Cussed and Threatened By Parents

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about abuse by clients:

We work for the school district dealing with registration of students and proof of residency from the parents. We are constantly sworn at, called names and verbally threatened by the parents who did not like the requirements we ask for. This is possibly because they do not reside in our school district and trying to forge the information. Our building is not secured; there are no security guard, buzzer to buzzing, or any of that protection. We do not have very much of support from our administrators. This constant abuse is starting to take a toll on our daily lives at home, and feel that school is not providing us with safe work environment. My questions are: what can we do in regard to our stress management? Can we state that our work environment is unsafe? If this continues and our situation worsens, can we claim workman’s comp? Please let me know.

Signed, Taking Its Toll

Dear Taking Its Toll:

This is a very good question and I had a lot of experience with it, personally. At the last High School where I worked, the guidance secretary usually took care of the registration procedure. Any problems were referred to me for resolution (this was true when I was an asst. principal and as principal) and sometimes the meetings were nasty. The fact is some people are not going to be nice at all when their request to register meets with the requirements of the district.

The people who posed this problem seem to have more than one area of concern: 1. They need to find out what their chain of command is and who is in charge of the next level. 2. They need to find a way to communicate with their superiors so as to have those people aware of a threatening workplace environment. It would seem that there is a lack of understanding on the part of the administration which could stem from many different causes. If this problem exists in many buildings, then communication needs to take place at the district level in a meeting with an appropriate administrator. An agenda needs to be developed prior to a meeting and the meeting conducted in a businesslike manner so that whoever is listening does not regard the meeting as a BS session. It would also help if the people that have the problem develop a few possible answers to the problem (a resolution that is desired) other than requesting that the problem be taken off their hands. If the problem is at the building level, then the meeting should take place with either the assistant in charge of attendance or the principal. Getting workman’s comp is doubtful and is a legal question. You can consult with a labor attorney. Hope this is of some help.

Guest respondent, Gene Kelly, School Administrator