One of the trickiest things about creating change in schools is that it isn’t always clear who sets school policy. Policies can be determined at the federal or state level, either through legislation, legal cases, or guidelines set by the federal or state Departments of Education. Other policies are also set at the local level either through the school board or by the superintendent. And of course policies are implemented differently by teachers and school administrators. Student handbooks are a good place to find out your school’s policies and can also outline who is responsible for implementing those policies. Once you’ve figured out who the decision maker is for your particular issue, you can start letting them know your concerns.

During your negotiations with school administrators or board members, find out what they care about and what would make them support your goal. For example:

  • Does your principal care more about whether policies are easy for the teachers to implement or what parents will say?
  • Is your school board member up for re-election and are they concerned about getting the youth vote? Or maybe they feel secure in their seat and are willing to take on less popular legislation?
  • Is the school policy you are fighting was implemented by an unpopular administration and can you use that to increase your support among teachers and parents?