“The Behavior Guy”

Published on June 10, 2011 by Jennifer Laviano

As a parents’ special education attorney in Connecticut, I hear outrageous statements that parents are told by their school districts on an almost daily basis.  But, sometimes, I am told something that passes the realm of outrageous, and crosses into ridiculous.

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Today’s Ridiculous Comment

You really can not make this stuff up.  So I am just going to give you the conversation I had with an educator at a recent IEP meeting:

Me:  “I see under your signature it says ‘Behavior Specialist.’  Are you a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?”

Him:  “No.”

Me:  “Okay.  So, I’m trying to figure out what about your background allows you to refer to yourself as a ‘Behavior Specialist?'”

Him:  “I am a special education teacher.  I am a certified special education teacher.”

Me:  “Okay.  So, I am still trying to figure out what about your background makes you a ‘Behavior Specialist.'”

Him:  “Well, I’m a special ed teacher, and I’m just kind of known around here as ‘the behavior guy.’ ”

Yes.  That is the ridiculous comment.

Folks, behavior, and the analysis of behavior, is highly complex.  The behavior of children with disabilities is even more complicated.  So why is this kind of mediocrity permitted in our public schools?  Why is the behavior of children with disabilities considered so unimportant that we have virtually no standardization?

Can you imagine if I tried to pull this as an attorney?  Can you imagine if, instead of having to graduate from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association, take and pass the bar, and being sworn in as an attorney after being considered fit to do so by the State of Connecticut, as I did, the following happened:

Judge:  “Ms. Laviano, I notice that you filed papers with the Court but that you did not submit your Juris Number at the bottom as required.  Why is that?”

Me:  “Well, Your Honor, I graduated from college with a minor in Government.  But I am just sort of known around here as ‘the law lady.’ “

12 Responses to “The Behavior Guy”

  1. Rochelle
    June 10th, 2011 | 10:55 am

    At a recent meeting with staff from the new district that was created during a split of the former district(took nearly two years to get it set up), not one of the ‘qualified’ personnel was willing or able to verify their credentials. Not one had any autism specific expertise. Not one could correctly answer a question regarding something we’d discussed during the meeting – not sure how that makes them knowledgeable enough.

    But then, they came into the meeting having predetermined the outcome and were changing, in the notes staff was documenting on her computer, what was being said to what they want to present should it go to court (yes, they are still trying to provoke our initiating a due process hearing and have refused to allow facilitation/mediation).

    However, my favorite statement from them, made in writing and after 22 1/2 months of claiming there was no information for them to act on when their obligation began … “2005 evaluation was information from school and Judith Miller, U of U – 2007 information was never brought together for a Determination Eligibility.”

    Whose responsibility was it to complete the Determination Eligibility with the information they district knew they had? It’ not as if this was an in itial evaluation; my daughters had been receiving special education and related services 16 years at that point.

    The Utah State Office of Education has already determined the girls won’t benefit from anything the district offers and the district is already providing TWO related services. What exactly is it they feel a need to determine?

  2. Ann Hubbard
    July 27th, 2011 | 9:14 am

    Our school athletic director and soccer coach (HS) have given me excuses like, ‘aren’t you afraid he’ll get hurt’, (we may not have enough uniforms’, and, ‘well, you know he will have to try out’, as reasons why my son (he has Williams Syndrome) may not/should not lay HS sports this year.

  3. Mebby
    July 27th, 2011 | 9:23 am

    Rochelle,

    Your experience sounds very similiar to mine and I then I saw Utah and realized we are in the same District. I’d love to talk with you further. Please e-mail me at mebbyw@msn.com

  4. Mike
    July 27th, 2011 | 9:32 am

    My wife and I discovered similar issues in our NJ school district. Fortunately we have the ability to be our son’s own behavior specialist advocates, among other things, and have worked well with the staff to make sure they were aware of our son’s issues and how to deal with it. It helps that they probably fear that we might sue if they make a mistake (the look on the staff’s faces when we casually mentioned early in the process that as attorneys we can easily digest the “complex” statutory booklet was priceless — complete attitude change on their part). Still it made it us very aware that there are many children who slip through the cracks because their parents can’t do what we can do, especially in school districts where there are fewer resources for children with behavior issues caused by autism etc.

  5. deb
    July 27th, 2011 | 10:03 am

    I was at a cse meeting years ago when the cse said..”I know what the problem is, you guys are following federal law we are following state” To which the parent replied “yeah..the south tried that”

    There is a disclaimer at the beginning of our state regs that say…look to fed..I am paraphrasing.

  6. Jennifer Laviano
    July 27th, 2011 | 8:10 pm

    Now THAT is priceless!

  7. Amy Guy
    July 28th, 2011 | 12:29 am

    My kindergarten son’s principal had him evaluated without parental consent by an INTERN school psychologist (she thought it would be legal to do it that way???) Then she proceeded to write a behavior plan herself, with no IEP team meeting and no other specialists’ input, including the use of restraint devices. He was already on a IEP so there was law number 2 broken. However, I also happened to be a teacher on her staff, so of course, when my husband and I filed complaint, she did her best to try to have me fired. Fortunatly, I have a job at another school now, with a competent principal, and my son is in a much superior school now.

  8. Christina
    July 28th, 2011 | 5:56 am

    Deb – OMG I was in a meeting in June where they tried that. We had a copy of the state regs which I handed to the Early Intervention Director, who has a PhD(!) and she said the same thing. “I see the problem here, you see that’s just state guidance but we follow the federal law here.” I have to wonder if there’s a special place they go to learn these excuses. Honestly, how can you hope to move forward to a resolution when the “professionals” don’t know their owns rules.

  9. Darren
    October 12th, 2011 | 12:17 pm

    That was a great article…..I too was known as “the behavior guy” before I went to seek board certification..I felt I had to ….there was no incentive for me to do so as I was already a school district”behavior specialist” I felt it was the right thing to ……after many many hours of supervision sessions…a year back in college when my wife was pregnant and the many 1000’s of dollars out of pocket and then finally once received….the disrict I work for denied my request for additional funds as I was now certified but it did not fit the 2 years of college as opposed to the one year that BCBA took… regardless I am happy I did it and feel much better prepared to help the students and clients I serve…..my only problem….my website is stil http://www.thebehaviorguy.com….ha! I liked the ring of it and easy to find…..so I keep it…that is how I found your site. …thanks for the article and the laugh….people are welcome to cover to my site and grab free materials any time… Darren

  10. Missy Olive
    November 29th, 2011 | 11:03 am

    Love it!!!!!

  11. Patty
    February 23rd, 2012 | 6:15 pm

    How about this one:

    Parent: “I’m not sure E is ready for the next grade according to the data you are showing me here today.”
    School District (Program Specialist): “Oh Ms. E we never hold them back, we need to keep moving him on”

  12. Jennifer Laviano
    February 24th, 2012 | 8:37 pm

    You can not make this stuff up!