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Managing Documents Under IDEA, Part II

In Part One of Managing Documents Under IDEA, special education lawyer, Robert Crabtree, tells you what documents you should keep and why. Here, he goes over guidelines for the documents you should create, and those you should keep for hearings under IDEA.

What Documents Should You Create?

Why create any documents? One simple reason is that you may have to tell your child's story to another person - perhaps to an evaluator, an advocate or lawyer, or a hearing officer - in order to get help, and documenting events as they occur will help you tell the story accurately and in good order. Another reason is that documents can help clarify understandings you reach with people - particularly with service providers or school administrators. Yet another reason is that a note written at the time something significant has happened may help to support you when you need to prove to another person that the event happened the way you claim it happened.

It sometimes takes years before parents realize that they should have kept better notes of meetings, telephone calls and significant events in their child's educational career. If you are the parents of a very young child with a disability in need of special education, you can get ahead of the game by developing this habit now. The notes you take may be important later when you need an accurate description of what key people said at a TEAM meeting, in the hall after a parent-teacher meeting, in an evaluator's office when you were given a report, and so on.

Some parents keep a journal or simply a running chronology with dates, short descriptions of events or conversations and names of people concerned. This does not need to include every tiny detail of your child's life, but a well-kept journal or chronology can help you explain to others (or to yourself) how you got to the current situation if you have recorded key events and communications along the way.

Among other events, you should record dates of meetings with school personnel, dates you received key documents (notices of TEAM meetings, etc.), dates you sent or delivered key documents (e.g., "December 1, 2005 - hand-delivered our consent to the proposed school evaluations"), dates on which you gave school personnel important information (e.g., "January 6, 2006 - told Mary's teacher that Mary had been spending 3 hours every night trying to do 15 minute math homework assignments"), dates on which your child was suspended or otherwise disciplined, and so forth.



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