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Special Ed Legal Consults Blog

But not all of life happens on paper!

That’s true, but I still stand by the best practice in my first blog post, “If It’s Not In Writing, It Didn’t Happen”.  It’s all about credibility — your word against everyone else’s

And it’s also true that you are going to have conversations with your child’s teacher, or the school principal, or a service provider, — or receive voicemail messages from school or district staff.  Is there a way to make recollections of these interactions more trustworthy?

Yes, there’s a fix:  A notebook of your contacts with school and district personnel.


Why is it so important that you record these verbal interactions?

Because you’re only human. You have a lot on your mind, and it’s easy to forget the date, the exact content of the communication, or even the name of the person you spoke with.

If you forget or get confused about one fact, it’s more likely you will be seen as less credible, even for facts you are sure about.

Of course, you don’t want to look like you are a private investigator, and write down every word while you are talking to your child’s teacher about a problem.

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Here are just a few examples of why your notebook will come in handy:

 — Your child’s teacher calls you to tell you your child is not paying attention and is falling behind in reading, but the recent report card did not note her concerns (another day, another blog post will show you how to confirm the teacher’s concerns in writing)

 — Your child misses school frequently due to anxiety and you call the office every time, but the school attendance records don’t record all the days your child was absent

 — You leave a voicemail message for the special education director about your child eloping from school, as he has failed to respond to your emails about this problem

 — The principal calls to tell you to pick up your child due to his poor behavior, and you later learn that the school did not create a record of this suspension

Don’t pick and choose what to record in your notebook—you may not realize at the time that today’s conversation with your child’s speech therapist may be important 2 months from now.  

So that means that you should include ALL contacts with the school district in your notebook, such as:

  • supervising behaviorist

  • autism specialist

  • inclusion specialist

  • school principal and vice-principal

  • school office staff

  • general education teacher(s)

  • special education teacher(s)

  • special education director

  • school psychologist

  • case manager

  • speech therapist, occupational therapist, ABA provider(s), and mental health therapist who provide IEP servic

To be relevant and helpful, your notebook should include for each entry:  

Date and time

Name of person and title

Summary of what you discussed, such as what you asked for, and what the other person said in response

For reasons of privacy and confidentiality, don’t include contacts or conversations with private service providers, attorneys or advocates, private mental health therapists, or your child’s doctors.

And your notebook helps your credibility only if you record your notes promptly after you speak or meet with school or district personnel.

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In other words, your notebook should contain your contemporaneous notes.

Do you remember the excitement when former FBI Director James Comey announced that he had contemporaneous notes of his conversations with the President?  The reason is that contemporaneous notes are much more reliable and trustworthy than trying to remember what happened a few days ago or weeks and months ago.

It’s easier to jot down your notes if you keep your notebook handy, whether it is in your car, on your desk, or wherever you will reach it quickly.

If you receive a voicemail message, transcribe that message into your notebook, so that you are protected in case your voicemails are accidentally deleted.

When you attend your child’s IEP meeting or meet with school personnel, you can keep your notebook in your bag and bring it out if you need to jog your memory — or someone else’s.

When you are prepared with facts, your word becomes more trustworthy.