8 Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs
Your decision-making process, whether letter or spirit of the law,
may explain why some people were upset with you. However, the ma-
jority of times our decisions are resisted, lack of due process is the reason.
Notice People need ample time to change. Although inevitable, change
is threatening. Have you heard the adage: “An expectation is a resent-
ment waiting to happen”? We become invested in the way things are.
Leaders need to make sure their constituents do not feel blindsided by
change. “Notice”—telling people in advance what you are thinking
before you make a change—is essential (Strauss, n.d.). Written notice
provides documentation that you are following due process.
Here’s an example: You are considering instituting a professional-
ism policy to prevent inappropriate behavior in public, including on-
line. Tell your staff you are concerned about possible misuse of online,
social networking sites. Remind them of your confidentiality policies,
designed to protect the privacy of children, families, and employees.
Lay out in writing the policy and procedures you are considering to
make sure online networking sites are used appropriately.
Notice is providing all pertinent information before you change
the policy. Most newspapers post notices of upcoming changes in
your community. Before holding a person to a temporary restrain-
ing order, the court must serve notice. Clarence needs to know before
lunch is served that the menu has changed. Notice is a component of
transparency. Right to a Hearing
Like darkness and dawn, notice is followed directly by the right
to a hearing. People affected by a change need freedom to voice their
concerns and ask questions. In short, people need to be heard.
Often through the hearing process you find new ideas that temper
the change you were thinking of making. One teacher might ask: “Is
texting between my boyfriend and me considered to be public?” An-
other may pose: “What I do on my own time is my right! You can’t tell
me what I can say online.” In that case, your revision of the proposed
policy lets teachers know you have heard them. Politicians hold hear-
ings before enacting legislation.
When you introduce a controversial policy, you can expect resis-
tance. You will hear all kinds of complaints when you grant that right
to a hearing. You do not need to use any or every suggestion. Letting