Toolbox Tuesday!! The Story of Alex

I usually begin my Toolbox trainings by telling the story of Alex.  It’s a sad but colorful case involving a young boy who was frequently violent and disruptive at the school.  The story concludes with Alex running away from the school, with teachers in hot pursuit.  As Alex is about to enter a cornfield, he turns toward the teachers chasing him and says “So long, suckers.”  Then he disappears in the high stalks.

This is all based on the facts as recounted by the federal court in the subsequent litigation. In the lawsuit, the mother alleged that the school failed to provide Alex with a Free Appropriate Public Education—FAPE.   One of her chief complaints was that the school never came up with a behavior plan, a BIP, that satisfied the legal standards for a BIP. The court gave that argument the back of its hand:

Although we may interpret a statute and its implementing regulations, we may not create out of whole cloth substantive provisions for the behavioral intervention plan contemplated by [the statute].  In short, the District’s BIP could not have fallen short of substantive criteria that do not exist, and so we conclude as a matter of law that it was not substantively invalid under the IDEA.  (Emphasis added).

This means that you have a lot of discretion in writing a BIP.  There are no legal standards for it.  It’s impossible to write a BIP that violates the legal standards because there are none.

One qualifier to that statement: there are procedural requirements in the law for when and how you write a BIP. But as far as the content, you have a free hand.

In the Toolbox training we emphasize this.  The primary purpose of a BIP is to identify and address behaviors that impede learning. The goal is to reduce or eliminate those behaviors.  You have wide discretion to use your experience, and creativity. A BIP is Tool #1, and it’s #1 for a reason.  It’s your most important tool.

If you are interested in learning more about the Toolbox, let me know.

The case of Alex in the Cornfield is Alex R. v. Forrestville Valley Community Unit School District #221, decided by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in 2004. We found it at 375 F.3d 603 and 41 IDELR 146.


Tomorrow: Perhaps you noticed….it’s V-Day!