Take Action In Schools

Parents and caretakers want to ensure that their children are safe, respected, and able to learn when they are at school. But many parents and caretakers feel that they don’t know what happens inside school walls. When parents and school leaders talk together about what the school is doing to create a safe and caring community, everyone can learn and engage in positive change efforts.

To help parents and teachers communicate better, we’ve developed a short list of questions parents can ask principals and teachers. By asking these questions, you can help school staff think about what they’re doing now to help students – and also what they can do differently. The school staff you talk with might not have answers to these questions right away. But by asking the questions, you can show them what matters to you and your children.

You can set up a time to ask these questions of the principal, assistant principal, or guidance counselor. You can send a letter with some or all of the questions. You can also share them with the parent representatives on your school’s parent council. You can suggest that parents and school staff work together to pick a few questions that are most important for your school community and meet on a regular basis to work on them.

Questions Parents and Caretakers Can Ask Elementary Schools

  • What program(s) does our school use to teach social and emotional skills like conflict resolution, showing understanding and empathy for others, and being aware of emotions?
    • How do we know that this program works? Are there any studies?
  • How are students taught to cope with frustration, anger, and other challenging feelings? Who teaches these skills and what are the strategies they teach?
  • Whose job is it to ensure that all students feel safe and secure and treat each other well?
  • How can students tell teachers when they are feeling upset or in need of support without the rest of the class knowing?
  • How do teachers and other staff deal with aggressive, mean, or hurtful behavior during recess and lunch?
  • How do teachers and other staff know what they are supposed to do when they see aggressive, mean, or other hurtful behavior?
    • How are they trained in how to stop hurtful behavior when it happens?
    • How are they trained in how to keep it from happening in the first place?
  • How does our school work with students who repeatedly act in aggressive, hurtful, or disrespectful ways?
    • Beyond punishment, how do school staff help those students learn how to act differently?
    • If they do not, do they refer those students to outside resources like counselors?
  • How do children know what the expectations are for their behavior toward others both in and out of classrooms? How do school staff ensure that children understand and fulfill these expectations?
  • What role does the school expect aides, bus drivers, and other support staff to play in ensuring that all students are physically and emotionally safe?
  • How can parents provide feedback to school leaders and staff?
    • Who can they go to when there is a problem?

Questions Parents and Caretakers Can Ask Middle and High Schools

  • Does our school regularly survey students about whether they feel safe, respected, and cared about? Are the answers shared with students and parents?
  • Is there an adult in our school who is responsible for ensuring that all students feel safe and respected and that people treat each other well? Who is that person?
  • What program(s) does our school use to teach social and emotional skills like conflict resolution, showing understanding and empathy for others, and being aware of emotions?
    • How do we know that this program works? Are there any studies?
  • How do teachers and other staff know what they are supposed to do when they see bullying or other hurtful behavior?
    • How are they trained in how to stop bullying or other hurtful behavior when it happens?
    • How are they trained in how to keep it from happening in the first place?
  • How does our school work with students who repeatedly act in aggressive, hurtful, or disrespectful ways?
    • Beyond punishment, how do school staff address the root of the behaviors and help those students act differently?
    • If they do not, do they refer those students to outside resources like counselors?
  • What resources does our school provide for students who feel that they have been mistreated or bullied? How do students find out about them?
  • Who is in charge of monitoring what happens in bathrooms, hallways, and other areas outside classrooms?
  • How are teachers expected to build positive and supportive relationships with students in and out of class?
    • How do principals and other leaders know if teacher-student interactions are positive?
  • Does our school have a policy that clearly states that discrimination and harassment are not tolerated for any reason?
    • Does it cover race, class, gender, sexual orientation?
    • How and where is this policy presented to students and staff?
  • How can parents provide feedback to school leaders and staff?
    • Who can they go to when there is a problem?