Question: Can a PTO be K-12?

We are trying to form a parent group at a high school. Are there any restrictions on using the name “PTO”? Can any parent group form a PTO? Why does the PTO Today website emphasize that PTOs are for K-8 schools and not K-12 ones? Thank you for any help you can give us!

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Advice from PTO Today

Elly writes:

There are no restrictions on becoming a PTO or using the acronym PTO (“parent teacher organization”). PTO Today has plenty of info and tools to walk you and your leaders through the key first steps in starting a parent group, including incorporation, bylaws, applying for nonprofit status, and obtaining group insurance.

High school groups are certainly welcome to set up PTOs at their schools. However, the focus at PTO Today is to help parent leaders garner and sustain parent involvement at the most basic level, namely during the K-8 years. Our mission is to give these leaders the help and resources they need to acquire the proper involvement infrastructure and connect families to the school. And it’s always been our philosophy that those connections are most effectively made when groups execute fun events and activities for families during the course of the year. Our School Family Night kits, which are free to parent group leaders, are just one of the kinds of resources we provide to groups to get families engaged at school.

As you’d expect, parent involvement and family participation at events at the high school level is simply not the same as it is at the elementary level. Furthermore, most high school parent group leaders are concentrating their attention and efforts in other areas, such as band or sports boosters and fundraising. While these parent leaders provide some essential support roles for their high school, this work is not at the core of PTO Today’s mission. And ultimately, that’s why our website caters to the K-8 crowd.

However, all groups—including high school parent groups, church organizations, boy scouts, girl scouts, etc., are always welcome to use PTO Today’s magazine, website, message boards, and all our other resources for tips, ideas, and strategies to help their organizations serve families more effectively.

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