School Dazed and Confused

The days are still hot in the Volunteer State, but summer is quickly drawing to a close, and soon the bell will be ringing in a new school year. New teachers, new classes, new friends – August is an exciting yet stress-filled month for our kids (not to mention their parents!). Unfortunately, the school year can bring another type of stress for parents who share custody of their children: the burden of ensuring he or she isn’t left out of the loop of the child’s school activities.

Any parent who shares custody of a child is probably familiar with the “Permanent Parenting Plan” – a sometimes-confusing form that lays out each parent’s rights and responsibilities regarding their child. In the middle of that form lies the section about “decision-making” authority – which parent gets to make educational decisions for the child? Or extracurricular choices? Simply looking at the box marked “mother” or “father” or – even more confusing – “joint” does not always answer a parent’s questions about how much power he or she has over that child’s school life.

Parents should also look toward the end of that Plan to remind themselves that parents in Tennessee are given certain rights, including the right to know what’s happening in their child’s school. Generally, parents have the right to directly access their child’s school records and talk to their child’s teachers. A mother or father does not need to rely on the other parent – which often isn’t a realistic option anyway – to be kept informed about the child’s education. Know your rights as a parent, even if you don’t have primary custody of your child, and know what’s going on in your child’s schooling. If you have questions about your rights as a parent, call us; we are parents ourselves, and we will be happy to help you know how to stay involved in your child’s life.

Christina S. Stanford