Toolbox Tuesday!! A cautionary tale…

The Toolbox is our firm’s day long training program regarding disciplinary options when dealing with students with disabilities who are disruptive or violent.  We spend a lot of time in the Toolbox Training on Tool #1—a BIP.  I often cite the Circuit Court decision that pointed out that there are no legal guidelines for the content of a BIP. Thus the court concluded that it was impossible to develop an “illegal” BIP. You can’t violate legal standards that don’t exist.  

However.  Court cases frequently include the dreaded “however.”  In this situation, the “however” is this:  if the school is sloppy or inaccurate in how it develops a BIP, a court may very well find a way to rule against the district. That’s what happened in Kentucky. 

The court held that the school denied FAPE by failing to conduct an FBA (Functional Behavioral Assessment) properly, thus leading the school to “blindly develop a behavior intervention plan” which failed to produce improved behavior in the student.  The court faulted the district for its imprecise and unmeasurable definitions of target behaviors, and for its faulty data collection methods. 

The school argued that it was not required to conduct a FBA, and so, any errors in the way it was done could not be legally significant. The court dismissed that argument, holding that once the district chose to do an FBA it had to do it properly.  Key Quote:

If Henry County Schools failed to either adequately define the behavior or fails to collect high-quality data, the FBA will be useless.  Here, Henry County Schools was guilty of both failures. As a result, the FBA had no chance of success.

So let’s remember: a BIP has to define the target behavior with accuracy and some degree of measurability.  To do that, you need accurate data from a FBA or some other method of evaluation.

The case is L.M. v. Henry County Board of Education, decided by the decided by the federal court for the Eastern District of Kentucky on September 20, 2019.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 75 IDELR 72.  Stick around until Friday and we will tell you a bit more about this case.


Tomorrow: We hear from Rip Snort!