Now that school is starting, here is a back to school checklist to help you begin a healthy, safe, and sane school year. Our attorneys have dealt with legal matters that all started, in one way or another, from something on this list. This provides an overview of some common issues that require immediate attention. Addressing them at the beginning of the school year is the most effective way of preventing future problems. A good educational environment starts with parents and guardians laying the groundwork for effective teamwork with teachers and administrators.
- Don’t overlook the fundamentals, Update the contact information you have on file with the school, including any emergency contact information, and relevant parenting plans.
- Make sure you have information-sharing agreements on file with the school for any medical issues. Or, conversely, make sure that people who shouldn’t have information (such as a former spouse) can’t access any student records.
- This might be a good time to look at what the district defines as student records or directory information and determine whether you want to opt out of information-sharing for FERPA purposes. This is especially important if your student is a foster child or there are other reasons it is important not to let people find out where they attend.
- Make sure your vaccinations are up to date and appropriately on file with the school administrators. Schools can help direct you to local resources for vaccinations if insurance or vaccination availability is an issue. Your student may be kept out of school in some situations if you don’t follow through this this.
- Does the student have any health Issues that the school should be aware of?
- Please notify the school administrators and any health care providers employed by the school of any allergies or other conditions that require medication at school. Never assume that they already know, even if they’ve worked with your student for years. Staff changes can happen at any time!
- Do you have an individualized health plan (“IHP”) in place in case of emergencies? If the student has a condition that could require emergency medical care or intermittent monitoring, please talk to the school nurse about implementing an IHP. If there are life-threatening conditions involved, we recommend not relying solely on paperwork. Take a copy into your school and speak directly with all relevant staff.
- Should you consider talking to someone about accommodations for any disabilities?
- Teachers want to help students but sometimes don’t know how. Does your student have any learning gaps that need to be addressed? Bring these up with teachers and appropriate administrators including the school counselor, psychologist, nurse, and administrators, as appropriate. The earlier you address these issues, the better the interventions that can be implemented.
- For students with disabilities, learn what accommodations have been implemented and what they look like. Simply relying on “more time for tests” does not necessarily translate to being accommodated the same way by different teachers. Think about your student’s unique needs and strengths and then ask for accommodations that are tailored to them specifically.
- Request an evaluation or reevaluation of their needs if appropriate. Sometimes schools are hesitant to do this. We can help you navigate that process if it gets difficult.
Familiarize yourself with basic school functions:
- Review the student code of conduct. When children miss school, it can have long-term impacts. Make sure they know the rules so that they don’t get suspended or expelled because they made a joke about their fortnight weapons that was misinterpreted as a threat that triggers fears about the next school shooting (we’ve seen it happen many times).
- Review the student handbook.
- Look up to see where the school policies are available and review the table of contents so that any future issues can be addressed easily. Talk to your student about specific rules you think they may not appreciate. A school’s policies are the rules for school that govern who to talk to about what, and how the school should respond to your issues. The sooner you respond to an educator’s concerns about a behavior, the more reassured they will be and it will be less likely to result in discipline. However, also know that – in Washington – if your student is disciplined, it cannot prevent them from moving from grade to grade or progressing with their education while they are out of school. Ask for their homework right away so they can keep up!
Prepare for emergencies:
- Create a contact list for yourself:
- Prepare for an emergency by knowing who to call when.
- Collect emergency contacts at district level in case of natural disasters or potential crisis
Know who to call for transportation-related issues
- Know who the key administrators and what their roles are in the school.
- If you have any safety plans or student support plans from the prior school year, make sure they carry over to this school year. Bring this to the attention of school administrators so that they can ensure a seamless transition into the new school year.
- If there are any anti-harassment or no contact orders issued by the court outside of school, make sure the school knows about them. Contact the school administrators and student records office to ensure student safety on campus
- If you have any questions about student supervision, please raise them now. It is difficult for many caregivers to realize that school staff were not monitoring their child the way they expected them to.
Please reach out to us at 206.607.8277 if you have any questions or need help implementing any of these action items. We want to help you have a successful and healthy school year.