Toolbox Tuesday: Progress. Not perfection.

The Toolbox is our firm’s one-day training program regarding the disciplinary options for students with disabilities. How do you maintain safety while effectively serving students who disrupt learning?  In the Toolbox we offer ten “tools” that administrators and/or ARD Committees can use to accomplish those two objectives.  Fundamentally, the goal is to provide FAPE to each student, and to do it in a way that maintains a safe and healthy school climate for all students.

Every student is entitled to FAPE—a Free and APPROPRIATE Public Education.  “Appropriate” does not mean perfect.  Our special education laws do not expect perfection. They expect progress. That’s the lesson that comes through clearly in A.W. v. Tehachapi USD a recent unpublished decision from the 9th Circuit.  The parents wanted the school to provide 1) a BCBA-trained aide (Board Certified Behavior Analyst); and 2) a BCBA to supervise that aide for two hours each week.  The district provided the first, but not the second. The parent claimed that the child did not receive the FAPE to which he was entitled.

Nope. The administrative law judge did not see it that way, nor did the federal court, nor the 9th  Circuit.  The only evidence to support the parents’ perspective was that the student’s disruptive behaviors had not been eliminated.  Elimination of disruptive behaviors would have been great, but it is not what the law requires.  Elimination of those behaviors would be perfection. The district was able to demonstrate that progress had been made. Good enough.

In the Toolbox we emphasize that of the ten tools, the first is the most important. That tool is the development and implementation of a BIP—a Behavior Intervention Plan.  A good BIP identifies problematic behaviors and prescribes interventions, strategies and supports to address those behaviors. There should be a goal, and the goal should be measurable.  Moreover, the goal should be, as the Supreme Court has reminded us, “appropriately ambitious.”  But we are not expected to achieve perfection.

This one was decided on June 25, 2020 and we found it in Special Ed Connection at 76 IDELR 275.


Tomorrow: Documentation.