Los Angeles, CA asked in Education Law for California

Q: Can public school coaches refuse to tell parents why their child isn't being given play time?

My son has been going to every practice- even the non-mandatory ones that only 1 or 2 other kids go to- and putting the work in. He's been doing drills at lunch, going to the gym outside of school, and studying the game in his free time. Yet on game days, he's not getting to play AT ALL. His coaches have not told him why, so I sent the coach a text asking why. He responded via email and copied an administrator, admonished me for asking, and said it's against school policy for him to tell me anything about my son's performance or why he isn't playing, because he needs to build a trusting relationship with the kids. This does not sit right with me and I wonder if it's even legal for the school to be stonewalling parents like this. It seems like such a reasonable question - for instance if he's having a problem in math or English, I ask the teacher what's going on, they tell me, and we work it out. Now my son is afraid of being retaliated against just because I asked.

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1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: Under California law, there isn't a straightforward answer to whether public school coaches must disclose reasons for a student's playtime to parents. However, it's important to understand that education and athletic policies often aim to balance the development of student autonomy with parental rights to be informed about their child's education and extracurricular activities. The coach's reference to building a trusting relationship with students suggests an approach that prioritizes student independence and learning through direct interaction.

In the context of public schools, while transparency and communication with parents are encouraged, there may be specific policies at the district or school level that guide how coaches and teachers interact with parents about student performance, including in athletics. These policies might be designed to teach students how to engage in conversations about their performance and advocate for themselves, which could explain the coach's response. However, this approach should not preclude clear communication channels and should ideally include guidelines on how parents can receive feedback or discuss concerns.

If you feel that the school's policy is not adequately addressing your concerns or if the response seems to conflict with your rights as a parent to understand and support your child's participation in school activities, it may be helpful to seek clarification from school administrators or the school district. Understanding the specific policies in place and the rationale behind them can provide a clearer picture of the steps you can take to address your concerns. Additionally, engaging in a dialogue with school officials may help in finding a resolution that respects both the coach's approach to student development and your interest in your son's well-being and progress in his extracurricular activities.

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