Dealing with difficult parents


Dealing with difficult parents can be a reoccurring issue for teachers and school staff.

You should be free of fear of abuse from parents at your school. There might be instances when you encounter aggressive behaviour or harassment from parents. This could be at parents’ evenings, receiving abusive emails or phone calls, angry parents at the school gates to even parents posting negatively about you on social media.

In this article, we outline what you can do if you are experiencing abusive behaviour, how to raise your concern appropriately and the support you should receive from your school.

Dealing with difficult parents: who should I report to?

In the first instance, you will want to talk to your line manager or headteacher about what has happened. Senior members of staff might be aware of ‘problem parents’ or might have historical information about parental concerns. It might also be happening to other members of staff too. You should not be embarrassed to report concerns to your headteacher or line manager.

You will want to record what is happening, making a note of the time, date and what has been said or done. Your school will be in a stronger position to act if has a range of evidence to support your claims. In some severe cases, your school might inform the police if a parent continues their abusive behaviour or is a risk to the health and safety of staff and pupils.

We have published another article which looks at how you can express your concerns to your line manager.

What can I expect from my school?

Your school should have processes in place to deal with abusive parents or visitors. It may even have a specific ‘Protecting staff from parent and visitor abuse’ or similarly named policies. In most cases, a member of staff from your senior leadership team will be able to answer on your behalf if you are being subjected to parental abuse.

One scenario could be that you receive a number of unpleasant or abusive phone calls from a parent. You may feel uncomfortable taking phone calls where you are being threatened. You can offer the parent the opportunity to make an appointment with the school.

Your school could then take a number of actions to deal with parental abusive, including:

  • Arranging a meeting for the parent to come into school to meet with members of staff to solve the situation
  • Imposing a temporary ban to the parent accessing the school site
  • Escalating the incident to notify the police

Your school will have incident report forms which will let you log information to record parental incidents. On most occasions, it is important to remember that the parents will more likely have an issue with the wider school rather than with you personally.

Dealing with difficult parents: comments made on social media

In some instances, parents could make false or malicious comments about you online. These could range from racist, sexist or homophobic comments on social media. On some occasions images or videos could be posted of you and shared online.

If you are aware that this is happening, you can take the following steps:

  • Keep any records of abuse by taking screenshots and logging the time and date
  • Do not retaliate or respond to any comments or posts
  • Inform your line manager or headteacher

Your school might request for the parent to remove the offending comments online. If the parent refuses, you could report the matter to the social networking site if it breaches their terms and conditions. Your school could also seek advice from the local authority, legal advisers or other agencies such as the UK Safer Internet Centre.

If the comments are threatening, abusive, sexist, of a sexual nature or constitute a hate crime, a representative from the school may consider contacting the local police. It should be remembered that online harassment is a crime.

The Professional Online Safety Helpline is a free service for professionals and volunteers working with children and young people, delivered by the UK Safer Internet Centre. The helpline provides advice and mediation to resolve the e-safety issues which staff face.

Further advice

If your school is not taking your concerns seriously and you are still receiving abusive behaviour from parents please contact us for additional advice and support.

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The information contained within this article is not a complete or final statement of the law.
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