From Chris' comment on Nicey-Nice:
I think it's a kind of prisoners' dilemma. If everyone spoke up, the resulting debate would have to be beneficial for the schools. But if you think you're going to be the only one who speaks up, the potential downside seems much more prominent than the upside. People are rationally reluctant to do anything that might offend the people who take care of their kids all day long.
Chris, I don't think it's a rational decision at all. I think it's cultural. I live in a high-achieving, well-behaved type of suburb where people send their kids off to school with the basic assumption that the schools will do a reasonably good job and all the parents need to do is support the school's efforts. Even I felt this way when Older Daughter started school!
On top of that, the school itself is constantly sending the message that parents will be judged, and parents don't want to be judged harshly. Parents regress back to their own childhood when dealing with school personnel. What I see among Moms in my neighborhood is a residual good-girlism, no doubt left over from their own school days. Perhaps I'm fortunate that I wasn't a good girl as a child, and it didn't take much for me to get over the desire to be approved of by teachers and administrators.
Parents are constantly excusing the school's behavior, and trying to distance themselves from those other bad parents. I had a typical discussion just this morning with a neighbor. The background is that she's applying to get her son into the gifted program, and met with a lot of hostility from the same psychologist who was nasty to me.
Neighbor: "I understand, I'm sure they get lots of pushy, obnoxious parents."
Me: "Maybe they do, but they should still assume the best of each parent they meet. They shouldn't start with the attitude that you're unreasonable. Don't we try to do the same for them?"