Toolbox Tuesday!! How NOT to develop a BIP….

We hear much emphasis these days on data-based decision making.   Making decisions based on data makes sense, particularly under IDEA with its emphasis on individualization of a student’s education.  But there are hazards.  A recent court case illustrates how the failure to “follow the data” can be costly. 

The student in this case had a BIP (Behavior Improvement Plan) that focused on behaviors that were 1) self-injurious; 2) aggressive; and 3) sexually self-stimulatory.  The district monitored the situation and issued Progress Codes with regard to every objective in the BIP.  The Progress Codes indicated the same thing with regard to every objective in the BIP: the student was “making sufficient progress to meet goal.” 

Sounds good, right?  Unfortunately for the school district, the parent retained one of those good lawyers who dig beneath the labels and look at the data.   There, the lawyer found two problems.  First, there was zero data about aggression or sexual self-stimulation.  Obviously, that’s a problem for the school district. How can you say “making sufficient progress” without any data to support that conclusion? 

Secondly, there was data about self-injurious behaviors, but it did not match the conclusion.  In fact, the data was wildly off base with the conclusion.  For example, the court noted that the data regarding self-injurious behaviors showed an increase from an average of 17 times per day to 108. The court summarized:

The Progress Code on every objective states “making sufficient progress to meet goal,” even when the accompanying data shows no progress, or, on some objectives, even regression.

This huge disconnect between data and conclusion led the court to speculate that perhaps the computer code for Progress Reports had a default setting of “making sufficient progress” regardless of what the data showed.   Hmmmm….I wonder if the court is on to something?

This is a great case to review with direct service providers who fill out progress reports.  The lesson is obvious: make sure that your conclusion can be supported by the data. 

In our firm’s Toolbox Training we talk a lot about Tool #1, which we call the Most Important Tool—a BIP. This case is a great example of how not to create a BIP.  The case is S.S. v. Board of Education of Harford County, decided by the federal district court in Maryland in 2020.  We found it on Special Ed Connection at 77 IDELR 182. 


Tomorrow: Preview of Coming Attractions!