|Special Needs Transporters Learn Essential Elements of Internal Investigations at TSD Conference|
|Written by Ryan Gray|
|Sunday, 10 March 2013 00:00|
School attorney Peggy A. Burns, and human resources expert Mark Hinson shared insights into the types of questions student transporters must ask when preparing to launch investigations during a session on Saturday at the Transporting Students with Disabilities and Preschoolers National Conference in Frisco, Texas.
Hinson, the assistant superintendent of HR at Adams 12 Five Star Schools in Thornton, Colo., said the "cardinal rule" in investigations is to be unbiased and objective. Whether a school district, Head Start agency, bus company or other child-care provider, objective investigations should also be immediately launched to determined all the facts of the case before proceeding, a process known in legal terms as discovery, said Burns, the owner of Education Compliance Group and editor of the newsletter Legal Routes. The duo addressed a room full of transportation directors and supervisors at the Embassy Suites Frisco-Dallas.
This process allows the entity to learn what really happened before the plaintiff does and to, if necessary, re-evaluate the defense position. For example, all employee emails regarding an incident or a case should be gathered and reviewed.
Burns said it is more important than ever to fully grasp this concept in light of what she termed a "rash" of student fatalities in recent months that involved students, especially those with special needs, during transportation service that were mostly related to behavioral management rather than vehicle crashes.
When determining readiness to start an investigation, Hinson added that the objective of the investigation should be clearly identified. Then, the scope and who or what departments need to be involved can be ascertained as well as the questions that need to be asked and the documents that must be gathered. Burns, meanwhile said investigation can assume nothing and must focus on what witnesses saw, heard, touched, smelled and felt.
"What does the witness know versus what does the witness think he or she knows?" she asked.
Additionally, she said investigators must employ critical thinking and to listen carefully in order to ask follow-up questions for clarification.
Burns also advised that transportation departments should always directly involve themselves in any official investigation, even though those departments in most cases won't be the ones to actually conduct it.
"You always want to be a major player in investigating your own processes to objectively understand where you are and to take action when there are holes," she added.
Additionally, whether or not an investigation directly affects transportation, Hinson said transporters should be ready and able to provide documentation of any and all processes, especially with regard to issues of employee wages and hours, instances when the U.S. Department of Labor will be investigating cases.
"All departments will be put under the microscope," he added, referring to a "contagious" outbreak of investigations that can spread throughout the organization as a result.
In addition to Department of Labor investigations, Hinson and Burns gave further examples of when some sort of proactive measures must be taken when an investigation is launched, those being: bullying allegations; civil rights claims; alleged violation of health and safety laws, accusations of drug or alcohol use in the workplace; background checks; bus stop laws; allegations of conduct violations; hours of service violations; and contract bidding disputes.
Hinson also said departments should be prepared to show defined processes no matter how narrow the scope of an investigation.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 10 March 2013 08:06|