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I apologize for vague subject, feel free to edit a better one.

Our child has very severe pollen allergy leading to heavy asthma (a year ago he had to be taken to ER with major asthma attack, after mere 2 days outside).

Together with the child's pediatrician, we have developed a plan to manage the condition (he is on steroids when needed, and is restricted from going outside in spring/summer months when either the pollen count is high or his breathing volume is below pediatrician's preferred value).

  • IMPORTANT: The plan is flexible. She (and us) is comfortable with him going outside if the conditions are auspicious.

Overall, the school (elementary school in USA, ages 7-11) has been very understanding and accommodating. During outdoor recess, they would allow him to be indoors when needed, and followed our daily written instructions on whether he's allowed outside.

Then trouble arouse. A school nurse called us and said she had a couple of complaints from some unnamed parent that our child wasn't allowed outside.

She apologized and said that they can get in major trouble because of that, and from that point on, they require a formal letter from pediatrician that prohibits going outside.

The issue with that is that, AFTER such a letter was given, they are no longer allowed to let him outside AT ALL - even on days when according to pediatrician's rules he's OK to go.

So, because of that anonymous parents' meddling, our child was denied the opportunity to either be outside or play with his classmates during outdoor recess on those days when pollen is low.

The school refused to tell us who the parent was.

Do we have a recourse against an anonymous parent making our child's life harder by ensuring he's 100% cooped up even on days he doesn't have to be?

The only rational course (have the doctor write the detailed plan of when he's allowed outside) was no-go with the school - they said they can not take on such a flexible plan they would be responsible for; even though they were/are fine with US making such a decision before the complaint was made.

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Going after the other parent serves no useful purpose. Whoever it is at your school which is stating they cannot implement the Doctor's plan is the person whose head you need to go over. I had an issue at my daughter's school one time and went to the School Board to have it properly addressed. –  Jeremy Miller Jun 14 at 17:12
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The typical solution is a lawyer. Not the most pleasant solution for you nor the school, but sometimes that's what it takes. It's typically legally required that schools make accommodations for students with needs like this. I do have to second Ben, though. Seems to be a very odd explanation from the school. It could be that the other parent has already had to jump through their own hoops and is now upset someone else is now 'getting away' with a more casual accommodation and the school is worried about a lawsuit coming from the other direction. –  DA01 Jun 15 at 2:50
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Do not assume bad faith by this other parent. It could perfectly be well intentioned. Maybe her child told her that there was a child in school not allowed to play outside, and she did the right thing, contacting the school, instead of looking away. –  Quora Feans Jun 15 at 8:13
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@QuoraFeans - the road to hell is paved with good intentions. –  user3143 Jun 16 at 6:25
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@QuoraFeans I'm not sure that I agree that hearing a third-hand report from your child, and then contacting the school to file a complaint without obtaining further information, would qualify as "doing the right thing" in my book. –  Beofett Jun 16 at 16:13

6 Answers 6

It's bizarre that the school would pay attention to the other parent, who probably had no clue what was going on. However, your issue is not with the other parent, it's with the school. The school's behavior sounds completely unreasonable, but presumably it does seem reasonable to them, based on their information and priorities.

Most likely what happened was that the other parent's actions put the situation on administrators' radar, and those administrators began to think about liability. They took the path that seemed to them to result in zero financial risk: your kid doesn't die, so they don't get sued. Your kid's unhappiness, social isolation, and lack of exercise don't enter into the equation, because the administrators don't see those as liability issues. This is just my third-hand reading of the probable situation, and it could be wrong. But if this is what's going on, the thing to do is start escalating the issue so that they can't ignore it. Send a paper letter to the school's principal requesting a meeting about this issue. If that doesn't work, you could contact your elected school board member, or talk to parents of other disabled kids in your school district; those parents will have had plenty of experience having to act as advocates for their kids, and can probably advise you on effective strategies.

Without being a jerk, making threats, or jumping to conclusions, plant the idea in these administrators' brains that what they're doing is a potential liability issue. Disabled kids in public schools in the US are protected by title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Noncompliance with the ADA is serious stuff. If you have enough money to hire a lawyer, make a decision about whether that's a path you are willing to take if the school keeps being unreasonable.

Good luck!

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exactly. It makes no difference who that other parent was, because even if you found them and convinced them to withdraw their complaint, the school is now acting independently and would not remove their restriction. –  andi Jun 18 at 20:05

Your child has a disability.

In England they would have to make reasonable adjustments under disability discrimination laws.

I don't know what the laws are where you are. I'd suggest that you write a letter to the school with the plan -- inside when pollen is high, outside when pollen is low (and you can tell the school each day?) and remind them of their duty to make reasonable adjustments.

I have no idea why the school is listening to some other parent. Put that in the letter too.

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Many districts (including my own) have policies against leaving students inside a room unsupervised, but we often turn a blind eye when we know we can trust a particular student. We can't when we're forced to see it by some meddling fool.

In this case, they may not have felt they could tell the other parent they were complying with medical directions and to butt out without violating your son's privacy, and were unwilling to tell the other parent to raise her own kids, not yours.

If I were you, I'd take the doctor's orders in to the principal's office and explain what they say, what they mean, and exactly what they will be doing for your son. If the orders are clear, and if you are clear, you should wrap this up in 15 minutes. Don't be rude, don't be loud, but do be assertive.

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Be Assertive

Read the book When I say No, I Feel Guilty by Manuel J. Smith. Do not let the title of that book fool you. It's actually the book you need for this task.

And even if you resolve this issue before you have time to read this book, still read the book when you get the chance. It's very good.

Do not get Sidetracked by their Excuses

Like someone else said already, do not focus on the other anonymous parent. That other anonymous parent has no power. He/she is not making the final decision. That was just a cop out on their part. And what has been done has already been done. Finding out who that person is won't change anything.

Go Higher Up

If you feel the administrator is not being helpful. Escalate up to the school board, or escalate up the chain at the district level. Contact each school board parent individually, and contact the other parents from your kid's class to get them on your side and on your own team as well, so that they can apply their own pressure on the school's administration.

Threaten the Nuclear Option (the Office for Civil Rights)

Filing a discrimination complaint with the Office for Civil Rights is easy. It doesn't have to cost you penny. Make sure they understand this. Make this threat verbally and off-the-record. This issue doesn't need to escalate to the Office for Civil Rights, unless they want it to.

http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/howto.html

Since you're in the US, focus on the words "reasonable accommodations". And definitely hire a lawyer if you can afford one (I assume a lawyer would solve this issue to your satisfaction in no time).

Disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, but a software developer. Follow my lay legal advice at your own risks.

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Just a suggestion, but shouldn't the "nuclear/legal" threat be the last option? –  kleineg Jun 17 at 15:55
    
Yes, it should be. I'll edit the post accordingly. –  Stephan Branczyk Jun 17 at 16:10

The administrator is going for total risk avoidance. So play that game. I would ask the pediatrician to rephrase the letter, to explicitely order the child to play outside, unless there are some specific circumstances. The circumstances can be indicated by you or the child, since the child himself is a perfect judge on what situation he can tolerate. I also like the discrimination-attitude. This also plays right into the risk-avoidance attitude. Either that, or withdraw the letter altogether - followed by a letter that you hold them responsible if anything happens to your child.

Any of these three should be followed up by a meeting with the school administrators and staff. Explain that you understand the risk-avoidance but you simply want to go back to a good situation that worked well.

In addition, I'd put up a brief note on the message board for all parents to read, to let them know how a misunderstanding escalated this situation. I'd make sure to mention they most likely meant the best for the child, but the outcome is the worst. So people know that their anonymous well-meant remarks can have unforseen consequences.

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Government schools are in an interesting position. On one hand, they are a near monopoly, which means they can get away with quite a bit and not lose customers. On the other hand, they are beset with mandates and regulations and court orders, and don't get paid extra for doing a better job meeting those mandates. This creates an environment where they are incentivized to meet the letter of the law and no further.

The cynic in me would not be surprised if the anonymous parent was completely made up, to cover for an aide who is annoyed at never knowing whether she will be able to go outside at recess or stay in with your child.

Your options are private school, homeschool, or threaten to sue. Keep in mind with the latter that it can always get worse before it gets better. At one point, our daughter with cerebral palsy was being sent home early two days or more per week, for minor things like a flushed face or being a little tired. Of course, after the minimum time for counting as an instructional day.

We had other hassles about constantly needing new doctor's orders and not being allowed to take the bus, and our son's school was utterly incapable of handling his ADHD-like behavior. With that huge inconvenience for us, we figured we may as well be homeschooling, and we've been very happy with that decision.

My point is, think long and hard before making more waves, and try to seek alternatives. The last thing you want is an adversarial relationship between your son and his teachers.

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It's been my experience over 28 years that teachers and administrators do not hold grudges against kids. Quite the contrary, we got into this game because we like kids, and we like to see them grow. –  Marc Jun 16 at 16:18
    
I'm not saying it's a grudge, just a desire to avoid extra work. Certainly not everyone is that way, but there are enough to notice. –  Karl Bielefeldt Jun 16 at 16:55
    
"desire to avoid extra work" = there's enough to notice those people regardless if it's public or private school. –  DA01 Jun 16 at 17:23

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