"In creating a peaceful, co-existing environment for parents to learn more about a child’s educational development, teachers are entering the equation with the only goal of helping your child be the best version of them that they can be. It’s important for the custodial and noncustodial parent to maintain the same goal."
Children of divorce may go through their weekly routine a little differently than other children. With the inclusion of transferring custody from one parent to another, maintaining their schedule requires a little bit more communication and mindfulness. This is especially true during the school year.
During the course of the school year, most schools will schedule parent-teacher conferences, where parents and teachers will meet to discuss how a child is progressing so far during the school year. For divorced parents, this can be a tricky and difficult experience. For the teacher, it can be uncomfortable and awkward.
For teachers, they can sometimes struggle to do what is in the best interests of the child. They are not on Team Mom or Team Dad. They are on Team Child and are looking to inform and discuss the child and their development with all concerned and available parties.
Access to education
Many custodial parents who have experienced a particularly difficult divorce feel that since the noncustodial parent did not receive custody of the child, they are not entitled to access to the child’s education. This is not the case.
According to National Center for Educational Statistics, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) states that an educational agency or institution shall give full rights under the Act to either parent, unless the agency or institution has been provided with evidence that there is a court order, State statute, or legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody that specifically revokes these rights.
In the cases of separation or divorce, a school district must provide access to both natural parents, custodial and noncustodial, unless there is a legally binding order that specifically removes the FERPA rights. The custody arrangement does not affect the FERPA rights.
The act establishes the parents’ right of access to and control of education records related to the child. This right of access can leave noncustodial parents with many questions, as it relates to their attendance and participation in parent-teacher conferences.
While they have access to and control of education records related to the child, the act does not address parent-teacher conferences for the purposes of discussing a student’s performance in school. This means that the school has no obligation to arrange a conference to accommodate the noncustodial parent. However, if records of the conferences are taken and maintained, the noncustodial parent has a right to see those specific records.
A teacher’s role
However, many teachers may take a different approach in honoring a request for a separate parent-teacher conference than that of the custodial parent. Educators know the importance of parental involvement, and if they are aware of the situation, they may make an extensive effort to share knowledge about the child with parents by sending notes home aimed at specific parents (neither note partisan), providing easy access to information through emails, or even, the aforementioned parent-teacher conferences, according to the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts.
Teachers see the act of increasing both parents’ accessibility to them and their classroom as a way of reducing the likelihood that the child is going to fall into the crosshairs of a volatile post-divorce situation, where it stops being about the child and becomes entirely about the parents.
Helping the situation
If the co-parenting relationship does not include volatility, then there are easy ways of communicating and co-existing during the parent-teacher conference, that will allow you to put your children first.
The Huffington Post suggests creating a share Google Calendar that will give you notifications for all school-related functions, including the conference. That way, information can be shared as part of a normal weekly routine. For parents that live further away, calling into the conference will encourage the noncustodial parent’s participation in their child’s education.
It also is important for parents and teachers to never deny the role that each other maintain in a child’s life. This means not leaving ex-spouse’s out of family projects or not discounting their thoughts when presented with new information that may benefit a child’s overall educational experience.
These conferences are about your child, not you. In creating a peaceful, co-existing environment for parents to learn more about a child’s educational development, teachers are entering the equation with the only goal of helping your child be the best version of them that they can be. It’s important for the custodial and noncustodial parent to maintain the same goal.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.