Written documentation is absolutely essential if you are to effectively advocate on your child’s behalf or work with an attorney in that capacity. If it’s not written down, someone will swear that it was never said or was never agreed upon or that what was said was misinterpreted. For these reasons, consider developing strategies to document your communications with school district employees as well as methods for maintaining documents.
Below are approaches that parents I've represented have used with success. You can pick and choose from among them or develop your own system of documentation. Do what works for you.
Before a dispute arises, create paper trails. When you communicate with your child’s teacher or principal or other school staff or school district administrators, put your comments and requests in writing and keep a copy. After an important conversation with school district staff, send them a polite follow-up letter summarizing your conversation.
In addition to keeping copies of your written communications with the school district, keep copies of all of your child’s IEPs, assessments, grade reports, behavior reports, letters and email from school staff.
If the school asks you to sign a consent or permission form, get a copy for your records. Your copy establishes what you agreed to.
Organize these documents along with copies of other important papers from the school district into a binder or a card board box in chronological.
Keep a log of your contacts as evidence to support your memory. Your log is a memory aid and will help you remember what happened and why. Use a log to document all contacts between you and the school district staff, including your child’s teacher. Your log should include telephone calls, messages, meetings, letters, and notes between you and the school staff. In your log include who you spoke with, when, what you wanted, what you were told, and any next steps.
Keep a calendar on which you write down meeting dates and times. Be sure to keep your calendar at the end of the year rather than throwing it away and put it with your child’s educational records.
Keep a journal in which you write the facts related to your child’s education. Write as if the attorney for the school district may read the journal because the attorney may read it.
Be sure that you do not mark on the pages of the documents you keep as you may need a clean copy in the future to help you resolve a dispute with the school district.
If a dispute arises between you and the school district, documentation that supports your position is a key to resolving a dispute early. If such a dispute arises, you should assume that you will testify about your recollections. Memories are unreliable and influenced by emotions. If your problems boil down to your word against the word of a school district employee, you are unlikely to prevail without proper documentation.
However, if your recollections are supported by a journal, contact log or calendar that describes the problem or event, you will be in a stronger position.
Martha Millar is a special education attorney who serves clients throughout California.
You may reach her at email@example.com, or call her today for a free telephone consultation at 916-724-5211.
Visit Marthamillarlaw.com for more information.
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