Black Single Mothers: Do Not Meet With School Officials Alone.

Dr. Chris Stroble / Published on April 12, 2024

A few months ago, I requested a parent-teacher conference with my son's virtual math teacher. I was told that the counselor and the assistant principal, who I know and who is a Black woman like me, would be there.

When I arrived at the conference, the Black assistant principal was not there. Instead, there was the white teacher, her boss, another school official, the school counselor, and another assistant principal. All white. Three white women and two white men against me--a Black single mother.

Did I feel Alone? Vulnerable? Like a David up against a Goliath? Absolutely. I came off as the angry Black woman, and I was.  

During the conference, I expressed what was going on with my son and not one school official empathized with me. Not one mother or father in that conference empathized with me as a mother. 

The lesson I learned - never meet with school officials alone. I followed up with an email pointing to their lack of empathy, copied the principal, and advised that if I met with them again, I would have a male present.

What I am telling you.

Do not meet with school officials alone. Bring someone with you. I am a Ph.D., former English teacher/college professor telling you this. Here are three reasons why:

1.           Schools are set up on a middle-class value system - a two-parent household, mom and dad, parents with some college education, etc. If you are a working class Black single mother with no father present, they tend to see you as the problem and are less inclined to empathize with you. 

2.           Ninety-nine percent of the time, the administration will support the teacher. Even if the teacher has not made the wisest decision, they will support the teacher. (I'm a former teacher. I know what I'm talking about). If you are alone, you will feel frustrated.

3.           School officials will rarely offer a compromise. They don't want to concede to any appearance that they were wrong. You will feel even more frustrated. 

What can you do?

Find someone to go with you for emotional support. A relative or friend. Someone you respect and trust. Someone you know will have your back. Talk with this person before the meeting. Have a note card with talking points and your desired outcome. Have 1-2 compromises for when your initial request is denied. The person with you should be supportive. He or she should not disagree with you in their presence at the meeting. Present a united front at the meeting.

If possible, have a male with you. A male presence is important. This is why it is important for fathers to develop a co-parenting relationship with the mother of their child. As a father, you never want to put your child's mother in the vulnerable position of having to meet with school officials about your child alone.

Again, as a Black single mother, do not meet with school officials alone. Have someone with you, preferably a male, and know what you want to get out of the meeting. Be prepared for resistance. Come prepared with 1-2 compromises. It is important to have someone to support you as you advocate for your child.

In your corner,

Dr. Chris