How Schools Cope with Divorce

Nice article this morning in the Grand Forks Herald about school systems’ coping with the divorce of their students’ parents. Here’s the article.

The article makes the usual mistake about a 50 percent divorce rate but is otherwise a helpful resource for teachers and school administrators. It stresses that most divorcing parents figure out ways to cooperate so their children don’t get caught in the middle of their disagreements but that, occasionally, a student’s parents will live their lives totally embroiled in conflict. And when they do, the children get sucked into the vortex of that conflict with depressing regularity.

The trick for teachers and administrators is to avoid taking sides to the extent possible. And as any teacher knows, that’s difficult when all your communications are with one parent and not the other, so it’s helpful to find ways of communicating to (and hearing from) both parents. Schools can provide report cards to both parents, include both parents on e-mail distribution lists, invite both parents to parent-teacher conferences, and even schedule separate conferences if that’s needed.

If conflict develops between parents, the school should request a copy of the divorce decree so it will know exactly what the court has ordered. In Alabama, unless the court orders otherwise, both parents are entitled to full information about their child, regardless of the form of custody.

What the article doesn’t cover, unfortunately, is perhaps the most vexing problem for teachers and adminstrators, the situation in which the child is going through hell at home in the middle of his or her parents’ conflict, and neither parent tells the teacher about it. So the first clue the teacher has of a problem is the acting out behavior of the child. It catches the teacher unprepared, and the teacher may spend days or weeks trying to figure out what the problem is before someone admits that the parents are at war.

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