Season 2 Episode 2: Hanky Panky in the Classroom, Part Two

Joined by Attorney Markouc, Lisa and Miriam continue discussing the investigative process in disciplining employees. Imagine a paraprofessional who meets with the school’s HR director and informs her that the special-education teacher she assists behaves inappropriately and unkindly towards the children in class, many of whom have severe disabilities. What are the immediate initial steps the HR director should take? What are the key DOs and DON’Ts in conducting such an investigation? Does it matter if the teacher’s aide is a repeat complainer?

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Miriam: Welcome back. Welcome back to Class Act: Updates in Education Law, our award-winning podcast. I am Miriam.

Lisa: I’m Lisa.

Miriam: We are attorneys at Walter Haverfield, We practice school law. Every few weeks we get together, we talk about the most recent legal developments in education that are relevant for boards, administrators, teachers, anybody who works in the schools, really.

Lisa: This is our second in a series on employment investigations. Just like last episode, we are fortunate to have Sara Markouc joining us, an attorney with Walter Haverfield who frequently advises school boards on employee and school discipline issues.

Miriam: Welcome.

Lisa: Welcome back, Sara.

Sara Marcus: Thank you for having me.

Lisa: In our previous episode, we talked about why investigations matter, what to consider on the outset, talked about policies, reasons to conduct proper investigations and went through an overview of the steps of those investigations. Today, we’re going to really dive into those steps in detail and talk about them, hopefully, in relationship into some common scenarios.

Miriam: I was just thinking that, to make this a little more practical, let’s look at a specific scenario, if that’s okay with you Sara?

Sara: Sounds good.

Miriam: All right. Let’s say you’re an HR director and Mr. Smith is a teacher for students with disabilities, for students with severe disabilities and his assistant, his aide or a paraprofessional, Miss Jones, comes to your office and begins telling you- she’s scheduled a meeting, and then she starts telling you about her perception of Mr. Smith and that he’s being unkind and inappropriate, either physically or verbally with his students. I’m just thinking that would be a nice scenario to go through for us to use as examples as we go through them.

Lisa: So maybe some allegations of yelling at the students, calling them names.

Miriam: Throwing things.

Lisa: Things like that.

Sara: Absolutely. Now, I think that’s helpful to actually work with a real-world scenario. Certainly, right out of the gate, the first thing you want to be looking at relative to this are your board policies because there’s the implication of bullying, there’s the implication of harassment, and you’re going to have parameters that you’re going to work within in terms of timelines, et cetera, for conducting the investigation.

Really, it speaks to the first step that we talked a little bit about last time, the first step in an investigation which is identifying the nature of the complaint, what are we dealing with? What is the allegation or the allegations? What specifically is the conduct or the misconduct at issue? Certainly here, the fact that you have a fellow staff member reporting this, speaks volumes in terms of the potential severity of the conduct and the misconduct at issue.

Miriam: Somebody who’s there every day.

Sara: Absolutely. Lots of times, especially with student reports, you’ll hear reports from parents or fellow students who have seen or witnessed something, but the fact that you have a fellow staff member coming into HR, coming into the building principal, whoever it may be, and reporting that conduct speaks to, again, the severity of the misconduct involved.

Lisa: Absolutely. Not to say you won’t investigate the other ones, you still would, but just who it comes from can give a little more validity to having first-hand experience versus hearing it as a third person or anything like that.

Sara: Yes. The nature of the complaint can change as you go through the investigation. If it’s not firsthand like it is in this situation with the aide who’s in the classroom coming in and sharing this, if it is secondhand from the parent, if it’s from another person who’s not there to witness it, these specific allegations are the nature of what you’re looking at could certainly change as you go along.

I think generally, some points to keep in mind with identifying the nature of the complaint, you want to make sure it is school-related, because if it’s not school-related, more than likely it’s outside the bounds of what we will be investigating, pursuant to policy. Even if the misconduct is serious, it may be an entirely private matter.

Miriam: Like what?

Sara: Something like a teacher engaging in an extramarital affair. Could that be something you’ll say a teacher’s engaging in an affair with a co-worker in the building? Could that be something that impacts the school? Maybe. It may be something, but more than likely if it’s an entirely personal matter-

Miriam: Situation.

Sara: – yes, it’s not going to be something that’s necessarily school-related, again, lawyer answer, maybe. Again, case-specific, you want to make sure you’re taking an initial look to make that determination, but everybody knows gossip goes around, like the game of telephone, something starts and then becomes something much more. You want to make sure that again this is something that’s affecting the school environment and is school-related at the outset before you really dive in in terms of conducting the investigation.

Lisa: We talked about in our situation the scenario we know who’s making the allegation, is that always the case? I’m assuming in some situations you don’t know.

Sara: Right. Really, that’s the second step you want to think about in terms of conducting your investigation is determine who made the complaint, if that’s possible. Every district has forms you can fill out in terms of making complaints and even if proper forms are available, complaints and reports are not always going to come in the form of a neat, tidy, signed written complaint. They’re going to come via email, they’re going to come in person from a parent as they’re hurrying to get their child at the end of the day.

They’re going to come in in a lot of ways and sometimes they might come second or third hand. That staff member coming into your office shutting the door and saying, “This is what I heard.” So it’s not always as easy as our situation here where the aide comes in and says, “Hey, Mr. Smith is doing this.” It’s not always as easy depending on whether it’s second hand, third and who’s making the report, but you do want to identify who made the complaint if possible.

Miriam: For our listeners, it’s probably a good reminder just to keep in mind, even if you’re not getting in a formal written statement, just even those side hand comments still could be enough to obligate you to do an investigation.

Sara: You need to be paying attention when people are talking to you about this and you need to make sure you’re not blowing things off, you’re not thinking, “Oh, well, she’s the gossip in the building.” You’re not going to take this seriously. You need to make sure when in doubt, you’re looking into something and best-case scenario in that situation, you look into it and you make an ultimate determination that no misconduct occurred.

But when in doubt, I would say if it raises a yellow flag, not a red flag, a yellow flag, you want to start to look into it. It doesn’t mean that you might not coordinate with another administrator in the building in terms of conducting the investigation, in terms of getting a second opinion with respect to something that is reported to you, but when in doubt, you’re in a much better position if you look into it and then make the determination no misconduct has occurred as opposed to potentially ignoring something that’s reported to you because, in most situations, something that starts off small, or can be kind of innocuous at the outset can absolutely snowball.

Lisa: So who then generally will conduct this investigation? Is it always who it’s reported to?

Sara: It’s a good question. Not always. I think that’s really the third step in looking at this is making the determination about who is going to conduct the investigation. When in doubt, what’s our rallying cry here, look at board policy.

Lisa: I think I need a stamp to put that in red bold for everyone to see.

Sara: Yes bold, italicized. Look at board policy and see if that provides you any direction. It really oftentimes depends on the nature of the investigation, depending on that and again, case by case determination, but in some situations, the board may want to hire a private outside investigator to conduct the investigation or outside counsel, just to have a neutral third party as opposed to someone in-house.

Miriam: Can you tell me a little bit more about that? When would you want to do that? Is that only institutions where there’s already a lot of conflict going on or a lack of trust or?

Sara: Sometimes, again, it really is a case by case situation, but certainly, in a situation where there is an issue with what an internal investigator is going to get. If you sit down and say, listen, whether it’s a trust factor, whether it’s another factor, we don’t believe that we’re going to be able to complete a thorough investigation. Whatever the reason may be, we’ll bring in somebody who’s neutral, somebody who’s outside who doesn’t have a horse in the race. I think it also depends on specifically what you’re looking at in terms of the allegations themselves. One thing, an important general rule to remember, you never want to have one staff member or a staff member investigating a superior.

Miriam: Does that happen?

Sara: Can’t make it up. It certainly has happened in the past. Again, for any number of reasons, that could be our own episode, you don’t want to do that, but you never want to have a staff member investigating an administrator or board member or what have you.

Lisa: For our allegations against Mr. Smith, what would you envision for that investigation? Would it be maybe the building principal or the special ed director? Who would you envision would be best suited to look into those?

Sara: In that situation, I would probably recommend that you bring in somebody from the outside to conduct that investigation just because you’ve got a number of allegations here. You’ve got complaints about potential physical abuse, you’ve got potential complaints about verbal abuse. For purposes of our example, it’s probably happened with more than one child.

You’re interviewing different students, you’ve got a lot of different balls in the air with respect to this, and again, when in doubt and again it really varies based on the nature of the complaint. Having somebody completely outside is not a bad thing in this situation just to make sure that it’s conducted thoroughly and neutrally.

Miriam: Then I guess, this is what I was thinking of is if Mr. Smith can somehow bring a claim that the special ed director hates him, that would be a really important reason to have an outside party coming and do the investigation.

Sara: If you wanted to have an internal investigation completed in this situation, I would say it would be an administrator who’s not directly involved. Meaning not the building principal, not the director of special ed that this person reports to, not somebody else in the building that has that kind of contact, you try to bring in somebody who’s relatively outside.

Lisa: And appears more neutral.

Sara: Exactly. Who doesn’t have necessarily first-hand experience, that the employee can’t say, “Well, this person likes me, this person doesn’t like me. They’ve got a bias against me from the outset, or what have you.” Again, in those situations, if you think that’s really going to be a problem, bringing somebody in outside of the district to conduct this type of investigation is preferable if it’s something the district can do.

Lisa: Once you’ve determined who is going to conduct the investigation, let’s walk through some of the things that that person should and should not do.

Miriam: Right. Let’s say the person who’s going to be investigating is actually you, the HR director. What are some things to remember?

Sara: I think, some very important dos or some very important things that the investigator again, whether internal or outside wants to remember to do when conducting the investigation is, first and foremost, be open and receptive to the complaint. Don’t– and we’ve seen this happen in cases, all of us have seen this before, “I know all about Susie Smith. Susie Smith makes a big deal out of everything.”

There’s again, a bias or an attitude with respect to the complainant that can color your investigation from the outset. You got to have a poker face and you got to start from the beginning and say, “Here are the allegations, here’s where I’m starting and we’ll find out whether or not the investigation can bear those allegations out,” but you need to be open and receptive to the complaint from the outset.

Lisa: So if the allegations sound ridiculous or maybe frivolous, don’t go with that gut feeling.

Miriam: Don’t blow it off.

Sara: Yes. Because ultimately, if you blow it off or you go with that gut feeling and you roll your eyes thinking, “I know this person, this sounds ridiculous.” That is probably going to show in your investigation, even if you don’t intend. If you think it’s ridiculous from the beginning, you’re probably going to short change your investigation somewhere, because you’re just–

Lisa: Who you talk to, what you ask about.

Sara: Exactly. Again, as we talked about last time, that can really have implications down the line when you’re not conducting a thorough investigation into the allegations. The next thing, again, take the complainant seriously. It can sound far-fetched, it can sound ridiculous, you can have had previous experiences with this employee making unfounded complaints. You’ve got to take this complaint on its face seriously and investigate appropriately. Again, reserve judgment on whether or not you believe the complainant, poker face, go ahead and conduct your investigation, gather your evidence and make a decision from there.

Miriam: Let’s say, Miss Jones, let’s say has a reputation for being a drama queen and making a big deal out of everything. You can’t just say, “Well, that’s Miss Jones, I’m sure that Mr. Smith is fine or whatever.”

Sara: Yes, and I recognize it’s very easy for us to sit here and say this. Because we have districts, we’ve worked with that have that employee who reports everything and anything under the sun. It’s easy to say, be open and receptive, reserve judgment the first time, when it’s the10th time you’re thinking, “Geez, let’s get this done.”

Lisa: But it only takes the one time you ignore it to be in a world of hurt.

Sara: You can have 15 investigations and only one of them can be legitimate. If you blow off that one, not only are we going to have the legal implications we’ve talked about, but imagine that this scenario is true, think about those kids, think about the implications of you not doing what you need to do in terms of an investigation and what that’s doing on a daily basis in the classroom.

Miriam: Right. It’s like the boy who cried wolf, we have to be careful of making assumptions.

Sara: Yes. Couple other things, just investigator dos, follow board procedures, when you have those articulated and policy for gathering evidence and conducting interviews. You want to make sure, we talked about this a little bit earlier, but you want to make sure you respond promptly. Don’t sit on a complaint. Don’t wait to undertake an investigation. Not only, again, are you not meeting your relevant timelines, but as time goes by, memories fade, documents can be destroyed, you can really lose pertinent pieces of the investigation, physical or otherwise, if you sit on this and don’t act appropriately and promptly when the report is received.

Miriam: Then like we said last time, Mr. Smith can say, “Well, if you’re really that concerned about my conduct, why’d you wait two months before looking into it?”

Sara: Exactly. “If this was such a big deal, and you’re going to try to terminate me for physically, emotionally, otherwise abusing these students, how can you talk to me about the fact that you didn’t start this for multiple weeks after it was reported to you?” Quite frankly, it’s a good argument.

Lisa: Well, then what if you waited two months, and then something else tragic happens.

Miriam: Yes, you don’t want to be that person.

Sara: Yes, going back to last time, don’t be that administrator.

Miriam: Don’t be that administrator.

Sara: Last but not least in dos, you want to make sure you’re taking steps to prevent a retaliation, any threats or acts of violence, even if the investigation is still pending. Certainly, you want to make sure everyone that you speak with, everyone knows that retaliation is prohibited. If, in fact, we find that anything retaliatory has taken place, and that information is shared and that is accurate, and we find out that that has happened, that can be the basis for entirely separate discipline as well.

Miriam: In other words, so Miss Jones, who comes and relates this to you, she may be concerned that somehow she’s going to be either disciplined or actually threatened with violence?

Sara: Potentially. I think depending on what Mr. Smith has or hasn’t done or how he’s acted towards her. You understand what kind of allegations are being made against the kids, so she could be very afraid that, the way he acts towards her in the classroom, it is going to be changed. Things he says to her, things he allows her to do or not do.

Miriam: Responsibilities, [crosstalk].

Sara: Exactly. Retaliation can come in a lot of different forms, but it’s really important that that’s shared across the board so that whether or not they’re listening, everybody knows including Mr. Smith, that if he takes any type of retaliatory action, again, that’s going to be potential additional, and separate discipline.

Lisa: Well, and even separate from the discipline issues, you can have some other civil laws come into play. If should some of these allegations be true, then coming from the students, their parents.

Sara: Right. Of course.

Sara: Absolutely.

Lisa: So how about some don’ts to keep in mind as you investigate?

Sara: Yes. Again, and some of these flows directly from the dos. Again, some very common sense, and really just serve as reminders. Don’t make light of a complaint. Don’t make jokes about Miss Jones reputation and, “Oh, here we go, investigation number 10 this year.” Or make light of either the complainant or the content of the complaint. Again, take it at face value, conduct your investigation, do what you need to do. Don’t show bias when conducting witness interviews.

Miriam: I imagine that’s hard.

Sara: It can be, again, especially in that situation when you’ve got somebody who’s the uber reporter, where people are going to say, “Listen, this is the fifth time. Miss HR director, this is the fifth time we’ve talked about allegations from Miss Jones this year” and you roll your eyes, “Oh, trust me, I know I’m investigating all of it.” But don’t show any kind of bias during the interviews. Again, you got to stay neutral. Your internal monologue is your internal monologue. Don’t let it become external.

Miriam: I like that. Internal monologue.

Sara: Don’t let it become external.

Lisa: Probably all the more reason to get the most neutral person to investigate right from the start.

Sara: Exactly. That’s why at the front end of this, you want to be thinking about the best person to conduct this investigation. Again, we have a lot more investigations that are conducted internally than externally, but depending on the relationships, depending on the circumstances, depending on the allegations, it’s a worthy conversation to have at the beginning. Again, even if you decide to go with somebody internal, you’re probably thinking through that in terms of making sure it’s someone who can be as neutral as possible. Whether it’s the HR director, whether it’s an administrator of another building, whoever you decide on, being aware of that and making sure you’re covering that base from the beginning is really important.

Couple other things for investigator don’ts, we touched on this a little bit last time, but I do think it’s important to remind folks as you’re going through the interview process that you can’t ensure information will be kept confidential. We’ve had lots of situations and I’ve conducted investigations where people will come in and say, “I want to talk to you about this, but I don’t want you to tell anybody.” Unfortunately, you cannot guarantee confidentiality.

Miriam: I think that some people when they are doing the investigation, I was thinking about this a little bit before, I think that they want to assure the other person of confidentiality as a way to get the person to open up and to share. I think the motivation is a good one. You really want to find out the truth, the truth of what happened but it’s so dangerous like you were saying before, so dangerous to make promises that you might not be able to keep.

Sara: Absolutely. I think it is to entice people to be more open because you want to get all of the facts, you want to get all of the information and it does come from that good place, in terms of “Come on, open up, let’s really have an open discussion about this,” but in reality, you can’t keep that promise. Again, I think what’s important to tell people, because they’ll kind of clam up sometimes when you say, “Well, you can’t talk to me confidentially, I don’t want to talk to you.” You say, “We’re going to keep this as confidential as possible, given our obligation to respond to the complaint.”

So we’re not going to be out there writing Miss Jones all over this report or putting your name out unnecessarily, but we also can’t guarantee that that’s not going to come up somewhere and I don’t want to give you a false sense of security in terms of our discussion and the outcome of our discussion and where that could go.

Lisa: One of the things we didn’t touch on, I don’t think with our dos and don’ts that I do want to point out for our listeners, as you go through this investigation, more often than not you might reveal some additional allegations or areas of concern, and it’s going to be really important that you don’t ignore those, that those get their own investigation if warranted.

Sara: Yes, lots of times you’ll start with one of allegation and as you investigate, things- yes, opens up, it’s like peeling back the onion or the snowball or whatever, comparison with the snowball going downhill. It’s really important to recognize that simply because somebody came to you with allegation number one, that doesn’t mean that when you find issues two through ten through the investigation that you’re not simply pushing those aside and think, “Oh, well, Miriam only came in and reported issue number one to me, I don’t need to pay attention to all these other issues of misconduct that are going on.”

You want to make sure that, even though it’s obviously going to become a larger investigation involving issues that you didn’t anticipate at the outset, that you’re covering all of those things that you identified during the course of the investigation.

Lisa: Yes, absolutely. As we go through this investigation, we’re gathering evidence, I know we’ve talked about talking with witnesses, things like that. Can you dive into that component?

Sara: Sure. I think one of the things you naturally think of are witness interviews or talking to people during this but you also may be gathering physical evidence during your investigation. You can have–

Miriam: Like what?

Sara: Anything from written notes, correspondence, email, that’s a big one in some situations. Phone records, video, security video, video recordings, electronic records, calendars, all types of physical evidence and again, case-specific but you want to make sure you’re thinking about that if issues of harassment are involved and went through email, for instance, you want to talk to IT and be pulling those emails if you’re getting allegations that that communication happened in that manner. You want to be aware of that piece because there is a lot more to some of these investigations than simply speaking to witnesses.

Miriam: For example Miss Jones, Mr. Smith’s aide, that that investigation might involve, I’m just thinking, I don’t know, video recordings, footage, security footage.

Sara: Potentially and you can also look back and see, have you had any reports, messages from parents, written complaints from parents in the past, a lot of things like that again, there could be phone messages to the principal before, and hopefully, if you’ve had those complaints, you’ve looked into those before.

Lisa: I know now.

Sara: But again, the physical evidence can take a variety of forms, you just want to make sure you’re thinking about that part of it as you’re going through, and in the interviews with folks, you want to make sure you’re listening, because if they say, “Well, we emailed back and forth about this,” don’t ignore that. Go pull the emails.

Miriam: [crosstalk] find the emails.

Sara: A lot of that may be generated from witnesses you talk to, but again, really just depends on the content of the investigation.

Miriam: That’s interesting. Then once you are thinking about the physical evidence, you’re going to gather– Is there like a chain of custody situation? I know in criminal investigations you always have to keep in mind who has the actual evidence. Is that the same for [crosstalk]?

Sara: Yes. The general rule- this isn’t the criminal chain necessarily, but it’s a good model to think about, as a general rule, you want to limit access to physical evidence. So if you were the one conducting the investigation, you want to talk to IT about that email and get that email directly. You don’t need that email going to Miss Jones or the building principal or three or four other people, you want to do that search, you want that to come to you as the investigator, potentially to your counsel, if counsel is involved, but you want to establish a strict chain of custody.

Miriam: So I wouldn’t go to Mr. Smith and say, “Pull all the emails that you have from parents from this year.” Instead I will go to IT and say, “Can you please pull all the emails?”

Sara: Exactly. Because it’s also quite possible if Mr. Smith is denying the allegations that he either deleted or double deleted and thinks that that’s enough. Thinks that that’s gone or can conveniently tell you, “I don’t have access to those emails anymore,” when obviously we know when they’re still there, IT can find them. So you definitely want to be going to IT as opposed to Mr. Smith or the alleged perpetrator.

Lisa: Can you also walk us through who or how you’re identifying witnesses and conducting those interviews?

Sara: Sure, absolutely. One of the first points is, you want to make sure interviews are conducted promptly, ideally within a day or two of the complaint being made, that’s not always possible, but you want to do it sooner than later. Again, as we talked about before, memories fade over time and that along with a variety of other issues, you want to get this done sooner than later. When a complaint comes in like this from Miss Jones about Mr. Smith, this needs to become your priority and making sure that you get this taken care of as quickly as possible.

Lisa: Say you interview Miss Jones here in our situation and she raises some names of other people, you certainly wouldn’t just stop with her interview?

Sara: Absolutely, if she identifies other individuals, other staff members who saw issues of misconduct in the classroom or witnessed issues involving Mr. Smith or parents who came to her about concerns about their kids with Mr. Smith, all of that information you need to be listening to, making notes of and following up with those folks and to see what else they may have to share in terms of misconduct. I think we’re going to talk more about interviews specifically next time but one of the ways that you really get the most information during these is asking open-ended questions because you want the interview to feel more like a discussion, you don’t want it to be an interrogation.

There’s no light shining down at the person, answer this question. You want to make sure they feel free and they feel comfortable, Miss Jones feels comfortable in sharing this information because you’re going to get a lot more from her that way, asking those open-ended questions and identifying other people who may know things and also the details of her complaints.

Lisa: So be careful with the yes and no kind of leading types of questions, they might not get you very far.

Sara: Exactly.

Miriam: I was just thinking about something that you mentioned earlier Lisa that you should conduct interviews with other people as necessary as it comes up. I can imagine Sara, that if there’s litigation later on, looking back at the investigation that was done, I would imagine that’s one of the issues that comes up, if a director says, “Yes, I talked to this one person and they gave me all the information I need to know,” and that’s it, and then the other person’s attorney, opposing counsel might say things like, “There were these five other names that came up and didn’t you bother? Why didn’t you bother to speak to any of those?”

Sara: Exactly. We’ve had those situations come up and 9 times out of 10, people will say, “I was so busy. I had so much other stuff going on. This person, Miss Jones in this situation, shared everything I needed to know. I just didn’t see any need to talk to anybody else. She told me what happened. She was there, she knew what else do I need.” Again, this is one where even if you’re conducting the investigation internally, it’s not a bad idea at least to have counsel involved to be talking about this because that is exactly what can happen.

You’re really in a tough spot down the line because the investigations concluded, you clearly had other people identified that you should have talked to because they can either confirm what Miss Jones has shared, they can dispute what Miss Jones has shared, they can tell you, as we talked earlier about issues that you don’t even know exist. So thorough doesn’t mean thoroughly talking to one person, it means thorough in terms of talking to everyone who might have relevant knowledge about the complaint. Again, waiting to tell counsel or tell anyone later on, “Yes, those are the people I identified but we just didn’t think it was necessary to talk to them,” the ship has sailed and you’re going to be in a tough spot.

Lisa: To wrap this up for our listeners, you get through this investigation process, obviously now you’ll need to weigh what you’ve heard, what you’ve gathered and make some report findings, any key things to remember there?

Sara: That’s really the last step is to look at and evaluate the content of your investigation and then report your findings. A couple of things you want to remember, review your notes with a fellow investigator if there was one, make sure you guys are consistent or review your notes and make sure you feel like you’ve got a handle on everyone you talk to, everything you looked at to support a rational and substantiated conclusion.

Lisa: You could do this with your counsel too, right?

Sara: Absolutely, and a lot of times this is where we will become more involved in terms of looking at the content of the investigation before a final report is issued, which is helpful, I think two heads are always better than one. So, it definitely helps to have somebody else that you can talk to about the content of what you [crosstalk]

Lisa: Especially when you can get an outside opinion.

Sara: Absolutely. One of the things you also want to do is assess the credibility of the information provided. Do the stories match? If you talk to three or four other people besides Miss Jones, are they sharing comparable information or is the story completely different? Did a witness contradict herself? Did Miss Jones share something that was entirely different at the end of the interview versus the beginning? Is there a bias against Mr. Smith that that is somehow coloring her information and what she’s sharing? Was a witness contradicted by other evidence? Look at the physical evidence, does it match, in fact, what Miss Jones or other witnesses are telling you?

Were there any facts that were omitted or denied? If Mr. Smith turns around and denies all of these allegations, take a look at that, assess his credibility in light of the other witnesses you talked to the other physical evidence you have to make an ultimate determination.

Lisa: With all these questions as you’re weighing them certainly if you get another question that comes out or something you need to figure out where the truth of the matter lies. Don’t hesitate to call the person or witness back for another interview.

Sara: Yes, lots of times a second interview is necessary based on information provided by other witnesses, one of the things that we try to do is talk to the perpetrator last, if possible, because that way you have all of the information from all of the other witnesses first. Again, you can’t always do that, but you never need to be concerned, I would rather have you call somebody back for a second interview to make sure you have a complete understanding then again, guessing on something that could be contradicted later or found not to be accurate.

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Miriam: Okay. Thank you so much, Sara. I really enjoyed this. We really enjoyed your insight, and I think that this interview piece that you talked about is so important. We’re going to have a separate episode next time just about the actual interview process itself and what to keep in mind, and then also, how to wrap up this investigation. Thanks to everybody who tuned in. We hope you enjoyed this podcast. Please rate us on iTunes and Stitcher, wherever you get your podcasts from. The more ratings we get, the more people will be able to see our content. Have a great day.

Disclaimer: The content of this podcast is provided for general information purposes only. The podcast is not legal advice, does not create an attorney-client relationship, and should not be relied upon in making legal decisions. Actions on legal matters should be taken only upon advice of legal counsel. Walter Haverfield does not guarantee the accuracy of information contained in this podcast.