school

"They call all day, everyday”: The special needs teachers being bullied by parents.

The increase in parent-led bullying and in some cases, violence against Australian teachers is alarming. According to one public school teacher, this bad behaviour not only impacts teachers negatively, but the kids in their care.

Karen Edwards* is a mum-of-two and special education high school teacher from regional NSW. While she loves her job and adores the children she works with, Karen feels that parents’ interference with her work and disregard for her expertise is detrimental to the students.

“Raising children with disabilities can be very challenging and most parents are keen to collaborate with teachers and schools to ensure they get the best educational outcome,” Karen tells Mamamia.

“It is surprising however how many parents consistently interfere and cause problems.”

LISTEN: The case of parent teacher bullying that has ripped apart a school.

One emotional and angry father sent Karen so many text messages about his child, that it led to him being issued with a Lands Protection Act notice to ban him from school grounds.

“I understand how stressed parents get, but this dad would regularly and aggressively message me during school hours about his son. I tried not to take it personally but it was upsetting and disruptive.”

A mum to a boy with autism in Year 7 became so difficult in her dealings with Karen, that the school decided to cease all contact with her and only liaise with the child’s father.

“She would ring me multiple times during the day to check on her son and make all kinds of requests. Occasionally she would just turn up in the classroom to talk to me without the school’s permission.

“She was highly critical of our methods and would pack activities and crafts in his backpack that she wanted him to do instead of what we had planned which caused her son anxiety.

“He had no boundaries at home and I could see there was very little real support from either parent. They would bribe him each week with hugely expensive and inappropriate gifts for completing minor tasks at school and I could see that their behaviour was not helping his.”

teacher abuse
"She would ring me multiple times during the day to check on her son and make all kinds of requests". Image: Getty.
ADVERTISEMENT

While Karen was upset and frustrated by the mother’s behaviour, she always felt well supported by the school.

“Eventually the principal had to step in to demand the mum take a step back to allow us to do our job properly and educate her son. We only had contact with the father from that point on.”

In a similar set of circumstances, another mum regularly contacted Karen and other teaching staff including the deputy principal to demand meetings and make special requests.

“We try and equip our students with life skills as well as teaching core subjects from the curriculum. We often take them out on excursions for lunch so they can practice social interaction and money handling.

“This particular child has severe autism and real trouble with basic communication. His mum decided against the schools wishes and our special education program.

"She preferred that her son not go on the excursions with his friends, but stay at school with the mainstream classes to learn a foreign language.

“While I understand her wish to ensure her child has the best public education possible, her demands and unrealistic expectations for her son are not in his best interest. I feel sad for him.”

Most of the parents that Karen encounters are grateful for the public school’s special education program and the knowledge of the teachers.

“All parents believe their child is the centre of the universe, I understand. I have two children I love very much, but I can also see how much hard work and care goes into planning the students’ education and that many parents need to simply ‘back-off’.

“The parents that are able to work with and trust the school and the teachers to do the job they have been trained for, almost always get the best outcome for their child. At the end of the day when a parent oversteps the mark, it is the child that misses out.”

How do you feel about your child’s teacher? Are you closely involved in their education and do you believe this is necessary? Leave your comment below.

* While the teacher is known to Mamamia, the name has been changed for privacy reasons.

00:00 / ???