As a psychologist who may be leading an MDR meeting, there's lots to do to prepare. You want all the information possible, even if it seems like too much! An extremely well-informed decision is the safest and most appropriate when we're talking about a kiddo's education. Some things to consider:
- Talk to everyone who witnessed or was involved in the incident that resulted in the suspension. Find out the facts, the chain of events, if this is a pattern of behavior, and more!
- Make sure you know the suspended student's IEP like the back of your hand... why and how the student meets criteria for a certain disability, every accommodation and modification, typical behaviors and levels of functioning for the student, etc.
- In the same vein, interview the teacher either before the meeting or during and have them explain specifically how they're meeting each accommodation related to the behavior in question, such as special seating arrangements, refocusing & redirection, behavior modification, etc.
- Does the kid have any diagnoses outside of their special education classification (i.e. a student with a Learning Disability also being diagnosed with ADHD)? You need to consider those, too, when making a decision, so re-read any diagnostic criteria.
- Review the Functional Behavior Assessment/Behavior Intervention Plan (FBA/BIP) and talk to the teacher to see exactly how it's being implemented and the progress being made on it. Get data and specific information.
- Find out if the student was in the appropriate program from their IEP when the behavior occurred. If not, the IEP may not have been implemented with fidelity. (i.e. if the IEP says a 6:1+1 for all academic and special areas, was that being followed, or was there no aide/a mixed group with general ed students/etc?)
The outcomes of MDR aren't always easy, especially when it means canceling a suspension because a student's behavior is related to their disability or the IEP wasn't implemented properly. At some point along the way (if you haven't already), you will have an angry teacher or administrator who doesn't want the student back in school because of the severity of their behavior. I can say myself that I had a teacher virtually run out of an MDR meeting down to the main office to scream at the principal that I was sending her kiddo back to school. But remember: your client is the child and your job is making sure that their educational needs are being met and they aren't being punished unfairly.
Feel free to leave your comments and thoughts on MDR, particularly tips and tricks that have helped you! Go forth and MDR, you Super Psychologists!