Are other parents with school-aged kids feeling the crush of back-to-school paperwork this year, or is it just me? That was the question on my mind last Thursday afternoon when I got an email asking me to fill out what seemed like the 50th (or was it the 60th) “form” I’ve had to fill out since the start of school. I put the question to Barb, a mother of two, ages 10 and 13, who was at the elementary school that day doing some volunteer work, like me. She said she was about to tear out her hair as well, and reminded me that even when we fill out all the forms we’re supposed to, on time, we often get repeats of those same forms sent home with our kids or included in a mass email, which play mind games with us and make us wonder if we ever did what we were supposed to do in the first place!
First, there are the official back-to-school forms that must be filled out for each child, every year: The Emergency Contact Form (Please fill out parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, other emergency contacts, birthdates– yes, even the parents’ birthdate, in case you write any hot checks– child’s name, grade… Have they ever attended school in this district before? If so, tell us which school, and never mind that you’ve had kids at this school for at least ten years…Are you divorced? If so, attach a copy of the divorce decree. Is your dirty rotten ex allowed to pick up your child from school?); The Technology Agreements (Do you give your child permission to use the Internet on school computers? If yes, does your child solemnly swear not to watch Fred videos on YouTube repeatedly or play Farmville?); the Release of Information Form (Do you give your permission to have your child’s image used in school district publications, even if they’re sticking out their tongue? Do you want your phone number and email listed in the school directory? Can we give your child’s contact info to colleges and universities? How about the military? Yes, we know your child may only be in kindergarten—but you still have to take the time to read the entire form and check the proper boxes…); the Health Form (Has your child ever suffered from the following 100 conditions? Will you please go get your insurance card out of your wallet and write down a bunch of information from it on this form?) and the Proof of Residency (please attach a copy of your latest utility bill showing your name and address, to prove that you are not trying to get your child into this school without currently living where everyone knows the Texas pledge of allegiance, votes Republican and thinks carrot cake is good…)
It wouldn’t be so bad if the form filling-out ended with these forms (although the health form alone took me almost 30 minutes per child!). But it doesn’t end there. A few days later, you receive the “I have received the district student/parent handbook” form for each child, and in the upper grades, the “I have read and understand the drug and alcohol policy” form. Sometimes each teacher has their own class conduct/expectations form, in addition, that needs to be read and signed by both parent and student. And, unless your child is in ZERO extracurricular activities, there are even more forms near the start of school for sports, band, choir, drill team, church youth, Scouts, etc. (and God help you if they’re involved in more than one). More emergency contact forms, health forms, field trip permission forms, conduct agreements, and will-you-be-a-parent-volunteer forms (I think they might get more volunteers if we didn’t have to fill out so many forms all at once… ). And get this—not only do a cascade of forms have to be filled out, they have to be filled out fast! In some classes, if you don’t, it affects a child’s grades– the child will get a zero for a homework assignment if the parent doesn’t fill it out by the deadline!
Excuse me?! I finished school 26 years ago. I have work piled on my desk, work that I get PAID to do, and three people in my house are under the weather from really bad colds, including myself, and my vegetarian teenager is angry because there’s nothing in the house at present for her to eat and I really do need to get to the grocery store and the dog needs walking and my foreign exchange student needs me to mail a package to her sister in time for her birthday…and a teacher is telling me I’d better fill out forms RIGHT NOW?? I’m sorry, but I can’t even find the forms, and even if I did, I think I’ve got writer’s cramp.