West Fargo mom balks at 24-hour notice to sit in on child's class
WEST FARGO - The mother of an Aurora Elementary School student here says a school district policy requiring parents to seek permission 24 hours in advance if they want to sit in on their child's classroom is wrong and can be used to cover up poor...
WEST FARGO – The mother of an Aurora Elementary School student here says a school district policy requiring parents to seek permission 24 hours in advance if they want to sit in on their child's classroom is wrong and can be used to cover up poor teaching practices.
Cashondra Fenroy-Eaden said she wanted to pop in to the school Monday to observe her 6-year-old son in class to be sure he wasn't acting up and to get a feel for how the teacher ran the classroom.
"I wanted to see what was happening in the classroom," she said.
Instead, Fenroy-Eaden was told she needed to request permission to visit the classroom a day in advance. She said Principal Lynn Bormann asked her to sign a paper acknowledging that she understood the policy, which she refused to do.
Fenroy-Eaden has six children. She has 5-year-old twins, her 6-year-old and a 15-year-old in West Fargo schools; and two adult children, ages 19 and 25.
She said that after hearing over the years how some classes operate in other cities where she's lived - including teachers cursing and throwing things at students - she wasn't about to give up her right to see how her child's class is run during a typical school day.
"They (teachers) don't do what they're supposed to be doing all the time," Fenroy-Eaden said of her experience.
To go through a permission process is giving "24-hour notice (for teachers) to get their act together."
She said that after some discussion, she was eventually escorted to the classroom by an Aurora staffer.
Fenroy-Eaden noted that the Fargo-Moorhead area is now home for a much more diverse population drawn from throughout the country, including inner cities, where she said trust isn't given easily.
"This is going to be a big problem," she said. "You need to get everyone involved in your decisions."
West Fargo Superintendent David Flowers sticks by the policy.
"We would have a degree of chaos if we had parents drop by whenever they want to, particularly in special needs classrooms," Flowers said.
Unannounced visits can disrupt learning, he said.
"When children are in school, the teacher needs to be in charge of that environment," Flowers said. "With the parents in there perhaps directing or redirecting the children, that's not an ideal situation."
He added that it's insulting to accuse people of trying to hide poor classroom behavior by requiring notice of a visit.
"If her concern is that the teacher is mistreating her child ... then there are channels that she can and should go through," Flowers said. "We would investigate that quite seriously."
He said one or two parents have had issues with the policy, but other students, particularly those receiving special services, "have some rights to privacy."
Beth Slette, West Fargo assistant superintendent for elementary schools, said parents in the past have tried to direct teachers how to work with their child during a class visit, which causes anxiety for other children.
Those discussions are best done privately between a parent and teacher, "not in the presence of other children in the classroom," she said.
Fenroy-Eaden said she's never had a problem visiting a classroom before.
"I don't understand why I can't see my child. I understand (the worry about) disruption," she said. "But they also need to understand that child belongs to that parent, not to them. They're stepping on my rights as a parent.
"I'm going to go back," she said. "I'm not going away, and I don't agree with this because it's my right as a parent to make sure my child is safe," Fenroy-Eaden said.
West Fargo policy
The policy for West Fargo elementary school visitations says parents and guardians are welcome in the classroom and have the option to be a room parent or volunteer to help with school activities.
If they want to observe academic instruction, they must give a 24-hour notice and state the purpose of the visit. It is then up to the principal to decide to approve the visit or not. Once in class, parents and guardians must not interact with the teacher or students. One class period visit per day is allowed. The policy says the rule helps protect the privacy of other students in the class.
In Fargo public schools, parents and guardians must make a request in writing two days prior to the day they want to visit a classroom. That request is subject to the approval of the school principal. Visitors are also asked to meet with the principal before their visit to determine the amount of time they will be in a classroom. No more than two visitors will be permitted in any classroom on a given day. The visits are limited to two per marking period and no visits are allowed during tests or other students exams or evaluations. Parents and guardians are also cautioned that they are to remain as quiet observers. Disregarding the rules can mean permission for future visits can be denied.
The Moorhead School District is vague on the time frame for a request to visit a classroom, though spokeswoman Pam Gibb said principals prefer a day's notice. Parents and guardians are asked to arrange the visit at a convenient time. Classroom visits are limited to 30 to 45 minutes. Parents are also cautioned that teachers may not be able to talk because their responsibility is to teach.