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For PTA Leaders

Here are some questions that came up at a recent meeting. If you have questions you’d like answered please contact us at

There is a person who comes to our PTA meetings and wants to talk about what the PTA should do. This person is not a member of our PTA and won’t join.


I am sorry to report this person does not have a right to speak at your meeting. They also do not have the right to vote. Per your bylaws: Article VII ***SECTION 6.: The privilege of making motions, debating and voting shall be limited to members of the association who are present and whose dues are paid and who have been members of the association for at least the previous thirty (30) days. Additionally the California State PTA Toolkit, page 37, Section 2.1.5 Conducting PTA Meetings states “When conducting business at the meeting, be aware of which individuals are voting members. The privilege of making motions, debating, and voting is limited to qualified members. Only qualified voting members count toward the quorum. It is the responsibility of the secretary to have an updated membership list.” You should encourage parents, teachers and community members to become part of your PTA and inviting them to the meetings is one way to do outreach. But if they do not join, they can’t speak at the meetings.


We have a member who says bad things about our PTA board. They don’t know us, are new to the school but still think it is okay to pick on everything we do. Help!

Difficult people come in all shapes and sizes but can easily be identified by their reactive nature. The following definitions are from psychologist Robert M. Bramson’s Coping with Difficult People.

  • Hostile-aggressives: These are bullies who use verbal aggression. Varieties include the Sherman Tank who rolls over people to make a point, the Sniper who uses calculated digs and unfunny teasing, and the Exploder who uses uncontrolled outbursts (temper tantrums) to get his or her way, or at least, to communicate unhappiness with a situation.

  • Complainers: They constantly complain but don’t do anything to solve the problem, claiming, “It’s not my responsibility/fault.”

  • Clams: They’re silent and unresponsive or use short replies like “yes,” “no” and “if you say so.”

  • Super-agreeables: They agree with everyone about everything just to be liked. They’re not so dependable when the going gets tough.

  • Negativists: They have a limited vocabulary: “We tried that before and it didn’t work.”

  • Know-it-alls: They know more than you do and want you to acknowledge it. Two varieties include the

  • Bulldozer: a genuine expert who doesn’t like to see his or her plan thwarted; and Balloons, bogus experts who may know something about the matter in question but won’t listen to others about anything.

  • Indecisives: They won’t make a decision unless they feel 100 percent right (a rarity for anyone). They prefer to wait for the decision to be made for them, or for the situation to disappear.

There are ways to deal with difficult people. Following these basic principles will help in these situations:

  • When confronted by one who is responding emotionally (and calling it logic), ask for time to stop and think. This pause gives you time to think and often has a calming effect on the screaming offender.

  • Listen to your heart. If your heart rate is up, you risk replacing your cool logic with a heated rejoinder.

  • Hold your immediate response. Your first impulse is to answer the person in kind. Don’t do it.

  • Consider your strategy. Let him or her jump to conclusions as you keep control of yourself. Ask yourself, “What do I want to happen?” Base your actions on your goal.

  • When people are yelling, don’t do anything until you get them to stop. If they won’t stop yelling because you asked them to, ask them if they will run that by you, “a bit more slowly this time.” Have you ever tried to yell slowly?

  • Remember that explaining your point of view will not help. First find out what the other person wants. Then work from there to find a suitable alternative. Let the other person know you hear what is being said. Restate the problem. This will clarify the problem for both of you and let the person know you think he or she is worth listening to.

  • Ask, “What would you like me to do?” Listen to the answer and state it back to make sure you got it right.

  • State what you want. Come to an agreement. Get verbal acknowledgment of what you both have agreed to do. Make sure you both know what’s expected.

  • Let the other person have the last word, if possible. A parting shot will undo all that’s been accomplished. Having the last word is an aggressive act.

Adapted from a National PTA Multi-State Conference
Sources: Problem Bosses: Who They Are and How to Deal with Them, Mardy Grothe (Facts on File Publishing, 1986); Coping with Difficult People, Robert M. Bramson (Anchor Press/Doubleday 1981); Dinosaur Brains, Albert Bernstein and Sidney Craft Rozen; “Working with Jerks,” Training Magazine (Maya 1987).


Candidates up for election and parties supporting particular ballot initiatives have approached us asking to speak at our next PTA Meeting. What should we do?

Any use of the California State PTA name for legislative or electoral activity requires prior authorization from the California State PTA. No activity engaged in by any unit, council, or district PTAs should suggest or imply the support of the National PTA or California State PTA.

One of the Purposes of the PTA is “to secure adequate laws for the care and protection of children and youth.” It is by educating its members – and through them, the general public – on the impact of issues affecting children and youth, that PTAs can best influence the course of action of those who make policy decisions, thereby achieving the Purposes of the PTA.

PTA units may be involved in legislative activities:

  • By supporting or opposing local issues that affect children or services to children in their respective communities; and

  • Unit, council and district PTAs are encouraged to promote adopted California State PTA positions and may be requested to actively support them.

While unit, council and district PTAs are not required to work actively for any position, they should not officially oppose a stand taken by the State Board of Managers.

  • Unit, council, and district PTAs need not vote to affirm a California State PTA position in order to take action.

  • Expressed membership disapproval of a position on legislation should be communicated to the California State PTA Board of Managers through regular channels, with a report of the extent of – and reasons for the disapproval.


To retain tax-exempt status and continue to receive tax-deductible contributions, those PTAs that are recognized as being tax exempt under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 501(c)(3) may not (1) devote more than an insubstantial part of their activities to influence legislation (generally interpreted as not exceeding five percent of total expenditures); (2) participate in any political campaign on behalf of or in opposition to a candidate for national, state, or local public office.

A unit’s failure to comply with these restrictions may endanger council, district, State and National PTAs IRC 501(c)(3) status.

Legislative activities must not exceed the limitations placed upon the California State PTA and its units under the federal tax laws. In order to ensure that the limitations are not exceeded, records should be kept with respect to the amount of time, money, and volunteer activity such efforts involve.

PTA must never support or oppose political parties or candidates, including those running for school boards on nonpartisan slates. However, PTA may adopt a position expressing its support for or opposition to issues dealing with the health, safety, education, or general well-being of children and youth, but only to the extent permissible with respect to the requirements of each PTA’s tax-exempt status. Nothing in the law or in PTA bylaws prohibits members as individuals from exercising their civic responsibilities in personal and partisan ways, including running for offices themselves.


PTA members are often the individuals with the most knowledge and awareness of their communities’ needs. Their community activities qualify them to take leadership roles in election campaigns. However, PTA leaders who are considering taking a leadership role on behalf of a candidate are strongly urged to avoid even the appearance that their private activities have, in any way, the endorsement, approval, or support of PTA. Discretion must be used by the current PTA president, because he/she is the official spokesperson for the PTA organization.

Activities on behalf of any candidate must be conducted separately and apart from any activities of the PTA organization. A current PTA officer/ board member may not use his/her title or the name of the PTA to endorse a candidate even for purposes of identification in any print, electronic, or website candidate literature (e.g., campaign mailer, ballot measure, candidate stationary).

Although federal election regulations do not prohibit the use of organizational affiliation for identification purposes, the California State PTA sets a standard which is higher than law. Failure to comply may result in a violation of California State PTA policy.

For the purpose of this policy, all elections involving candidates are defined as partisan elections, even those for “nonpartisan” offices such as school board or city council.


During the course of a campaign, candidates for public office do not discuss political or legislative matters at PTA meetings unless appearing at a candidates’ forum where all candidates for designated offices have been invited to speak. The invitations must be sent to all candidates and must be sent by certified mail with return receipt requested.

PTAs may conduct candidates’ forums alone or as part of a coalition with other nonpartisan groups. All candidates for a specific office must be invited to present their views. Whether or not a candidate chooses to appear is the decision of each candidate. A nonpartisan moderator should be in charge of the meeting, and fair procedures must be established and agreed to in advance. Similar procedures should be followed for an issues forum. (Candidates’ Forum 4.3.2, 127)


The California State PTA recognizes the fact that the experience and interest gained by its members through participation in PTA activities make them particularly qualified to serve the community as elected officials.

PTA officers and those members who are likely to be recognized locally as being active PTA spokesmen or leaders, and who choose to enter the political or legislative arenas in their private (i.e., non-PTA) capacities are strongly urged to avoid even the appearance that their private activities have, in any way, the endorsement, approval, or support of the PTA.

PTA leaders who consider public office while they serve as PTA spokesmen are urged to weigh the impact their candidacy, appointment, or election could have on PTA’s tax-exempt status.

Members who choose to seek public office may neither request nor receive PTA endorsement at any time, but may list their PTA service as part of their qualifications.

Neither government regulations nor PTA policy prohibit unit, council, district or State PTA officers and other leaders from serving on commissions or other boards active in areas of concern to the PTA provided that such membership is not designed to support partisan (i.e., any political party or any candidate) interests.




The California State PTA recognizes the fact that the experiences and interest gained by its members through participation in PTA activities make them particularly qualified to serve the community as members of local school boards of education.


PTA officers may serve as members of school boards as long as they do not seek PTA endorsement to support their election. If a PTA officer runs for a school board, no endorsement by the PTA should be given or implied. The inclusion of a reference to PTA service or honors on a list of the candidate’s qualifications for office is not considered to be an exploitation of PTA membership.


Any activity in support of any specific candidate for a school board position on the part of any local parent-teacher unit, council, district, or state PTA branch is prohibited under the nonpartisan policy of the National PTA and the California State PTA.

Reprint from the California State PTA website:


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