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Going Ballistic in a Public Forum – NOT Good Form!

by Wrightslaw

I am a teacher and always spend time on your website. I have a problem with a parent who is always saying untrue and defamatory statements about my teaching effort. The parent claimed in a public forum that I was incompetent and not helping her child with anything. For the sake of the child (and confidentiality), do I just have to grin and bear it?

Too often, when parents go ballistic in a public forum, they do more to damage their child than they realize.  When someone is always complaining they become known as a “constant complainer.” When a constant complainer then complains about you, listeners generally consider the source. Don’t just ‘grin and bear’ – use the Ms. Manners approach…

How to Raise Your Stock

Think of how Ms. Manners would handle such an issue.  Remain gracious, always nice, continue to smile. If you can do this, your stock in the eyes of others will go up and the complainers stock will fall.

More than likely that complaining parent is acting out their own frustrations, usually because of a sense of powerlessness and inadequacy.  Do not let yourself get into a struggle or battle with the parent. Instead, try to keep a positive relationship and dialogue open.

If you are successful in doing this, you will see a shift with the parent. That parent may continue to complain about others, but now you are different. You walk on water.

A Tough Approach

Parents send us almost identical emails about special ed directors, chairs of IEP meetings, and teachers.  Parents explain they feel talked down to, belittled, humiliated in front of others and do not want to bite their tongue.

We give them the same advice.  Try to create a shift, one to one, with that person.  If successful, the parent is the one that comes out on top in the end. A former adversary sings the praises for the parent.

Using Intellect Instead of Emotions

It is a tough way to approach it, but it can work!  It means using intellect rather than emotions to deal with the situation.

This is the basis of the concept in our book, From Emotions to Advocacy. In Chapter 5 we have a section on “complainers.”

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16 Comments on "Going Ballistic in a Public Forum – NOT Good Form!"


I always find it amusing when a teacher goes on a special ed site looking for sympathy from parents when the answer is very clear. Why don’t you contact the parent and tell them directly that you saw their comments posted on the web and you would like to ask what they are unhappy about? Open up communication. My guess is that if the parent felt like she could talk with you, she wouldn’t be talking on the internet.

As my grandmother would say, the proof is in the pudding. Forgetting about both you AND the parent, how is the child doing? Did they accomplish their goals? If they accomplished their goals, then there is nothing to say – you will have proven your point. If the child failed, then maybe the parent was right. Sadly – with open communication, it didn’t have to be that way.


Esteleen, I am sorry that you took my comment as an assault, that was not my intent. I used the word powerless, becasue you used the word in your post. I was only trying to encourage parents to take action. We CAN create better outcomes for our kids. If I did not beleive that, I could not continue to do what I do. I was present during Arne Duncan’s speech, and he praised parents for our efforts. Change will continue to come by the way of parents advocating for it. Good luck to you.


Cookies might help the label but it does nothing to get your child services in a school that has predetermined services for all.

Debbie, I disagree that there are always ways to file complaints. Without proof or with an IEP that is so poorly written that breathing follows the IEP, there is no documentation to prove they aren’t following the IEP.

Being a savy advocate requires many things. Time to learn what you need to learn, ability to learn what you need to learn, time to keep up with the communication when things are going bad, the ability to speak effectively with confidence, or the money to hire someone that can do all of those things for you. On top of all of this being able to support your child emotionally because school is so difficult or having to teach your child what should be taught at school.



Did you bother to read the article or did you jump to conclusions?
My response was a result of a teacher seeking sympathy. I was NOT speaking of myself. If you had read the article you may have known that.
It was Wrightslaw that advised parents feel powerless. My point is that the teacher must live with the reputation that she creates and is responsible for. Does this teacher collaborate with families or does she bully families? It is her deeds that others respond to either in a public forum or with a quiet whisper.
Interestingly, there was no denial of the fact that public schools are failures or that schools are better at protecting themselves rather than educating. The Secretary of Education faces realities:
Thank You


Dear Esteleen, I hear your frustration. If a parent does not have the money to hire a lawyer, there are other options. For a much small amount, though still not cheap, you can consult with a special education attorney. This can result in valuable action plan development. If a district is not implementing an IEP, there are complaint processes through your state Education Dept or Office of Civil Rights in DC.

I know, from experience, that the processes can be overwhelming and intimidating. If you are stubborn enough, you can get results. And when all else is chaos, kill them with kindness. Personal notes, treats at meetings, accentuating the positive first all help turn that “chronic complainer” label around.