Creating systems and structures that provide a framework for working with parents and caregivers adds flesh to our message that “We can’t do it without you.” Fostering broader community connections and networks further reinforces parents’ and caregivers’ capacity to promote and reinforce a safe and inclusive school culture.
Parents’ and caregivers’ interest and motivation to become involved in efforts to promote equity and inclusion and prevent bullying are more likely to bear fruit when they can step into a clear and functioning structure. Permanent anti-bullying groups or committees – such as a safe school committee, or an accessibility committee – comprised of staff, parents, caregivers and (when appropriate) students, can provide a venue where parents and caregivers can build their capacity in a supportive environment.
Clear structures can facilitate and encourage involvement, sending the message that involvement of parents and caregivers is the norm in a school. At the same time, it is important that structures remain responsive and flexible. Rigidity and formality can discourage emerging interests and leadership.
Schools can be the hub of a community, drawing in parents and caregivers who have an automatic sense of connection due to their children’s involvement. Opening school spaces for community use can build a sense of cohesion and connectedness.
When schools are part of local associations or neighbourhood capacity-building groups, they join with the larger community to create solutions, to explore ways of addressing difficult issues as a collective. Such committees often address concerns that are shared by many parents and caregivers, such as drugs and street crime. Fostering parents’ and caregivers’ participation in larger provincial or special interest organizations can help to build their capacity to contribute to systemic change. Marginalized parents and caregivers will find support, insight and validation of their own experiences, building their capacity to work for change within their children’s school.
Examples of ways that schools can foster the development of networks among parents and caregivers are the following:
- Provide parents and caregivers with information about ministry mandated structures such as PICs (Parental Involvement Committees) and encourage their involvement.
- Inform parents and caregivers about larger special interest organizations or provincial associations of parents and caregivers and encourage them to initiate and maintain connections (for example, People for Education, Rainbow Health Coalition).
- Encourage connections between local school activities and larger provincial movements and networks.