It’s Toolbox Tuesday!! What to do when you don’t know what to do.

I got one of those phone calls today.  I spent about 20 minutes on the phone with a frustrated superintendent and principal.  They have a student in the special education program who seems to be completely non-compliant, hostile, uncooperative, unmotivated, etc.  The student is not doing well, academically or behaviorally, and no one seems to know what to do.

Neither do I.  Of course I can lay out the various legal options.  If behaviors are not a manifestation of the disability and are in violation of the Code of Conduct, the student can be sent to DAEP (Tool #6).  The problem in this case is that they have tried that, and it did not improve the student’s performance or attitude.  They might try a move to a more restrictive environment, like a behavior unit (Tool #3) but they don’t have one of those.  If the student commits a “special circumstances” offense they can put him in an IAES (Interim Alternative Educational Setting) for up to 45 school days, regardless of the manifestation determination (Tool #5).  But this would probably result in a DAEP placement, and again, that has not worked in the past.

What to do?  When I reach that frustration point the only thing I know to suggest is to gather fresh evaluation data and take another shot at developing a Behavior Plan that would work.  Maybe bring in some new person to conduct an evaluation of the student who is not tainted by past experience with the kid.  A fresh set of eyes.

Will that work?  Who knows?  But at least it shows good faith on the part of the school district.  Our laws require a zero-reject approach, and a never-give-up attitude.  You have to keep plugging away in an effort to find some way to improve the student’s performance.  Remember: if the student is doing poorly, the district needs to have a “cogent and responsive” explanation (that’s the Supreme Court’s phrase) for why this is happening and what it intends to do about it.  Giving up is not an option, nor is ignoring the problem.

In the Toolbox Training, we talk about situations like this, and practice working on hypothetical cases involving the ten tools.  If interested, let me hear from you.


 Tomorrow: A nurse.  A diabetic student. A suicide.  A lawsuit.