Our firm’s Toolbox Training is all about how to serve students with disabilities who present challenging behaviors. The goal is to serve each student appropriately while maintaining a safe and orderly school environment. When we provide the training we often emphasize the importance of documentation. Obviously it’s important to have all of the legally required paperwork filled out properly. Beyond that, though, good documentation from the school reflects the Three C’s: it shows how the school has been CREATIVE, CARING and COMMUNICATIVE.
CREATIVE: Your documentation should make note of efforts to seek assistance from knowledgeable sources both in the district and outside the district. Did you provide or seek training? Did you reach out to the Service Center, or to a local university for assistance in how to serve the student? Did you brainstorm with the staff and with the parents? Dates and times should be noted to make it clear that the district was searching for creative approaches.
CARING: The bromide that all of you have heard is “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I put that in the category of “trite but true.” Your documentation, including emails and texts, should never lose sight of the fact that we are seeking to serve an important student. To say “we care about your child” is not what this is about. Anyone can say that. In fact, everyone does say that. More significant is the timeliness and courtesy of your responses to parental requests. And your responses to parent complaints. A caring educator demonstrates an interest in hearing and understanding before responding.
COMMUNICATIVE: The 5th Circuit measures FAPE with a four-part test, one part of which is about collaboration and communication among key stakeholders. Your documentation should reflect your communications internally and externally. We don’t keep secrets from the parents. We recognize and honor their legal right to be fully informed of the school activities of their child. Our communication should be, as much as possible, jargon-free and easily understood.
DAWG BONE: CREATIVE, CARING AND COMMUNICATIVE. THAT’S US!
Tomorrow: How important is training?