Discussing a Problem

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a pitcher with lots of pencils and pens insideFrom our series of model letters…because sometimes
you need to communicate with the school
about your child’s education.

3rd edition, January 2011

 

This short publication comes from a much longer Parent’s Guide that focuses on communicating with your child’s school via letter writing. There are times when you, as a parent, may want to communicate in writing with your child’s school about some problem or concern with your child’s education or well-being. Because the Parent’s Guide is so long, NICHCY decided it would be more convenient to our readers if each of the letters discussed in the guide was also available separately, to make reading and printing individual letters easier.

This page presents a model letter or email you might write the school to discuss a problem or concern you have regarding your child.

 

Discussion

When might I want to write to my child’s school?

Sometimes your child may have a particular problem at school. You may have talked to your child’s teacher about this concern. The two of you may have written notes back and forth or talked on the phone. If it seems like nothing is happening to resolve your concern, then you may want to write a formal letter. Perhaps the informal communication hasn’t been as clear as you think. Maybe you feel that the seriousness of your concern isn’t fully understood. By writing a letter, the school will learn that you consider the matter to be an important one that needs to be addressed.

You can write about any concern—an IEP issue, a general education issue, school-yard bullying, or the need to help your child’s social skills or improve behavior. There are no rules as to the type of problem you can write about. Any school problem is worth writing about if it is having a negative impact on your child and you need the school’s assistance to resolve it.

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General letter-writing tips

When writing any business letter, it is important to keep it short and to the point. First, start by asking yourself the following questions and state the answers in your letter:

  •  Why am I writing?
  • What are my specific concerns?
  • What are my questions?
  • What would I like the person to do about this situation?
  • What sort of response do I want: a letter, a meeting, a phone call, or something else?

Each letter you write should include the following basic information:

  • Put the date on your letter.
  • Give your child’s full name and the name of your child’s main teacher or current class placement.
  • Say what you want, rather than what you don’t want. Keep it simple.
  • Give your address and a daytime phone number where you can be reached.
  • Always end your letter with a “thank you.”

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 What are some other tips to keep in mind?

You want to make a good impression so that the person reading your letter will understand your request and say “yes.” Remember, this person may not know you, your child, or your child’s situation. Keep the tone of your letter pleasant and businesslike. Give the facts without letting anger, frustration, blame, or other negative emotions creep in. Some letter-writing tips include:

  • After you write your first draft, put the letter aside for a day or two. Then look at it again and revise it with fresh eyes.
  • Read your letter as though you are the person receiving it. Is your request clear? Have you included the important facts? Does your letter ramble on and on? Is it likely to offend, or is the tone businesslike?
  • Have someone else read your letter for you. Is your reason for writing clear? Can the reader tell what you are asking for? Would the reader say “yes” if he or she received this letter? Can your letter be improved?
  • Use spell check and grammar check on the computer. Or ask someone reliable to edit your letter before you send it.
  • Keep a copy for your records.

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Model Letter

Today’s Date (include month, day, and year)

Your Name
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Daytime telephone number

Name of Principal
Name of School
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code

Dear (Principal’s name),

In this paragraph say who you are and give your child’s full name and current class placement. Say something positive about your child’s situation here, before you state your reason for writing.

BRIEFLY, explain why you are writing. Give relevant history and facts that support your concerns. (For example, your 3rd grader is struggling in school and you want to ask for help. You might say that your child’s school work has been getting worse throughout the year. That fact is relevant. Something from your child’s infancy probably isn’t.)

In this paragraph state what you would like to have happen or what you would like to see changed. You may BRIEFLY say what you would not like, or what has been tried and not worked. However, spend most of this paragraph saying what you want.

Say what type of response you would prefer. For instance, do you need to meet with someone, do you want a return letter or email, or will a phone call be preferable?

Finally, give your daytime phone number and state that you look forward to hearing from the person soon or give a date (“Please respond by the 15th”). End the letter with “Thank you for your attention to this matter.”

Sincerely,

Your name

cc: your child’s teacher
other staff

Note:
The “cc:” at the bottom of the letter means you are sending a copy of your letter to the people listed after the cc. If you write to the Director of Special Education about a problem at your child’s school, you should copy the principal. If you write to the principal about a problem, you should copy your child’s teacher or other staff involved with your child. This follows the “chain of command.” It also lets people involved know your concerns and that you are taking steps to resolve these concerns.

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Would you like to read another letter?

Discussing a problem (you’re already here)

Requesting a copy of your child’s records 
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/records

Requesting an evaluation for special education services
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/evaluation

Requesting an independent evaluation
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/iee

Requesting a meeting to review your child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP)
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/iep

Requesting a change in your child’s placement 
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/placement

Informing the school that you intend to place your child in a private school at public expense
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/private

Requesting prior written notice
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/notice

Requesting mediation to resolve a conflict
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/mediation

Requesting a due process hearing  to resolve a conflict 
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/hearing

Filing a complaint with the State  to resolve a conflict
http://nichcy.org/publications/letterwriting/statecomplaint

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