Legal Tactics Used Against Schools & How Behavior Analysis Resolves Disputes

By Brett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA

CEO, DiNovi & Associates

I’ve had the unfortunate experience of finding myself in the middle of extremely litigious and emotional disputes between parents and school districts for a couple decades now. Historically, I felt most parents had unreasonable expectations of what their children were capable of and what they demanded the schools’ obligations were. Suddenly, I became a parent of a child severely affected with autism and it changed everything. However, what remained unchanged were the consistent patterns of disputes parents and schools had year after year.

This compelled me to immerse myself around attorneys, educators, and clinicians to understand how to better navigate these litigious landmines with outcomes that were in the best interest of the student. I also found that, although they had good faith intentions, lawyers and school administrators often exacerbated these matters by rushing into settlement agreements that were far from addressing the original issues of parental concern. Some examples of poor processes and outcomes were:

  1. Independent evaluations in schools conducted by Board Certified Behavior Analysts were manipulated for political interests rather than what the IEP deemed the students ultimately needed.
  2. Students were sent to more restrictive educational placements due to behavior problems without functional behavior assessments and behavior intervention plans ever attempted.
  3. “Hired guns” were procured to go into schools and find problems to later use as bargaining chips in settlement agreements.
  4. Educational decisions were made based on a cost/benefit analysis to prevent further financial hardships rather than basing the decision on educational data and clinical information.
  5. Teachers resigned from their positions due to the stress of litigation.
  6. Parent side attorneys forced clinical recommendations in classrooms due to reports written by professionals that never observed the student in the classroom.
  7. Administrative Law Judges (ALJ’s) admonished attorneys’ positions prior to the hearing but those same attorneys proceeded with litigation anyway.
  8. Public schools refused to use restrictive procedures that would benefit the learner and safely serve the learner in the less restrictive public setting. Nevertheless, the students were sent to private placements and those same restrictive procedures were used.
  9. One-to-one aides were given to students that exacerbated behavior problems and created a dependency on them.
  10. BCBAs were stretched beyond their ethical code to supervise too many students’ behavior interventions.

We’ve been fortunate to have a licensed attorney on staff, Tony DiCesare who is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, to assist us through these convoluted and litigious educational matters. In addition, Paul Kalac, Esq. and Susan Hodges, Esq. will present solutions to these challenges in a live webinar.


On November 18th 2016 we will discuss these matters, and more, in a live webinar from 10am-2pm Eastern Standard Time. This event is by invitation only and participants are encouraged to apply for admission by completing this simple online form at—payment.html

Brett DinoviBrett DiNovi, M.A., BCBA has the unique and distinguished experience of studying the principles of applied behavior analysis under the rigorous scrutiny of both Dr. Julie S. Vargas (formerly Skinner) and Dr. E.A. Vargas at West Virginia University’s internationally recognized program. For the past 26 years, Brett has used behavior analytic principles to create large scale change across school districts, Fortune 500 companies using principles of Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), and across individual learners. Brett has been a OBM consultant in Morgantown WV, an instructor at West Virginia University, a guest lecturer at numerous universities, a speaker on multiple Comcast Newsmakers TV programs, an expert witness in due process hearings, has publications in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and has been in in executive leadership positions across schools and residential programs nationwide. In addition to an award from South Jersey Biz Magazine for “Best Places to Work,” an award for “Best of Families” in Suburban Magazine, and the distinguished “Top Ranked U.S. Executives” award, Brett’s proudest accomplishment is being a role model and father for his daughter and two stepchildren (one of which has autism). Brett can be reached at [email protected]

*Paid content from DiNovi & Associates.

1 Comment on "Legal Tactics Used Against Schools & How Behavior Analysis Resolves Disputes"

  1. Thank you for the article. I like the idea of you fighting for your clients best interests. However, to describe someone in the spectrum as “severely affected with autism”, can cause discomfort to others who are also diagnosed. There are many ways to make emphasis on your point, and this should not be one of them. This is a sensitive topic and we must be careful and selective with our word choice.

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