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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 4 Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs Letter-of-the-law decisions ensure evenhanded justice. People know what to expect: decisions are predictable. Letter-of-the-law deci- sion makers argue that “the floodgates will open” if the law isn’t en- forced uniformly. Letter-of-the-law decisions are made by weighing the pros and cons of each option. When making budget decisions, you may find this process appropriate: 1. 2. 3. 4. List pros of the situation objectively. List cons objectively. Analyze the list: Which side has more substantial factors? Make a logical decision favoring the weightier side. Letter-of-the-law decisions make a leader’s life easier by being: • • • • Expedient (made quickly) Defensible (based on measureable facts and figures) Impartial (no favorites) Consistent (evenhanded) At times, this process works well. Administrators, pressed by an onslaught of choices, find the objective approach useful. When a leader makes an “impartial” decision, he or she can decide quickly without considering the complexity of human emotion. Leaders base their decisions on established policies and proce- dures, and, in “following precedent” or upholding tradition, promote stability. Expectations are met. THINK ABOUT IT When has your letter-of-the-law decision been right for the situation? When has another letter-of-the-law decision backfired? What accounted for the difference? When do you use the letter-of-the-law process? When you do, you meet one standard for fairness. However, you may be faulted for not taking a more interpersonal approach, the “spirit-of-the-law” process. More often than not, an impartial decision will be challenged. Letter-of-the-law decisions are resisted by individuals who feel their personal circumstances were not considered. An administrator may hear complaints that he or she failed to ask everyone’s opinion before deciding. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL