In the Toolbox Training we talk about the three questions school leaders should ask themselves before taking a position that is likely to end up in a due process hearing. Consider: you have a “hard ARD” that fails to reach consensus. You have recessed, with a commitment to meet again in a few days. You have some time to think about things. You are pretty sure that if you don’t modify your position, the parent will take the matter to a hearing, but the staff feels strongly that the district is doing the right thing and should not budge. What are the questions you should consider?
In the Toolbox Training we offer three:
- Is this worth fighting over? It’s good to take a few deep breaths to make sure that we are not being stubborn, unreasonable, or ego-driven. Is our position child-centered? Are we proposing a course of action that is educationally beneficial for the student? How big of a deal is it?
- Are we legally defensible? If you end up in a due process hearing, it’s going to focus on your compliance with the law. So get your school district attorney to review the student’s file and talk to the people directly involved. This will take some time, and that means it will cost some money. But it’s necessary. If there are procedural glitches, or evidence of poor communication, this needs to be considered.
- Are we united on this? An administrator should provide leadership, but that does not mean that the administrator is the quarterback unilaterally calling the play. Special education decision making is upside down from everything else in the school. The decisions come from the ARD Committee, which is comprised of teachers and direct service providers. Do the teachers support the position the district proposes to take? Have you interviewed the paraprofessional to gauge what testimony that person might give if called upon? The wise leader gauges the views of the entire group, synthesizes them, and then provides leadership.
It's a good idea to ask these questions in reverse order. If the team is not united, then you are probably not legally defensible. And if that’s the case, it’s not worth fighting over. So we suggest you start with the third question.
DAWG BONE: ALWAYS ASK THE THREE QUESTIONS.
Tomorrow: Got your popcorn ready?