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Why Are So Many Parents Blaming Teachers?

Why Are So Many Parents Blaming Teachers?


Back in the good ol’ days of teaching (pretty much any time before the year 2000), parents and teachers were a team, united for kids’ success and against their nonsensical behavior. Parents blaming teachers seemed almost unheard of. If a teacher said a kid misbehaved, the parent usually believed them and did something to correct the behavior.

Parents Blaming Teachers

In today’s world, it is much more likely that the parent will believe their child’s skewed version of events over the responsible adult who is reporting something to them. The things that parents blame their kid’s teacher for are pretty ridiculous.

Let me give you one example I experienced firsthand and several from my teacher followers. Prepare yourself for an astounding amount of nonsense!

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The Firestarter

I had a student I’ll call Gus, who wasn’t very conspicuous. He sat in the back of the classroom, did his work, and was mostly quiet. One day, towards the end of the semester, a stinky smoke bomb was lit near my classroom. No one had any information about who did it. Soon after, I saw a flicker of light coming from the back of my room. I tried to ignore it, but then I realized it was a flame. I walked over and saw Gus flicking a lighter. He did not stop when I approached him. I told him to give me the lighter. He asked when he would get it back. I said never. He was mad. I wrote him up. Nothing happened.

Naturally, after this incident, I was wary of Gus. He started to display some rather strange behavior. He wrote very bizarre essays that had nothing to do with the assigned topic. He thought his essays were hilarious and he began to fail the class because of this. I took Gus aside and explained that if he did this type of writing on his final exam, he would undoubtedly fail. He shrugged his shoulders. I contacted the school psychologist. Nothing happened.

During his final exam, Gus laughed hysterically as he wrote his essay, and I knew what was coming. His paper included the following lines (keep in mind that this essay was supposed to be about the nature of success):

“I kill people all the time. Out on the street, I see an enemy torturing a poor child with a stun gun, so I shoot him in the head. Another example of when I killed a man was just last week as I was walking home from the psycho ward. After finally being released, I began running in the middle of the road drinking beer and shooting my shotgun at people. I then stopped to admire the police as they shot a man for armed robbery.”

He handed this in with plenty of time to spare and sat at his desk with a huge smile on his face. I read his essay in horror. The essay prompt asked the students to form an argument based on non-fiction articles from the test itself. Nowhere did it say to include personal, fictional, and/or psychotic examples. I took Gus into the hallway.

Parent asking a teacher if she could have planned her maternity leave during summer.

Here is what transpired:

ME: Gus, I am very worried about you. Are you aware that if you hand this in, you will get a zero?

GUS: Yes.

ME: Okay, then why did you write it?

GUS: Because it’s hilarious.

ME: You should sit down and write another essay. You still have time.

GUS: No. I like this essay.

ME: Okay, as long as you’re aware that you will fail. You did not address the prompt at all. I’m not even the one who will grade it, and the teachers who do will be using a very specific rubric. If you don’t attempt to answer the question, you will get a zero.

GUS: (Laughing) Okay.

A few days later, we all had to evacuate the building and stand in the snow for over an hour because someone had set the boy’s bathroom on fire. There was no footage of who set the fire from the security cameras because there was too much smoke, and there weren’t any witnesses. But an administrator remembered my write-up about a boy playing with a lighter and had the wisdom to call him into her office. He immediately admitted that he had set the fire. In fact, he was quite proud of it.

When asked for an explanation, he said, “I just really like to light stuff on fire. I like to watch things burn.” It was clear that we needed to call Gus’s parents in for a meeting about their son’s psychological issues. But first, Gus needed to be arrested.

Ah Yes, Blame the Teacher

The cops went to Gus’s house and arrested him. He spent the night in jail.

His parents came in for a meeting with the school administrators and psychologists a few days later. You would think they would be disturbed by their son’s behavior and concerned with his psychological well-being, right? Well, what Gus’s parents were more concerned with was his failing grade on his English final. According to them, Gus had always been insecure about his writing, and he came home very excited after the exam. He said that I read his essay and told him it was a real winner and that he would definitely receive an A. Then when he found out that he failed, he felt betrayed, and his self-esteem suffered.

According to them, this is why he set the school on fire.

Believe it or not, we actually had to take this seriously. In any other real-world setting, anyone would ask these parents, “Are you freaking kidding me? Your kid set the school on fire because of low self-esteem? Get the heck outta here!” But we have to be professional and civil. So it was explained to Gus’s parents that Gus’s version of the story was false. He was told that he would fail with the essay he had written and was even given a chance to rewrite it. They didn’t believe us; they chose instead to believe their arsonist son. 

Parent yelling at teacher that their child was gifted until they took her class.

Are Teachers To Blame For Students’ Failure?

Gus’s parents requested to see a copy of Gus’s essay with the grading rubric. Another conference was scheduled specifically for this reason. His parents argued that the essay deserved at least a B, according to the rubric we used. They did not mention the fire Gus had set or the violent and disturbing nature of the essay he wrote.

According to them, Gus earned at least a B on his English final. They refused to discuss the arson until this was attended to. We all held fast to the grade the essay had originally received and tried to get them to focus on the fire. We even showed them pictures of the damage Gus had caused. They tried to ignore us and said they would be going to the school board with their grade change request. We explained that Gus was about to be expelled from school for arson. They responded that they were getting a lawyer to fight that, too, since it was our (my) fault (you know, the whole low self-esteem thing).

Address Behavioral Issues? How About We Lawyer Up Instead!

Next, I received an email from a “pupil personnel worker” stating that Gus’s parents informed her that I agreed to change his exam grade to an A and asked if could I confirm this. The head of my department sent back a copy of his exam with the rubric and a detailed report about why he failed.

When this woman informed his parents that his grade would remain an F, they got a lawyer. The lawyer tried to fight his expulsion before the official hearing, along with the grade change. When they saw the fight wasn’t going anywhere, they withdrew him from school before he could be expelled and enrolled him in an alternative school. This enabled them to reenroll him the following semester at our school as though nothing had happened. 

The next semester when I got my class roster I was shocked to see Gus’s name on it. That’s right! Gus was allowed back to school and was in my class again. I was expected to teach Gus as though nothing had happened. There is a lot more to the story (including the fact that Gus never got in trouble for the whole fire thing and was very obviously on drugs), but I think you get the overall insane picture. 

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Parents Blame Teachers for Everything

I asked a group of elementary, middle, and high school teachers to describe an incident where they were blamed by a parent for something that couldn’t possibly have been their fault. There were quite a few responses. Here are the most interesting ones:

  • “Parents threatened to have an arrest warrant for forgery because there was no way their kid had forged a signature on a test grade. It had to be me because their kid didn’t do such things.”
  • “A parent accused me of making her son autistic.”
  • “I caused psychological damage by marking a student tardy whenever they were tardy.”
  • “A parent said it was my fault for being called the C word by their kid.”
  • “Apparently a child was gifted until they were in my class.”
  • “I was blamed for their child not doing homework. They said it was my job to get them to do their homework.”
  • “An 8th grader peed in her pants because I didn’t ask her if she needed to use the restroom.”
  • “It was my fault they couldn’t check their child’s grades. They suggested I send them via certified mail every week because the parent couldn’t be bothered to log in to the portal.”
  • “I ruined a student’s life by entering zeros into the grade book for missed work.”
  • “I’ve ended countless professional soccer careers.”
  • “A kid stomped on my foot so hard he cracked my toenail, but it was my fault since I set him off by asking him to line up. I should’ve known he was an ‘independent thinker’ and doesn’t respond well to being ‘bossed around.’ The principal sided with the parent.” 
  • “I was told that I had no idea how much my upcoming maternity leave would impact their child’s education! Couldn’t I have planned this for the summer?”
  • “A student left his winter gloves at home, so I offered him mine. He wouldn’t take them and his hands were cold, and mom said I should have driven to their house to get them for him.”
  • “I was told I was responsible for the parents’ divorce.”
  • “I was accused of trying to make students be critical thinkers and according to this parent, ‘not all children can think!'”
  • “A middle school student was picking fights on his walk home from school and telling mom he was being picked on. Mom blamed me, saying if I would just walk him home from school every day, it would never happen.”
  • “You assigning work to my daughter gives her anxiety. Teachers like you are why kids commit suicide.”
  • “A parent accused me of taking lice from a child and putting it on her child. No other child or staff member had lice!”
  • “I got blamed for there being a glare from the sun on my smart board. Mom asked me to move the sun.”
Parent accusing a teacher of making her son autistic.

Share Your Teachers Being Blamed Stories!

Do you have any interesting stories of when parents blame teachers for anything and everything? If so, I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below or if you prefer to remain anonymous, send me a Teacher Secret!

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Jane Morris

Jane Morris is the pen name of an ex-teacher who would really like to tell you more about herself but is worried awful administrators will come after her for spilling their dirty little secrets. Jane has taught English for over 15 years in a major American city. She received her B.A. in English and Secondary Education from a well-known university and her M.A. in Writing and Literature from an even fancier (and more expensive) university. As a professional queen of commiseration turned published author, Jane’s foremost passion in life is to make people laugh through the tears.

She has written several highly acclaimed books unpacking the reality of teaching and life inside the school system. You can view her full library of works here.