Parents should keep a record and a paper trail on every contact with schools, agencies, and individuals as they pertain to their child’s education. Every phone call, every letter, every evaluation, report, and consent form should be carefully documented. Actual paper documents will be easy to save in the master file discussed in Section V of this handbook. Phone calls and direct conversations, however, need to be recorded in a journal on the day they happen. If a dispute with a school arises and parents wish to refer to a meeting or a phone call that took place three months earlier, they will be on strong ground if they can refer to the notes they took immediately after the conversation happened. If, in the stressful context of a dispute, they rely only on their memory of the conversation, the strength of their position and the accuracy of their recollections are greatly reduced.
If parents follow every significant phone conversation and meeting with a letter to the school detailing their understanding of the agreements or disagreements discussed, they will have an even more convincing piece of evidence to rely on in the master file. Furthermore, follow-up letters can be a valuable means of avoiding conflict in the future. When parents allow a school to review in writing their impressions of a verbal discussion, the school is able to respond and clarify their position if they need to and thus avoid miscommunications that might have occurred before those miscommunications turn into problems. This strategy spares the parents and the school the energy they might spend arguing, and more importantly, this strategy spares the student the stress of being caught between conflicting demands and expectations.