02 03 Notes from the School Psychologist: Officer Friendly Pays a Visit 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Officer Friendly Pays a Visit

Anyone who has a baby and a dog knows that solicitors, mail delivery people, and UPS drivers have a knack for coming by and ringing your doorbell juuuuuuuuust as you finally get baby down for a nap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad we have a barky protective dog and all, but the BARK to WAAAAAAHHHH sound is one that makes mothers across the country cringe. So, imagine my disdain when I get a knock on my door at 3am the other night. Or I guess it was morning. It’s the police. He looked like this Officer Friendly guy:

Not really, I just liked this google image that came up when I typed "Officer Friendly." But I have digressed.

I had called the police at 7pm the evening before because we have had several break ins in our neighborhood recently and there were some suspicious “solicitors” who were “selling magazine subscriptions,” but they only had one crumpled up piece of paper with them and no information about any of the magazines. So, I called to report them, because they were totally shady acres characters. I didn’t want to seem paranoid, but my hubby said to call anyway. What could it hurt?

EIGHT HOURS LATER the police responded. When I opened the door, the policeman said that they got my call and asked if I had any further concerns about the suspicious activity. Um, no, I’m pretty sure they got away in the past EIGHT HOURS. A blind and crippled snail could have gotten away in that time period. The officer sheepishly apologized and said that it had been a busy night and calls are put in order of priority, and he just got around to responding to my call. Immediately, I understood why our whole family was woken up, and I empathized with the cop.

I know this scene very well as a school psychologist—having too many cases and crises to respond to, having to prioritize crises, and often having to follow illogical procedures.  I am certain that his ringing my doorbell at 3am was the result of some dumb rule that he had to follow like: “You must make contact with the reporter once you respond to the call” or something. I imagine him pausing before ringing the bell thinking, “this doesn’t make sense, but here I go.” As a school psychologist, have you ever been there, having to follow a district or legal procedure that defies logic?

The one that comes to mind in the world of school psychology is the manifestation determination rule. To oversimplify it, the law is basically that if a student with an IEP commits an expulsion offense or reaches over 10 days of suspension, then a meeting must be held to see if it was caused by the student’s disability or the team's failure to implement the IEP. Sounds like a perfectly reasonable law, right? I mean on the books, it makes sense that you should make sure that you aren’t penalizing disabled students for behaviors that are a manifestation of their disability. For example, a student with an intellectual disability might not fully understand cause and effect of his or her behavior and we wouldn’t want to go around expelling kids with intellectual disabilities for things they don't really understand. However, because this law extends to ALL kids with IEPs, I have found myself engaged in the most ridiculous conversations:

Me: We are here today to determine whether the child’s reading disability caused him to carry a knife to school.

Me: The purpose of today’s meeting is to decide if Johnny setting another student on fire was directly caused by his writing disability.

Me: Thank you for coming. As an IEP team, we need to figure out if Janice cut off Janie’s ponytail because she stole her boyfriend was due to our failure to implement her behavior plan of increasing her classwork production.

Me: Yes, Mrs. Jenkins, I understand that Frank has a disability, but I am having a hard time understanding how deficits in phonological processing cause you to threaten a student with a machete sword.

The manifestation determination law just never really seems to apply to the students with learning disabilities. I am basically the sheepish cop in these situations, trying to turn a stupid rule into something productive. At these meeting, I try to quickly get the dumb paperwork out of the way, and then work on the real intervention by discussing what is needed to support the offending student. Clearly, kids who are bringing weapons and hurting others need help.

As an aside, one good thing did end up happening as a result of our 3am wake up call (besides this post, obvi)—the cops ended up apprehending the suspicious gentlemen in a nearby neighborhood the next day, and they were found with stolen property from my neighbor’s house. So I wasn’t paranoid after all. But I am still paranoid of the UPS guy coming between 1-3pm and waking up Baby B...maybe it's a sign I should stop buying developmental toys online. I mean, Baby B kind of equally loves a tupperware container or a crumpled up piece of paper over the snazzy Baby Einstein stuff anyway.

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