Mine was a simple error - students fill out an annual free lunch application form in order to be guaranteed food at our school while we also benefit quite a lot by getting extra funding for other programs. I'm not certain of the specifics but overall it can be a win-win. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to get students to complete the form and bring it in.
This year I noticed that any student who lived in a house that qualified for food stamps or other support did not warrant getting or filling out one of these forms. Instead, they were automatically enrolled.
With the exception of one new student - and this is where my mistake came in.
I have never received formal training on how to analyze and ensure that these forms are correctly filled out. I assumed that they were complete when the "gross income" line was input because that is what I had seen previously. In the case of one girl, it was not filled in and I asked her to bring it back home.
That weekend her mother was furious and called a colleague in order to complain about this error. Since her family qualified for food stamps, she did not have to fill in that line, instead writing in a specific coded number that allowed the form to be considered complete. The student brought the form in yesterday and we politely accepted it and apologized profusely for the mistake. Having a stigma is not what I want for my students so I was very apologetic on a voicemail message to the mother as well.
I think it is important that teachers receive all the training they need and recognize that we will not remember everything. Now I have learned more about this form and I will likely keep a closer eye to a variety of other forms as well. I hope this will encourage other teachers and administrators to ensure that everyone knows what the correct policies are in each new year. We don't want any angry parents on our case!