I desperately need help on how to handle a situation. A parent, who is active in our PTO, is questioning our responsibilities. The parent is questioning why classroom doors (at our middle school) are locked during instruction time. This is something that the school administration handles and they have explained why they do this. This is something, I think, the PTO has no control over. I have explained that to the best of my ability. However, now it is getting built up as a security issue which in some peoples eyes should now be a PTO issue. I guess my question is "is it a PTO issue?" If so, how should we handle it? The doors are locked as an added safety precaution, to prevent students from traveling to other classrooms to chat with their friends (during class time) and once the doors are closed/locked, if the student is late to class they have to go to the office for a pass. My feeling is the parent doesn't like the answers given so now wants to make an issue of it. The parent is now talking about potential weapons in the school, hostage situation, etc. I respect the efforts of our school but at the same time I understand the parent's concerns. Especially this day and age. I have expressed to the principal parents concern over security at the school but he feels all the necessary measures are taken. I have told all concerned parents his position on the situation. So what do I do now?? I appreciate any and all help!
It sounds like a few parents may be trying to manipulate you into battle with them.
I've read in these forums that a good set of PTO bylaws quite often includes a statement that the PTO will not interfere with school policy.
If there are only one or two parents that don't like what's happening at the school, I suggest they figure out exactly what they don't like and go talk to the principal.
If there are a lot of concerned parents, perhaps you can suggest to the principal that they call a non-PTO meeting called a Parent - Principal meeting.
If you go to such a meeting, you may be perceived to be speaking for the PTO, so use your judgement. (I want to compliment you on your good judgement, as I can tell you have good judgement because you knew to question if the PTO should be involved).
I got caught in the middle of talking to a few parents earlier this year and found out they were not happy with the level of communication coming from the school. I privately emailed the principal and assistant principals so they would know and could work on improving communications. I included direct quotes and let them know when I was generalizing the input of a couple of other people in my own words. I did not need to identify the parents providing the input. This was well received, in my situation where I already had a fairly good level of relationship build up from the previous year. If this is your first year at the school, you may want to be a bit more cautious.
For example, you could approach the principal with a statement of, " I need your advice, I know it's not the role of the PTO. I'm caught in the middle and know it's better not to just ignore this and hope it will go away", and then explain what's happened... Setting a tone of weakness and vulnerability in yourself, provides the principal with a realization you respect their authority.
Sometime it helps if parents can write down the issues before a meeting. Quite a few people have trouble remembering or expressing all their concerns when they show up at a meeting. The principal may even appreciate having a list of concerns in advance of a meeting, so they can think about how they can best address valid concerns they may have not thought of, and also be prepared to explain why they do things they way they do them, or tell a parent why it's better that they don't explain.
The PTO does not get involved in school policies. As parents, yes you can go to the principal or to your board of education meetings and question it. However, as a PTO, you cannot voice any opinion. The PTO is made up of all members (those paying dues or every parent in the school). Unless you take a vote with 100% of PTO members all in agreement, you cannot speak on behalf of the PTO. You shouldn't speak on bahalf of the majority either.
Most bylaws state that the PTO is not to be involved with school policy and you have to reiterate that with parents and then move off the topic and onto the next.
Just from my personal experience, it seems that there are a few parents who use the PTO as a vehicle for getting their message through to the right folks. It's an indirect path but it saves them the trouble of facing a conflict head on.
Rather than meeting directly with the principal or attending a school board meeting, which are two very intimidating forums for many people, they run in through a peer or group of peers via the PTO. They assume that, as fellow parents, you surely have the same concerns.
Even if your group doesn't take an official position, you are put in the middle-man position, carrying messages back and forth.
My response to these types of issues, whether addressed privately or within a PTO meeting, is to say, "That's an xyz issue. You should talk to Mr. Abc about that." I refuse to be put in the middle. We all know how messages can get skewed as they travel though people.
Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."
"The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat but in the true perfection of one's character."
I agree, overall this issue is not one for the PTO, and if it was brought up during my meeting I would jump all over it with "That is a school or town decision and is not appropriate for this meeting. I would recommend that anyone interested in this topic to setup a meeting with the Principal to discuss it!"...
At the same time, I can see the worry that these kids are effectively "trapped" within any room within the school. So many things could happen. What if there was a fire? What if someone needed to go for medical help? What if someone pulled a weapon or started a fight?
Based on what I've read above it appears as though these children are locked within the classroom. That would be a cause for concern. On the other hand if the dorr is only locked from the outside then who gives a darn? Why would that be an issue? Some might say that if a room is locked from inside that the teacher would always be there to unlock it if need be. That sounds good, but everyone knows that there are times that the teacher needs to leave the room. If my child was locked within a room with no one there to unlock the door, well I would be concerned as well.
So, is it a PTO issue, no... But it sounds like it is an issue that must be dealt with.