The Boundaries of Parents, Teachers and School Board

Author Name: 

The Christian Day school is a gift from our forefathers. It is a privilege worth defending. We are a generation in the reaping of a concept and sacrifice which we may not have had the forethought or conviction to begin.

We are also a generation in sowing. The Christian Day school of today is a blend of fruit and seed. If we are going to continue to enjoy it, we must continually evaluate what we are sowing, and sow according to truth.

One of the areas where schools succeed or fail is in the establishment and arrangement of authority lines between parents, teachers and school boards. While we recognize that these lines may be profitably drawn at various places, we, as a ministerial team, are concerned that if we do not draw them, we leave doors open for insecurity and confusion on any of the three school authority levels.

What fundamental principles are important so that the three authority levels—teacher, board, and parents— can be harnessed together as a team of greatest effort and effectiveness?

Parental Authority
Parental responsibility for most parents begins before a child is born; for others it begins when a couple opens their hearts and homes to a needy child. As parents, we do well to choose the attitude of Old Testament saints who referred to “the children which the Lord...hath given me” (Gen 33:9, 48:9).

This acceptance of truth is both liberating and encouraging. It declares parenting to be a joint effort: the sovereign god and mortal parents team together to bring a child from a state of utter helplessness (birth) to the deliberate choice of “what will I do with Jesus?”

To accept this truth coupled with the reality that all children, like each one of us, contain a fallen nature, sets the stage for parenting laced with hope. Since god knows each one of us better than we know ourselves, He also knows that the needs of our children force us to recognize our own needs. In this way, we need not be frustrated with the humanity of our children for our “Father knoweth that ye (we) have need of these things” (Luke 12:30).

Another reason that we do well to factor the sovereignty of god into the reality of our children’s peculiarities (their strengths and weaknesses) is that this acceptance is actually one of our greatest motivations to rise to the challenges of disciplining and training our children. We must do this because our Father knows that we can.

It is a serious mistake for us to confer our children’s training needs to someone else. It is just as serious for us to try to seize another parent’s child-rearing responsibilities. Both will have undesirable results.

In the church-school atmosphere this is easier than we first believed. With the familiarity of daily exposure it is commonplace for us to evaluate, judge and sentence each other’s successes and failures.

But the parents are responsible for the child. It is their child to raise because God gave the child to them. While there is always room for the Christian graces of counsel, encouragement and commendation, it is a mistake to make decisions for these parents, even in cases of what we perceive to be areas of specific need. This is especially tempting when we see a home which may be suffering from a malady similar to one that our own home endured for a season. However, we can never be sure the situations are as similar as they may appear. In times like these, parents can become overwhelmed as family upon family descends upon the struggling family with firm direction in various, sometimes even opposite directions. In the end, the burden becomes heavier not lighter.

Let us focus on bringing out the best in our children. To other parents, let us be quick with encouragement, slow with criticism and patient with our convictions. Anything more aggressive than this will lead to confusion.

School Board Authority
A properly constructed organization of the community is run by a board. This board is appointed and authorized by the community. In the church-school, this authority descends primarily from the church or congregation. The board is not autonomous or self-governing. It answers to the greater body; that is, the organization which appointed them. This board is not free to do whatever it pleases. It must be subject to the ideals, the visions, and the established values of the appointing community. The board’s authority extends no further than the authority granted to it by the appointing community. For instance, no matter what good ideas the water authority has about the county’s road system, it has no authority over the highway department. It does, however, have something to say when the highway department decides to stockpile next year’s road salt supply up gradient from the water reservoir.

In this way, we can understand a good working relationship between the home and the school board. While both the home and the church-school board can easily be seen as God-ordained authorities, neither has authority over each other. They only have authority with respect to each other.

The school board does not have authority over when the children in the home go to bed. It only has something to say when Mike has trouble falling asleep in spelling class. In this case, the home is not operating with respect to the school. Also, the home is free to decide when Mike is too old for spanking, but when Mike lies to the teacher, the board is free to decide if Mike should be paddled for lying.

One of the more misunderstood concepts about the Christian day school is that in some ways, the parents release a certain amount of authority when they send Mike to school. The day that parents choose a school for Mike, they are also choosing to come under the authority of that school. Without this submission, expect the school to be mayhem. Every parent will demand what is right in their own eyes and the teacher will operate in fear.

This concept behooves a school board to be clear in its vision and consistent in its applications. It is why school boards should keep careful minutes and make deliberate decisions to give guidance in future issues. They should attempt to avoid evaluating situations only as cases arise. This is why too much turnover and only younger board members do not yield a stable school.

Teacher Authority
The teacher is hired and rehired or fired by the board. The teacher is under the board. If the school has a principal, he, too, is under the board. While the principal is a valuable intercessor between the board and the teachers, and the teachers and the parents, both the teacher and the principal can face the temptation of usurping the authority of the board. This default view happens because of the closeness of these people to the day-to-day operations.

The teacher has broad authority in the classroom, more than the parent. In some ways, the parent’s presence in the school room is that of a cheerleader. Periodic or, at the least, annual visits to the room can be a valuable support to the teacher. There is potential for this grace to be taken too far. Too frequent or too lengthy visits can begin to silently communicate to the teacher that he is on trial. Any extended presence in the classroom must be cleared with the teacher, and or the board. The teacher is the employee of the board. The board is responsible for the vision, the atmosphere and the quality of the school, not the parent.

It is not uncommon in school life for the parents to be tempted or to fail in trying to correct, challenge, or confront a teacher. This is as inappropriate as a farmer trying to do the same to an employee of the custom operator. We have no authority in these matters. Our responsibility is to communicate to the board, to trust them to resolve these matters as they see best, and then to support them. Anything different will send subtle signals of rebellion to Mike. Mike has a nose for these things.

If the teacher is not performing satisfactorily, it is the board’s responsibility, not the parents, to instigate change. While we encourage open communication between parents and teachers, especially on incidental behavioral or scholastic issues concerning Mike, there should be the complete understanding that protracted or large issues should be resolved at least through principal and ultimately through the parent board level. If a parent finds himself in conflict with this vision or atmosphere, he bears a responsibility to communicate his concerns in a Christ-like way. If attempts to bring rest to his concerns fail, he is free to seek another school which may satisfy his concerns. He does not have authority to make demands of the school.

The Christian Day school has been and can continue to be a blessing. But, as all blessings of community, it exists only in the spirit of respect, trust, and submission. Any breakdown along the lines of authority will be a breakdown of the blessing. May God help us to find our place, fill our place, and stay in our place.

~ Tyrone, PA
August 2011