Question: Bylaws - who's in charge

Do PTO's answer to anyone for ByLaws. Are the rules not there to enforce or is constant law change allowed?

Asked by Anonymous



Advice from PTO Today

Rose H writes:
The bylaws are designed to provide the structure for the parent group and provide the guidelines so the group doesn't have to figure things out each time a new issue arises. That said, bylaws are amended as circumstances in a group change. It is common for groups to put proposed changes on a meeting agenda, discuss those changes and then vote before implementing those changes. Typically, there would be notice one month, and then at the following month's meeting, there'd be a vote. Typically a 2/3rds vote would be required for the amendments to be approved. Sometimes, groups put the process for amending the bylaws in the bylaws, so you could check to see if that is there. If you need additional information on bylaws, we have lots of great articles on that subject. Also, we have downloadable files of sample bylaws that will show you what is typically included in bylaws and how common procedures work.

Community Advice

firefighter464 writes:
Bylaws of any organization (PTO included) are written and enforced by the organization itself. Is there anything in your bylaws that addresses breaking of the rules? If so, follow it. More likely, there is not. In perfect world that means if you realize a rule has been broken, you may make a motion to bring the topic to a discussion and reference the bylaw and if you are lucky the PTO will take a vote on what to do about it. And in some cases, yes, that may mean the law itself ought to be changed because it wasn't appropriate or clearly written or didn't correctly reflect the organization's mission or take into account changing times. There is no outside enforcement you can look to for PTO to 'answer' to. (From experience I can tell you the school, school board, state education organizations, etc. won't get involved. If your PTO is its own 501c3, it is a separate entity, and so the school, etc. are correct in that stance. Yet, as you might recognize, allowing an entity to police itself is not ideal.) That said, I suspect your question is asking more than that. 'Constant law change' that is being done by way of simply breaking the bylaws willy-nilly or by inappropriate pressure/force/or control issues by those in positions of power probably ought to be addressed. The sticky wicket is, how? (I see Rose C has chimed in here while I am writing this, substantiating much of what I've just written. She may also come back with a better more positive answer than I can give on this aspect, too, but I can fill you in on the reality of questioning bylaw 'changers' and I think it's an important consideration to be aware of.) Let me preface my post here by saying everything I write is my opinion and my experiences are sworn true under penalty of perjury: If those in control are the bylaw 'changers,' you may find you have no voice to raise the issue. Trust me, you will be silenced. If you have several volunteers who see it your way, you might try privately reasoning with those in power. But good luck. IMHO the old phrase 'power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' is here to stay, as much as we all want to have a pleasant PTO experience and we are doing it for the kids, it seems to me that those who break the rules are there more likely for love of recognition and control issues with only a mask of doing it for the children. In that case, an adversarial role develops if you try to question them, no matter how well-meaning you are. Raising a motion and having it seconded to have them ethically recuse themselves from leading a meeting for a discussion of bylaw breaking among the group at large could accomplish a goal of seeing what the group at large wants to do and could help remove you from being singled out. More likely you will be socially ostracized from the get-go as most people simply want to avoid conflict and ignore it to get down to the real mission. (And you might consider that aspect, too, depending on your tolerance for conflict and seriousness of the law changing.) One thing that may happen if they catch wind of you wanting to question their authority and they are fully aware they've changed rules to suit them is that the meeting will have debate limited (without a vote--which breaks Roberts Rules, but we're already talking rule-changers here) so you really can't say anything useful at all. In that case, consider using your chance to speak to point out that the limited debate breaks Roberts Rules and you want to address other law changing and ask those in question to step down from leading the meeting. In the case of silencing/ostracizing, I strongly suggest patience and hard work. Work to better your PTO experience by avid volunteerism, make lots of friends, and don't break any rules yourself until you can wait out the tenure of those who are breaking the rules. Then simply replace them at election time. And at that time, don't be afraid to make a motion that adds a page to your bylaws as to how rule breaking is to be addressed, to include procedures to follow in raising, discussing, and implementing solutions.

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