Tuesday, August 30, 2011

New school year = New teachers to confuse

Ahh, a new school year.  It's one of the most joyous times of the year, right?  New books to read from, new subjects to explore, new friends to make.......

And new teachers to terrorize.

See, when you're a Step/Mom, it's a bit more complicated than just signing the kids up for school.  Even if you don't tell the teacher on Day 1, eventually, you have to explain.  Or look like a Teen Mom extra.  Explaining is preferable.

If it's a new school, they have to be provided with the All Important Court Order.  When you're custodial like us, this brings in a whole new level of confusion, because the school will often scratch its collective head when they see the rarity - "A Dad with custody?" they ask.  It's not that dads are incapable of being custodial parents, of course, but it's the simple fact that most courts still make Mom the Custodial/Domiciliary Parent.

So first you have to explain that yes, Dad really does have custody, and no, Mom does not have the right to call the school or come by the school.  Yes, it's in the court order.  No, it doesn't matter that she's still on the birth certificate.

Then, it needs to be clarified for the school and the teachers that while I am not technically Mom, I am called Mom, I look like a Mom, I act like a Mom, so therefore, it's just easiest to call me Mom.  After all, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet, right?  In fact, oh School and Teachers, I know way more about these little belles than bio-Mom ever could possibly comprehend.  In fact, I am probably the person you want to become friends with since I have a knack for detail and documentation when it comes to these kiddos, so really, I am the person you want to get to know.

And yes, School, you do have to honor the Power of Attorney my husband has signed on my behalf, just like the doctors' offices and religious education offices have to.

In fact, did you know that custodial stepparents even have rights under FERPA?

"Accordingly, a stepparent has rights under FERPA where the stepparent is present on a day-to-day basis with the natural parent and child and the other parent is absent from that home. In such cases, stepparents have the same rights under FERPA as do natural parents."
- Letter to Parent re: Disclosure of Education Records to Stepparents

So I truly do apologize for the confusion, Mr. Principal and Mr. Teacher.  I'm also very sorry if I tend to spout out case law and Department of Education policies in order to assure you of me and my husband's rights.  I'm just a wee bit annoying like that.  

But, look at it this way - you may have to deal with me, but I have to live it!  So take heart: you could be  a Step/Mom and be in a constant state of explanation.  :)