I Got Served Again…This Time by the Courts.

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.”

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Comments on I Got Served Again…This Time by the Courts.

  1. And, I am reading this the same week that I start my second of three hearings already on calendar… Timing is everything!

  2. Seth says:

    Congrats on dodging the bullet! On spring break now– and more or less working straight through it…

    When you get the chance to write it down, I'd love to hear the story about the pen. Intriguing…

  3. Christie says:

    Hmmm . . . the pen story does sound intriguing. Let me guess–were you taking the minutes in an IEP meeting??

  4. Lindsey says:

    I'm also intrigued about the pen story. Do share!

  5. bethaleh says:

    I just discovered your blog via Mrs. Mimi and I love it! Thanks for your words! 🙂

  6. Natalie Call says:

    My district had an entire professional development conference on who **The District is and how saying "the district" was inappropriate because it made them out to be the enemy. Turns out they wanted us to feel like we were the district too, being their employees and all, we just didn't have as much power as "them". Needless to say, on the drive back to school, we all complained that "the district" wasted a day of our summer and the money they spent on bribery food instead of spending it on paper and pencils that we really needed.

  7. Wasting a day is extreme. However, 99% of the times I hear people say "The District" or ""DO" (District Office)… the real message is…. "I screwed up or I don't know what I am talking about… rather than take responsibility I will use a lame excuse that starts with, 'The DO said
    …'"

    And if you ever complain about "the District" in front of a litigious parent, advocate or attorney, be prepared to testify to the following question, "Isn't it true that you already told the parent that the District was at fault?"

    At that point, the cost of the wasted day will be pennies in comparison to the check that comment cost.

    Sorry, a little bitter, the hearing that started in my first comment just ended yesterday.

  8. Rebecca says:

    The pen story will be in my memoirs….too painful for blog publicity! 😉

    @DrEricBeam: Ug. Glad you survived…You make a good point about blaming THE DISTRICT when we are all actually THE DISTRICT.

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