Disruptive Person Letters (DPL) are issued by principals within the LAUSD when someone interferes with the ability “to maintain a safe campus free of disruption.” There is concern among parents that in addition to protecting against “behavior that poses a danger to staff or students”, these letters are also being used to retaliate against those who question a school’s implementation of policy. For this reason, they are better known as Disruptive Parent Letters. On November 22, 2016, the LAUSD’s Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee held a hearing on improving the DPL policy. The following is a copy of my testimony before this committee:
I have heard it stated a couple of times today that these “Disruptive Person Letters” are rare. Truthfully, we have no way of knowing that. I issued a Public Records Act request in August of 2015, and I asked for any email, memo or letter containing the language that is found in these letters. In response, I was told that the District does not capture “specific data on disruptive parent letters.” On September 28, 2015, I was told that “this information is not captured at this time.”
In January of this year I finally received a response that said that the District had found approximately 600 of these emails, they were in the process of redacting them and would get back to me when this task was completed. In February, I was told that they were not going to provide that original batch because it contained some drafts and this would mean that my data would not be correct.
Finally, in April, which is eight months after my original request, I was provided with 486 of these emails. That is a lot different than the 31 that I heard mentioned earlier in this meeting.
I think that it is important that we define what “disruptive” means. While I think that we would all agree that parents or other people on campus who pose a threat to the safety of students need to be taken care of immediately. However, the first time that I heard about these letters it was from a parent who was very involved in making sure that her children’s school was following the rules. She was continuously making complaints about this affiliated charter. For example, she was at all of the Board meetings making sure that the Brown Act was followed. Coincidentally, she was the one who received one of these letters.
The discussion about appealing to the principal is really relevant in this case. He is the one deciding that she should not be on campus without his permission, but he is involved in the dispute.
This parent’s alleged offense did not occur in the classroom. She was simply texting with a student who wanted to attend the school’s Governing Board meetings and was told that he was not allowed, even with a letter of permission from his parents. Her Disruptive Parent Letter stated that she had an “inappropriate personal relationship” with a student. Obviously, if that were true, the matter should have been brought to the police. It wasn’t. I also did a public records act request asking if anyone at the school or the District was notified that an “inappropriate relationship” had occurred. The only thing that came back was her letter. This is a specific example of abuse.
When we talk about waking up in the morning and saying we are going to issue one of these letters, I think that in this case, the principal did. This principal wanted that parent silenced. Her letter amazingly said, “you should not speak to any child, especially students not your own.” Then it went on to say that she shouldn’t discuss her concerns with the staff either.
This type of abuse is a problem with these letters.
While the policy revisions discussed at this meeting do make some improvements to the current system, they do not go far enough to prevent abuses. For a district that lists parent engagement as a goal, this is unacceptable. My latest in a series of proposed resolutions that I will introduce as soon as I take office offers my solutions to ensure that Disruptive Person (Parent) Letters are not Abused.