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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1 Knowing the Right Thing to Do Guidance from Legal History, Legal Theory, and Brain Research Imagine the tears tumbling down toddler Clarence’s cheeks as he presses his cherubic ebony face into the window glass of his classroom, searching, heartbroken, for his teacher who is late (again). What would be the right thing to do? Hold Clarence’s habitually tardy teacher ac- countable? Take her through the steps of progressive discipline? If she continues to arrive late, tell her “You’re fired”? As early childhood leaders, when we focus on high standards of quality care and education for children and families, we know the right thing to do. Clarence deserves our best. Knowing the right thing to do legally isn’t always so clear, how- ever. Stacks of musty judicial decisions, changing state and federal regulations, plus dog-eared handbooks of policies and procedures can complicate our decision making. Teachers, parents, and community members, often with opposing views, expect us to champion their side. Being able to see the merits in each group’s position and foresee their outrage if decisions don’t go their way can turn our decision-making path into a mine field. This book clarifies how to make intelligent choices, both to prevent legal difficulties and address what can’t be prevented. Practical tips on “how to think like a lawyer” follow in Chapter 2. There you will learn in concrete terms how an attorney is likely to assess everyday chal- lenges that early childhood professionals face. In that chapter we start with “first things first”: making decisions, both reasoned and compas- sionate, that put us in good stead legally. Before we continue, let’s be clear on expectations: This book is not a substitute for your seeking legal advice. We are not acting as your attorneys, nor are we giving legal advice. However, we believe we can offer useful information to support you in the challenging decisions you make daily. COPYRIGHTED 1 MATERIAL