Things to consider in picking a school for your child

May 4, 2012

If you see injustice do you have a duty to fight on behalf of the ones unjustly treated?  Even if you do not have a dog directly in that fight?  Ever since the 1960's social reforms the question to this answer is increasingly "YES!"  But, sadly, many people are still hesitant to stand up for someone who has been treated unjustly.  As a criminal defense attorney I see it everyday.

Injustice comes in many forms.  In the criminal defense arena it comes is the form of police using unconstitutional practices to gather evidence, or extort confessions.  In courts it comes in the form of "harmless errors" committed by prosecutors and judges that influence the decisions of jurors.  Even in private businesses it seeps in when decision makers abuse discretion for no other reason than they are entitled to do so.

If your child goes to public school he or she is entitled to certain protections that may or may not exist if they attend private school.  Generally speaking, private schools - which generally are private businesses - are bound by contract whereas public schools - since they are a governmental agency - are bound by constitutional limitations.  There are limits - of course - in how far private schools can abuse their discretion. 

If you are considering sending your child to a private school do some investigation before making your selection.  Ask how they implement their policies.  Do they show grace for a one time error in judgment, or do they simply say, "The rules are the rules and we are going to discipline your child as harshly as we please because we can?"  Talk to parents of current students - and not just the ones that the school gives you to call.  Those parents are likely going to only give glaring reviews.  They probably won't refer you to the parent of a child who has been unjustly treated.

Private schools are not held to the same investigation and disciplinary standards that public schools are.  If you have a child that attends a private school and that child is called into the administration's office for an investigation I highly recommend you instruct your child to call you before he or she answers any questions.  Anything they say can be interpreted and used against your child, or even reported to the police.  

I highly recommend that before you sign up for any private school you ask them for data on the number and types of disciplinary actions they have handed out over the past three years.  If those disciplinary actions seem overly harsh, then you have to decide whether it is wise for you to put your child in that type of an environment.  If the school will not give you those figures, or claims they do not track such data, then you have to ask yourself what they are hiding?  

Perhaps it is time for Texas to implement protections for private school children the same way other states have...