Friends, last week (or was it month?) I wrote about getting “served” by math, and it must be Serve-a-Pol-ooza month. You see, this week, I am on my spring break. The last day before the break I had an extra jaunt in my step because I knew I had a week of rest coming up.* I skipped over to my mailbox, which is usually filled with several day old notes about emergencies I can no longer address, and it was empty! YES! This was going to be a great day. Then the secretary said, “Tengo algo para ti” (I have instructed her I am in a self-inflicted immersion program and not to talk to me in English). But that’s not the point. I turned on my heels slowly and gingerly took the envelope as if it possibly had anthrax in it. When I get paperwork, it’s never, “Great job with that meeting!” or “We don’t need anything else from you!”
It was a subpoena.
For those of you just joining NFTSP, I am a school psychologist working in the public schools and in private practice. They are two totally different worlds and I love both of them for different reasons. One thing I have learned as a school psychologist in the public schools is that part of our job is actually to be a paralegal. Turns out the world of special education and therapy is highly litigious. I hate to crush all the eager li’l peeps who email me about how excited they are to be a school psych, but you’re going to get the whole picture here. I spent the first few years of my job at “professional development meetings” thinly disguised as “How to Not Get Our District Sued.” It’s just what happens when you are in a large, urban district. We waste millions of dollars on defending ourself from not having enough money to serve the kids properly. I will tell you about the time my pen cost the district $100,000, but that’s another day. I never hold the pen anymore at meetings for that reason. ANYHOO.
The subpoena says to turn over all psychological records for a student within 5 days. The thing is dated 9 days ago. It is a student I have never worked with before and have no records on. NEEEEEEEAAAAT. So I look for my principal. She is at a funeral of a former student who got killed in a drive-by. SUUUUPER. I scan my “professional development” bank of knowledge for what to do, and a little bubble pops up over my head with my old boss saying “Never call the lawyer, call the legal department.” I don’t know where that number is. I stupidly call the lawyer. I tell him that I don’t think I’m the “custodian of records” but I will look into it. He says I should be the custodian of psychological records. I tell him I need a raise if that is the case. Then, I hang up and try to continue my day, totally distracted. I see my principal–she hasn’t left yet. After we talk about the horror of the other situation, she tells me legal is already looking into the subpoenas, and “The District”** is actually the custodian of records and we may not have to go to court.
Sigh of relief.
Then I start thinking about my own records of students I see in counseling and how sometimes they are slopped together in the 2 seconds between students. I was trained to take diligent notes about each session for this reason. Though my notes are technically privileged information, I am thinking they are probably in some cases also part of the school record if I see the kid at school and I’m a district employee. Guess I should have been paying more attention in those sessions rather than thinking about silly things like trying to help the kids.
SPRING BREAK 2010 WOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
*Never you mind that I am writing this post at 7:30am on my first day of break. Stupid internal body clock.
**Probably close relative of “The Man.”