Thriving School Psych Thriving Students

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
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
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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Comments on Officer Friendly Pays a Visit

  1. Patti says:

    A quick tip: When my kids were little I laminated a sign with a picture of a person ringing a doorbell and a big "NO" symbol across it. It also said, "Please don't ring the doorbell…baby sleeping!" The sign was big enough that I could cover the doorbell and the handle to the screen door so people had to see it before they rang or knocked. While it wasn't 100%, the FedEx and UPS guys (who were my lifelines at the time) left stuff with no ringing. If there was a substitute driver I sometimes got a quiet knock, which freaked me out but didn't wake anybody.

    Sadly, the magazine people rang that doorbell anyway. And then knocked. Again and again. *sigh* We never got any officer friendly visits, though.

  2. Rebecca says:

    A challenge that I've faced during manifestations is when a student commits an expulsion offense and is eligible as Specific Learning Disability, but then the question arises as to whether Emotional Disturbance may actually be the appropriate eligibility and an ED assessment should have been conducted…

  3. John D. Ayer says:

    Hmmmmm, Not sure either I or the community agree with your assessment that specific intellectual disabilities are unrelated to bad behavior. Being disabled can be very frustrating as well as lead to humiliation and ridicule. Being frustrated and "bullied" can result in inappropriate behavior.

    As for the 3am police visit, not sure if this applies BUT some police officers will do what they call a "wake up call" if someone is a nuisance or a problem. For example, a cop might bang on your door at 3am ask if everything is okay and then explain a prowler was seen in the neighborhood. These can actually be useful for letting problem residents know that police are around and like any tool in a professionals kit they can be misused.

    I found this article interesting in the way you framed the "wake-up call" as being similar to being required to review if frustration or "bullying" in regards a disability was a contributing factor in poor behavior.

  4. Okay, I couldn't help it and I know this advice doesn't help the occasional 3am cop house call, but… We disengaged our doorbell (which was set waaaay too loud). And, some of my friends have signs posted on their door or over their doorbell that says "baby is sleeping", or something to that affect. It may help you 1-3 pm be a little more considerate and knock less loudly. My 2 cents.

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