form one complaint. The problems with each would have to be so egreigous that each makes a stand and creates damages that have a remedy all on thier own.

If the situation with your son being out of the classroom rose to the situation of him failing, that would change things, and your son would be passed to an IAT (Intervention Assistance Team) and would be evaluated for disablities or moved into the diciplinary placement that intersects with either Juvinile delinquncy programs or alternative school placements. The focus will be your son, not the behavior of the school. Even if your son is both disabled and a delinquent, you cannot add up his rights under IDEA and the Family court, they are both dealt with seperately. IDEA deals with diciplinary situations related to FAPE before they move into the justice system, but once they are there, forget about it. If you are freaking out because your situation is not like this, know that there is not much inbetween site based manangement, and what I am describing, except a whole lot of heartache. No family wants to open any of these kettles of fish; we only do so when there is no other choice available. Is your situation worth it?

For the life of me, I am really trying to understand what about your situation could rise to this need. I understand being an Advocate (that is what I do) but one of the first things I learned was that everything that pisses me off is not actionable. Sometimes, we just live with what pisses us off.


4 moms found this helpful


answers from Goldsboro on

I don't know about the dress code. I think you probably could push the issue of missing instructional time and get somewhere, but I don't know for sure.

As far as restricting access, yes. Schools can do what they need to do to keep the campus safe. The school I worked at had a list of people who were not allowed on campus (for various, serious reasons) and would call the police and charge those people with trespassing if they came on campus. We even had to have parents show ID to pick up their student(s), and this was in a high school.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Does your school board have some type of handbook? It would probably describe their policies and rules. These are reviewed by attorneys so I would expect them to be within legal limits.

As far as restricting you access to your child in the context that you list, the answer is yes. If you need to speak to your child during the day or see him for an emergency or something unexpected, then they can not deny you access, you would be allowed to see him, by having him pulled from class and brought to the office. They do have the legal right to deny you acess to most areas of the school building and grounds, like the lunchroom, play ground, hallways, etc.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Something to think about...what if all parents wanted to do what you are wanting? what if all kids were missing part of their 'uniform'? part of the problem with public schools is no one wants to follow rules and show respect for those rules. As has been pointed out, they cannot keep you from seeing your child but they can determine where it is done (pulled out of class to go to the office) and they can discipline for not abiding by dress code - otherwise there would be chaos. Just make it a priority that your child be dressed correctly each morning. Setting an example that rules do not apply to your child is a slippery slope I think.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I suggest that if you have questions about the way the school is run that you first read the Student/Parent Handbook and then make an appointment to discuss your concerns with the school Principal or Vice-Principal. The school board is not going to know the whole picture of what is happening at your son's school.

It is possible that you don't know the whole picture yourself if you've not talked with your son's schools authorities. To enlarge on an example that you gave. I don't know what did or would happen in his school. this is just a what if. What if the student was not only not wearing a belt so that when he stood up his pants fell down and the classroom was also working on a project that required that the students move around. Then it would make sense that he sit out. The Handbook will list the behavior that will cause a student to be sent home. It may not list a rule about whether or not he has to wait for you outside the classroom. The Handbook is not all inclusive. The principal and vice-principal do have discretion when handling most situations that are not specifically addressed in the Handbook. I can think of several scenerios that would make sense for the examples you've given.

I believe that they cannot stop you from having access to your own child but they can restrict the manner in which you have access. Usually, the school secretary will have the student come to the office. For you to go to the classroom is disruptive to all the students. At the same time, you can usually visit a classroom by asking the teacher permission to do so.

Because the school authorities are responsible for everyone's safety they do have the legal right to require that a parent sign in, show proof of who they are and then issue a pass before going past the office. Depending on the circumstances they can prevent anyone from going past the office into the hallways. An example of when this might happen is if they're unsure who this person is or if their appearance and demeanor indicate the possibility that it's not safe for that person to enter the school or if the parent is angry and being unreasonable in what they want to do. Say, go to so and so's room and tell them off.

Another suggestion is for you to volunteer at the school which would give you access to day to day experiences that might help you understand why the rules are the way they are. And school personnel will get to know you and perhaps better understand you as well you them.

Above all, I urge you to read the Handbook and talk with your son's schools authorities with an open mind before you begin a protest. If you don't agree with your son's schools rules and the way that they are enforced, first express your disagreement with your son's school authorities. Going to the school board should be a last resort.

Finally, I also suggest that most situations in schools are not easily settled with black and white laws. Laws are general and then interpreted to fit the school situation. Of course there are civil rights laws that are very specific. If it's a civil rights law you're concerned about you can look those laws up on the Internet. But an issue such as when a mother can contact their student while he's at school will not have a state or federal law about it. The issue will be handled by a rule written by school officials.

The Parent/Student Handbook has the rules written down for basic and frequently occurring situations but it does not include rules about how everything will be handled. Much depends on the circumstances to include the student's and parent's attitudes. The school has to have co-operation from students and parents in order to make the school run as smoothly as possible.

Later: I'm sorry G. that you think most of the moms were telling you to "let them do their thing." I think we were telling you to get to understand the rules at your son's school first before going to the school board and asking for change. Perhaps you've already done that.

I suggest that to fully understand the issue you need to understand the way in which your son's school is enforcing the rules and why. Then one of the next steps is to research the legal issues. I also suggest that to effect change one must first build a group of parents who agree with you and will support you before the school board.

I am aware that we don't know the issue(s) except for the ones you gave as examples. Those examples seem insignificant as well as being ones that can be addressed with the idea towards change at the local school level. Having had experience with legal issues as well as schools, I also suggest that before the school board will be interested the issue as to encompass more than individual and minor incidents.

I am now curious about your goal and hope that you post results of your journey towards the school board and your concern.

I am a believer in change and I applaud you for being willing to work towards change.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Raleigh on

If it is in the student handbook, you and your child are supposed to follow those rules, even if others do not.

Pretty simple, if you think you have a legal issue regarding the school, you will have to hire an attorney. Some might offer a free consultation.

Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Does your school have a PTA? If yes, are you active in getting to know the members or attend meetings? This can be a great place to shed some light on your issues and get answers from the child's school administrators.

Do you have a relationship with your child's teacher?

Getting to know the teachers and principals at your school can probably get you far in your quest for answers. You can do all the law school research business if you have the time, etc but it seems to me the issue would have to be bigger than a dress code to want to pursue the legality aspects.

You sound like a reasonable parent that is concerned about your child. Not all parents are like you... in my own teaching experience, there have been incidences of parents who linger, hover, and disrupt bc they cannot let go, parents in custody situations that have tried to use the school to his/her advantage, and parents who have been under the influence and were banned to keep the school safe, just to name a few.

In short, get to know the staff and the school. Become a positive presence. Being an advocate also requires you to be active. You might find some of your questions answered simply be getting involved in different activities.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

You are in Dallas...there must be a law school in the Dallas area. Go to their law library and then talk to someone at the reference section about what you are looking for specifically.

If you need more help you could post a notice on the bulletin boards at the law school and find a student who you could hire for much cheaper than an actual lawyer. They could then help you navigate the law library and help you find the information you are looking to find.

Most school districts also have a procedure for handling issues...whether is it going through the school administration first, then the district office personnel, then taking it to the school make sure you follow protocol that way you are sure to be heard. They are more likely to listen if you have followed guidelines for handling issues rather than jumping straight to the school board. Good luck.

Oh just as a PS: Please be kind to your child's teacher. I would often have to handle irate parents over issues I had no control over at all. I would even have to enforce rules I thought were ridiculous because they were in the "Handbook". I even got in trouble once because I didn't send a student to the office for a dress code violation that was caught in the class after mine. He wasn't disrupting my class or others learning so I left it alone...and got in trouble. Thanks!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Dover on

Check the school district and the school's policies. Since they are published in writing, there shouldn't be anything off base legally. Every state is different as is every school district.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Try this website it has some excellent info and do's and donts for advocating for you child in public school.

For Updates and Special Promotions
Follow Us

Related Questions