A Resource and Promising Practices Guide for School Administrators & Faculty
SECTION V: FAMILY AND PARENT ENGAGEMENT: COMMUNICATING WITH THE SCHOOL COMMUNITY
Establishing or leveraging an existing system for communicating with the entire school community, including faculty and staff, parents and students, and community members may play a key role in gaining support at the local level for the implementation of the Dignity Act. It is critical to keep in mind that communication should be an evolving and continuous process, including a process for encouraging feedback.
Over the course of a school year, new situations and issues will likely emerge and new students and staff may enter the school community. An ongoing dialogue surrounding issues addressed in the Dignity Act will be vital in promoting a school climate free from discrimination and harassment that values and respects diversity.
Regardless of how the school provides information and gathers feedback, on-going communication with the whole school community is essential to sustaining an inclusive school culture that meets the needs of all students.
Schools are encouraged to use multiple means of communicating with the school community to ensure the Dignity Act becomes part of the fabric of the school culture, including but not limited to:
It is important to include students in promoting positive and respective interpersonal relations using the following strategies:
Family engagement matters. Families play a significant and complex role in supporting and valuing the learning of their children, in school, in the home and in the community. Family and community engagement are one of the largest untapped and underutilized resources available to the school community. In order to support and sustain the culture and climate that is fostered in the school, families need to be included. Families, and by extension communities, are a students’ first teachers. They provide the support and reinforcement of values and expectations beyond the school hours. Working from the expanded definition of family engagement provided by Dr. Heather Weiss of the Harvard Family Research Center (10) gives common understanding of the scope of family engagement.
“First, family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children's learning and development.
Second, family engagement is continuous across a child's life and entails enduring commitment but changing parent roles as children mature into young adulthood.
Third, effective family engagement cuts across and reinforces learning in the multiple settings where children learn- at home, in prekindergarten programs, in school, in after school programs, in faith-based institutions, and in the community.”
Successful education must be a collaborative effort, including all stakeholders involved. The responsibility for a students’ education begins at home; however, it does not end there. Families can contribute to the school community in meaningful ways. Engaging families within the school on multiple levels impacts the climate of the school on many levels. Students know that families are invested in and supportive of their continuing education. A true partnership can be formed.
A safe and caring school climate has a positive impact on student learning. Just as the perceptions regarding the school climate impact the morale and achievement of students, the perceptions regarding the value of a students’ family affect the impact that schools have on students. This leads to an increase in respect between all stakeholders. Developing a mutually respectful relationship between the school, student and family provides ongoing support for integrating positive behavioral support. Promoting a safe and supportive school where families with a wide range of cultural and educational backgrounds can collaborate, shows that all learners are welcome and valued. Many of the cultural and economic barriers can be addressed by engaging families in the climate of the school. Parental figures have the opportunity to provide positive role models for their children as well as others. Interaction with teachers and students increases family confidence and comfort with interactions with the school which benefits all involved.