A parent raises a concern about an interaction a teacher had with her child, and the principal wants to meet with the teacher and parent together. The teacher would like a union representative present at the meeting. Is that her right?
The short answer is no, and this is an excellent scenario to discuss at your next 10-minute meeting.
- Because a meeting with a parent does not constitute an investigatory, pre-disciplinary meeting under Weingarten Rights (a teacher’s right to have a union representative present), teachers are not entitled to union representation in parent meetings.
- Secondly, having a union rep present could have the unintended effect of increasing the tension level and may give the parent the wrong impression about the teacher.
So, what should a teacher do to prepare—especially if the parent in question is known to be difficult or combative?
- Encourage the teacher to speak to her principal prior to any such meeting, explain the facts and circumstances leading to the parent’s complaint, and the reasons the teacher has concerns about the meeting. The teacher should attempt to get on the same page with the administrator regarding how the meeting will be conducted, what role the teacher is expected to play in the meeting, and what any anticipated outcomes may be.
- If the teacher is concerned about the parent suing her, reassure her that a scenario such as that is highly unlikely, and teachers who are sued are protected under the Save Harmless Law, CGS 10-235. In a nutshell, a teacher is protected by the Board of Education in actions of negligence and are held harmless unless those actions are deemed to be “wanton, reckless, or malicious.”
What if the principal wants to meet with the teacher after the parent meeting to discuss what the teacher said?
- At that point, the teacher may have cause for concern and may bring a union representative if the purpose of the meeting is to question the teacher about what was said and the teacher believes the meeting may result in discipline. Even if the teacher chooses to meet alone with the principal, she may interrupt the meeting and ask for representation at any time if she believes the meeting may result in discipline.
- If the parent puts a complaint about the teacher in writing, will that letter go into the teacher’s personnel file? Possibly. Each collective bargaining agreement has its own unique, negotiated language about what may go into a personnel file. Some contracts preclude anonymous complaints entirely. Some contracts require notice to a teacher prior to a document being placed in a personnel file.
Review your collective bargaining agreement and go over the rules about personnel files at your next 10-minute meeting. Teachers have a legal right to make an appointment with administration to review the contents of their personnel files, and it is recommended that they review their files every one to two years.