It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! We are three weeks into school and things are going badly. What to do?

We talk about the Toolbox on Tuesdays here at the Daily Dawg. The Toolbox is a one-day training program for campus administrators and special education staff. In the Toolbox training, we identify and practice using 10 “tools” designed to help you maintain a safe campus while serving each student appropriately and in the least restrictive environment.

So now that we are three to four weeks into the year, we are guessing that some of you are encountering problems. That new kid is not fitting in as we expected her to. The IEP for that boy may not be the right one. Here’s a student with a BIP that doesn’t seem to be working: he’s a “frequent flyer” in the principal’s office. What to do?

Serving students with disabilities is like Life Its Ownself—a certain amount of failure is to be expected. Neither the law, nor the hearing officers or the judges expect that every IEP goal will be achieved and every student will steadily progress. Bumps in the road are to be expected. When you acknowledge that things are not going well, you are not exposing your school district to legal liability. Of course, we are referring to situations where you promptly acknowledge that things are not going well.

We are required to make periodic reports to parents on the student’s progress. This provides regular opportunities to assess the situation and report truthfully. If things are not going well, the school should say so, and proceed to develop a new plan. Legal problems arise when the school does not notice that the student is failing, or refuses to acknowledge it.

There are tools in the Toolbox designed to address a student’s lack of progress. Of course the most important tool in the Toolbox is Tool #1—a Behavior Plan. So the first thing to do if the student’s behavior is not improving is to take a look at the BIP and make appropriate adjustments. If the behavior is deteriorating, then obviously, the BIP is not working as well as we would like.

We also talk about tools that involve changing the student’s placement. If this involves moving the student to an MRE—a More Restrictive Environment—then it is inherently an admission of failure by the school. We are encouraged to serve the student in the LRE. So a proposal by the school to move the student to an MRE is an admission of failure. And that’s OK—again, as long as it is done promptly and with a clear plan for improving the situation.

If you are interested in Toolbox training, let me know. I’m at