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Do I have to attend Parent Organization meetings?

Q: My principal wants every teacher to join the Parent Teacher Organization and come to meetings. I am taking graduate courses and can't attend PTO meetings in the evening. What can I do?

A: I suggest that you consult your local Uniserv Director. The two of you will go over your teaching contract and school calendar to determine whether you are contracted to attend specific events sponsored by the school board. For example, "Back to School" or "Parent Teacher Conference" functions may be sponsored by the school board and coincide with meetings of the PTO. You must carry out or be excused from contractual obligations and should make arrangements to be at school for official school board events.

But your teaching contract should not require you to belong to or attend meetings of a private membership organization like the PTO. Your principal should not interfere with your First Amendment right to free association - by making you join the PTO or the VEA. (VEA and the Virginia PTO are often allied and work together. But VEA will protect your right to decide whether or not to join and attend meetings.)

Be careful to let your Uniserv Director know exactly what your principal said. Did the principal encourage membership and urge teachers to participate in PTO functions? Or did the principal go farther, directing teachers to join, taking faculty attendance at meetings, or evaluating teachers on their PTO participation? You and your Uniserv Director will consider whether the principal crossed the line between encouragement and requirement, and whether to grieve, document the issue, or make some other response. If necessary you can request legal assistance from VEA.

I am glad that you exercised your right to be a member of the Virginia Education Association and consulted us about PTO meetings. Good luck with your graduate courses and your teaching.


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