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Advocating in Your Own School District – Pros and Cons

by Pat Howey

Some of my best advocacy results were in my own school system.

  • I know the personalities.
  • I know the programs.
  • I know the policies and procedures.
  • I know the problems.
  • I know the strengths.
  • I know the gatekeepers.
  • I know the administrators and many of the educators.

However, as my youngest daughter always says, “It doesn’t matter who you know; what matters is who knows you.”

What about retaliation?….

Fear of Retaliation

I understand fully that some folks may be uncomfortable about advocating in the same school or school system that their children attend. However, my experience is that my child never suffered from retaliation because of my advocacy efforts within her school system.

I believe the reason is that the folks –

  • knew me
  • knew that I knew the law
  • knew that I knew my rights
  • knew that I was not afraid to challenge any efforts to retaliate against my child.

They knew that I was a very good and successful advocate for my own child and for others.

In short, they were afraid of what I might do if there was any hint of retaliation towards my child.

My Goal:  Popularity or an Appropriate Education?

Was I popular? Did I win any awards for best parent? Of course not. That was not my goal. My goal was to make sure my child would be ready for “further education, employment, and independent living.”

Did I achieve my goal? You decide.

  • My child is now an adult. She is a nurse and works in the Information Technology department of a large local medical facility.
  • She has a national certification for the electronic medical records software she supports.
  • She is happily married, living with her husband and two beautiful children less than a mile from where she grew up in a house they designed and built.
  • She is a multi-year class champion as a sports car driver.

I am proud of her success as an adult. She exemplifies what a child with a severe disability can achieve when provided with an appropriate education that fully prepared her for “further education, employment, and independent living.”

Do I now care whether the local school administrators and teachers liked my advocacy work in their school system? Of course not. She is worth every enemy I made.

Conflict of Interest?

I see no “conflicts” of interest by advocating in my own school system. I have a stake in keeping my foot in the door, even though my daughter graduated several years ago. These interests include:

  • Being a taxpayer. My dollars fund the schools.
  • Being a stakeholder. I am interested in being a watchdog for other special needs children. These children are my future.

I do not believe that advocating in your own school system is a conflict of interest. It may be uncomfortable – for you and for those employed at school. But, my way is not the only way. As long as we continue being advocates, it matters little which way we choose to do so.

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15 Comments on "Advocating in Your Own School District – Pros and Cons"


Some children / young adults develop self image issues that develop from running passive comments from teachers toward the child you are advocating for. No matter how positive you are in approach as a parent advocate. High functioning students with high IQ’s are blasted verbally by teachers. Often it is not shared until after the year or is so difficult to educate educators on the impact of their negative bias and lack of insight.


I would love to take cases in my home school district, but the school has already proven they have no problem retaliating against my kids. They know I know the law (likely better than they do) and they know I am not afraid to do what I need to do, they just don’t care. So until both of my kids graduate, I will stay out.

Sharon L.


I am a parent of three boys who all have learning disibilities along with ADD/ADHD and one has dyslexia. I have been working with the public school systems over 25 years advocating for my children. I too was not afraid to speak up and did prevail in a due process lawsuit and filed complaints,etc. I am hated also but my children had a fair education (I believe that LD children will never really get a good education).

All three are grown up and are working, two are going to college. Two are living on their own, etc. It is worth it to advocate for your children. Once you are done, the people who work at schools don’t care about you anyway. They are probably glad I am gone.


I wish I could say the same, the teachers were down on my child before I knew about you. Thanks Janet


I’m a mom of two children with High Functioning Autism. I am not liked in our District because I know the law and am not afraid to speak up. It’s not fun but the success of my children makes it all worth it. Our problem now is that our children are not severe enough and so they tend to look the other way. The excuse they give is that I’m just not willing to accept the success of my kids. The reality is that I know they are successful because I wasn’t willing to accept the status quo. I’ve filed multiple State Complaints, several OCR complaints and even Due Process. They never admit wrongdoing but things magically resolve themselves when we involve others. They even met all the terms of our DP 1 week prior to the hearing. I’m hated, I know it but at the end of the day I care about my kids not them.