Publicly Berated Teacher!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about client public criticism:

At the school district in which I am a teacher, a meeting was held to make parents aware of the remedial services (basic skills) that are being provided to their children. This meeting included a large number of parents, teachers and an administrator. At this meeting I was berated by one of my student’s parents as being a horrible teacher. This parent not only pointed and said my name, but she was allowed to tell everyone that she wants her child pulled from my room. She just went on and on and on about how bad I was as a teacher and how a colleague was such a wonderful teacher. I was so embarrassed and humiliated. I just kept waiting and hoping that the supervisor, who called this meeting, would stop her…but she did nothing.My question is: Do I have the right to file a grievance against this supervisor for not stopping this parent as soon as the verbal assault started? My district has a harassment code…but I’m not sure if it applies. It states: The board shall maintain an instructional and working environment that is free from harassment of any kind. Administrators and supervisors will make it clear to all staff, students and vendors that harassment is prohibited.I feel that it was the supervisor’s responsibility to protect my rights as an employee. She called the meeting and allowed the parent to continue for an extended period of time without intervening. I do understand that there are bullies out there and no one needs a license to be a parent, but if this type of verbal attack is allowed it opens the door to anything goes. There must be some code of ethics that applies to this situation. I would greatly appreciate any input you could give me on this matter.

Signed, Belittled

DearĀ Belittled:

You have every right to feel betrayed by the administrator who allowed a parent to publicly berate you. The objective of the meeting as you state it had nothing to do with teacher assessment. Additionally, the parent was not qualified to pass judgment on you or evaluate your expertise. I am surprised that you did not walk out of the meeting as a public statement of your own.You ask if you have a right to file a grievance. In keeping with Board Policy as you quoted it, a violation, in my estimation, has occurred. Therefore, the answer is yes. However, I encourage you to evaluate the consequences first. What will it gain you? Will it improve your teaching situation?

Let me suggest a different strategy first. The administrator in question probably deserves to know how you feel. Ask for a conference. If one is not granted, ask the chief administrator in the building for one. In either case do not state the reason for the request except to say “relative to a work related problem.” Take a copy of the policy in question with you. Do not nip words in the conference but be professional. State how humiliated you feel. Restate the objective of the meeting as you understood it and ask how this public attack met it. Ask point blank why it was allowed to occur and continue for an extended period. The professional thing for the administrator to have done was to cut off the parent by simply saying, “Ms Parent, I realize you want to state your case but this is neither the time nor place to do so. The purpose of our meeting is- – – . So if you will see me after the meeting I will be glad to set up a conference with you and whomever you wish to attend. But, for now let’s discuss- – .”

That would have been the end of it most likely. However, said administrator chose to let the board policy be violated. Tell him/her so and share the policy. State that you have a right to work in a hostile free environment and this situation breached that environment. Listen to the administrator. Most likely you will get an apology. Thank her/him, but ask for it in writing. If this does not make you feel less threatened and humiliated go to the next level. If you meet first alone with the administrator in question, then the next level will be his/her supervisor. I strongly suggest that you follow the chain of command before filing a grievance. You might also demand that a letter of support be written by this administrator to the parent involved and copied to you. If you work up the chain of command and do not feel satisfied, contact the school board attorney and ask for the appropriate procedure for filing a grievance. This alone, mostly likely, will get you an audience with the superintendent or someone high in the hierarchy. Again, no matter what you do, be professionally direct. You have been violated for which there is no excuse. You might want to share the fact that you are following expert advice in seeking a resolution to this problem.

You might even go so far as sharing this document with all parties concerned.Good luck and let us know how things progress. Upon filing a grievance, be prepared for subtle and innocent appearing repercussions. At the same time do not hesitate to do so if proper parties don’t eat a little crow.Working together successfully entails process-consciousness, one part of WEGO-mindedness.

Guest Respondent Barry Hester