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Can a representative attend my meeting with the principal?


Q: My principal is not happy with my work. I was forced to sit through a meeting so the principal and another school administrator could tell me all the things I am doing wrong. I don't think it was fair to have two against one. Don't I have the right to bring someone with me to be on my side?

A: In general, employees do not have a right to bring a representative to work meetings. Virginia law provides for representation at meetings during Step 2 and beyond of the teacher grievance procedure, and when a teacher meets with the Superintendent or designee regarding a recommendation not to renew the teacher's contract. These are meetings initiated by the teacher under specific state laws.

School employees have statutory or constitutional rights to legal representation in meetings with social workers investigating charges the employee abused a student, or if law enforcement officials investigate a crime.

Even though you have no right to representation, you can ask that someone be allowed to come with you to take notes and help you remember what happens at the meeting. If your request is denied, the colleague should leave or wait outside the office.

If you attend without support, concentrate on taking notes. Allow the administrator to speak rather than trying to respond or argue. Treat the meeting as one in which administrators give their version of events, not a "trial" you argue to win. You can respond in writing or arrange a separate meeting to present your side. If administrators ask you to answer questions, explain that you need time to prepare and will answer later. If necessary, you can ask to be excused if you are not able to continue.

Then use your notes to draft a description of the meeting. Include specifics like how much notice you had to come to the meeting, that you asked for a representative or colleague to sit in, and if you felt the tone was loud, hostile, or intimidating. Summarize any disagreements about the facts or sequence of events and prepare your version of those events. Then consult your VEA/NEA UniServ Director (UD). Your UD will help you decide whether to respond in writing, request another meeting, or perhaps file a grievance which will give you right to representation at further meetings. 

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