Knowing your family’s rights helps to protect them

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission Consultant, Kathleen Fay

Family Engagement September 2022 Banner

Decades of research back up what we know and value: Family involvement is the real key to our kids’ success. California State PTA wants to make sure you know your family’s rights. 

At a minimum, schooling is a government service children are entitled to and a legal obligation for every family. At the optimum, schooling is a partnership, with educators and families working together to motivate students to learn and succeed. That’s where PTAs come in. Our collective commitment to family school partnerships, and our experience, can make the difference in how well families and schools work together.

That’s why it’s helpful for PTA leaders to know something about what California law sets up as expectations for how schools and families ought to partner effectively. The start of school is a great time for everyone to review those rules and renew their commitment to working together for kids.

To realize the many benefits of effective family-school partnerships, schools must embrace families as equal partners and recognize that parents and adult caregivers are experts on their children and communities. Outlined here are some fundamental rights that adult caregivers have in California to ensure no parent is left behind.

Parents’ rights

California law acknowledges and protects the rights of parents (family members, adult caregivers) to participate in their children’s education. The California State Legislature declared that “all participants in the education process benefit when schools genuinely welcome, encourage and guide families into establishing equal partnerships with schools to support pupil learning.”

These rights are spelled out in Education Code sections 51100-51102; parents/guardians have the right to…

  • meet with their child’s teacher(s) or principal,
  • volunteer at the school/classroom [Note: conditions may be impacted by the pandemic],
  • be notified of student absences,
  • receive their child’s standardized test results,
  • have a safe environment for their child that is supportive of learning,
  • examine curriculum materials,
  • be informed of their child’s progress,
  • have access to the school records of their child and question their accuracy,
  • receive information concerning the academic performance standards, proficiencies, or skills their child is expected to accomplish,
  • be informed in advance about school rules, including disciplinary rules and procedures, attendance policies, dress codes, and procedures for visiting the school,
  • receive information about psychological testing and deny permission for testing,
  • participate in parent advisory committees, school site councils, or site-based management leadership teams,
  • be informed of the appropriate school personnel to contact if problems arise, and
  • observe classrooms in which their child is enrolled or, for school selection or transfer purposes, to request a particular school for their child and receive a response from the school district.

Time off for parents to engage in kids’ schools

The Family-School Partnership Act encourages parents and caregivers to get involved in children’s school activities by providing rights to time off work. If you work in a business with 25 employees or more at the same location, you have the legal right to request and take off up to 40 hours per year to participate in school- or preschool-sponsored activities like classroom volunteering, back-to-school events, and field trips. Hours off are provided through vacation usage, personal leave, compensated time off, or unpaid time.

The public has a role in local funding decisions

Your school district’s Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) outlines goals, action plans, and resources to improve student outcomes. The LCAP must specifically address the needs of low performing student groups as well as those of English language learners, students in poverty, and foster youth. Overall, it identifies a school district’s priorities as evidenced through funding for those priorities.

The LCAP is reviewed and updated each year – a process that necessitates transparency and collaboration with the community. Local stakeholders (including students, parents, teachers, principals, administrators, school personnel, and bargaining units) possess valuable perspectives and insights about school district programs and services. Effective district planning will incorporate these perspectives and insights to identify potential goals and actions to be included in the LCAP. In addition to consultations with stakeholders and advisory committees, districts must give members of the public the opportunity to submit written comments, and to conduct both a public hearing for input and a public meeting for adoption of their LCAP.

Building Relationships Starts With Trust

by California State PTA Family Engagement Commission

Relationships are at the core of high-quality family engagement. As a PTA leader, you must take the time to build trusting, authentic relationships with families on your campus before they buy into attending your events, participating in your PTA meetings, or serving on your PTA board. The PTA National Standard for Family-School Partnerships begin with “Welcoming All Families” and “Communicating Effectively” for a reason it is where our work begins. 

Eyal Bergman, a Harvard doctoral candidate who worked with Dr. Karen Mapp, created a relational trust matrix to help us as we embark on this work. He describes four key elements of relational trust: respect, competence, integrity, and personal regard. While this list was originally intended for educators, we think there are some great lessons for PTA leaders.  As your PTA embarks on its family engagement work to help ensure that everyone feels included and welcomed on your school campuses, you will do well to understand these four elements.

Respect:  “Am I seeking input and listening carefully to what ALL families have to say?”  

As PTA leaders we need to not only seek out all families but also listen to what they are telling us. We need to remember that not all communication is verbal and that not everyone speaks the same language. Offering multiple opportunities and modes for feedback and input can go a long way to helping everyone feel that their opinion is valued.

Competence:  “Am I demonstrating to families that I am competent AND that I am honoring their roles as good caretakers?” Cultural competency is something that PTA leaders constantly need to work on. In many ways, it is easier to understand people from within our own culture, but understanding other cultures takes time and practice. We all parent differently, but we all love our children and want the best for them. Our common denominator of wanting what’s best for our children should help unite us and help as we build cultural competence over time.  

Integrity:  “Do I keep my word with families?”  Our PTA leaders need to make sure that we are being honest, open, and transparent with the families on our campuses. During the past few years, we have had to pivot our activities to comply with pandemic complications, but so long as we communicate those changes in a timely manner with our families they feel our integrity. As long as we keep the mission of the California State PTA (“To positively impact the lives of all children and families”) at the heart of all we do, our families can feel confident that they can trust us. 

Personal Regard:  “Do I show families that I value and care about them as people versus objects?”  The families on our campus are not fundraising machines or a number of tickets sold for an event they are parents, caregivers, siblings, and children who want to feel connected to the school.  As PTA leaders, we need to make sure that we think of them and treat them as such.  

The work to build relationships begins as soon as you step into your PTA role, and continues every day afterward!  Make sure you extend the invitation to all families to be a part of your PTA, to attend your family engagement events, to connect with your campus, and to join your PTA in the work you do on behalf of children and families.  

It is up to each of us to establish these relationships for the benefit of all of our children.

Congratulating 29 California PTA/PTSAs designated 2020-2022 Schools of Excellence

by Communications Commission

Congratulations to the twenty-nine California State PTA/PTSA units at schools throughout our state who were designated 2020-2022 National PTA Schools of Excellence in recognition of their commitment to building an inclusive and welcoming school community where all families contribute to enriching the educational experience and overall well-being for all students.  

Alderwood Elementary PTA Irvine 4th District PTA
Ardenwood Elementary Fremont Peralta District PTA
Arlington High PTSA Riverside 23rd District PTA
Avocado Elementary PTA La Mesa 9th District PTA
Baldy Mesa Elementary PTA Victorville 5th District PTA
Bella Vista PTA San Ramon 32nd District PTA
Chapman Hills PTA Orange 4th District PTA
Charles Evans Hughes PTA Long Beach 33rd District PTA
El Carmelo Elementary PTA Palo Alto 6th District PTA
Franklin Elementary PTA San Diego 9th District PTA
George Patton Elementary PTA Garden Grove 4th District PTA
George Washington PTA Riverside 23rd District PTA
Goleta Valley Junior High Goleta 15th District PTA
Joe Serna Jr. Charter School PTA Galt 3rd District PTA
Ladera Palma Elementary PTA La Habra 4th District PTA
Longden Avenue PTA Temple City 1st District PTA
Mabel Mattos Elementary PTA Milpitas 6th District PTA
Magnolia Elementary PTA Riverside 23rd District PTA
Marguerita Parent Teacher Association, Inc. Alhambra 1 District PTA
Palmer Way PTA National City 9th District PTA
Palos Verdes Peninsula High School PTSA Rancho Palos Verdes 33rd District PTA
Sherman PTA San Francisco 2nd District PTA
Stephen Foster Elementary PTA Lakewood 33rd District PTA
Studebaker Elementary PTA Norwalk 33rd District PTA
Tara Hills Elementary PTA SAN PABLO 32nd District PTA
Thomas Edison Elementary PTA Anaheim 4th District PTA
Tierra Bonita Elementary School Poway 9th District PTA
William F. Prisk Elementary PTA Long Beach 33rd District PTA
WJC Trapp Elementary PTA Rialto 5th District PTA


The National PTA School of Excellence recognition program supports partnerships between parents and school leaders. The goal is to open the lines of communication within school communities so they can think critically about student needs and make data-driven decisions that yield positive, long-term results. 

We are excited to acknowledge and celebrate the strong partnerships between local California PTA/PTSAs and schools that will enrich the educational experience and overall well-being of students in their school communities.

The enrollment period for the 2021-2022 National PTA School of Excellence program will be open until October 1, 2021.

Enrollment is now open for the coming school year. By enrolling in this program, your PTA and school administrators are making a year-long commitment to identifying and implementing an action plan for school improvement based on PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships and Transformative Family Engagement.

Once enrolled, local PTAs will gain access to free tools to run their School of Excellence program. Local PTAs are encouraged to enroll early to start building their Excellence Teams and to familiarize themselves with the steps in the program process. Learn more: