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Total Articles: 96

Tips for Schools: Balancing Privacy and Educational Continuity in the Coronavirus Era

We know that many school districts and schools are using education technology tools to provide crucial remote learning opportunities and to stay connected with students. These tools will prove even more essential as we move from Act of God Days to Remote Learning Days. Some options may not strictly comply with relevant state and federal laws, which we discussed in a previous alert.

Education Update (No. 4, December 2019)

Religious schools should be aware of the ministerial exception, its potential application to certain employment decisions, and the fact that courts across the country may interpret and apply it very differently.

Education Update (No. 3, September 2019)

Over the past few years, we have seen a steadily increasing number of states enact legislation legalizing marijuana for recreational or medical use. There are currently a total of 34 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands that permit the use of medical marijuana, while 12 states permit the prescription of low-THC cannabidiol (CBD) products for certain medical conditions.

Expansion of Technology at K-12 Schools Comes with Data Security Risks for Students and Parents

A new school year is upon us and some students are already back at school. Upon their return, many students may experience new technologies and equipment rolled out by their schools districts, such as online education resources, district-provided equipment, etc. to enhance the education they provide and improve district administration. However, a recent report, “The State of K-12 Cybersecurity: 2018 Year in Review,” compiles sobering information about cybersecurity at K-12 schools.

Universities and Health Insurance: Higher Ed Institutions Now Have More Options With the New HRA Regs

Regulations published last month grant employers more options for covering their employees with health insurance, effective January 1, 2020. The regulations will be particularly favorable to higher education institutions. The regulations give universities more ways to subsidize health insurance coverage for students who are also full-time employees, to provide minimum essential coverage (MEC) satisfying the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate, and to reimburse fees for on-site medical clinics.

Education Update (No. 2, June 2019)

California’s San Diego Unified School District recently disclosed that it had sustained a data breach when multiple phishing emails from malicious hackers were used to gather login information of staff members throughout the district. The breach exposed Social Security numbers and addresses of more than 500,000 students and staff. The school district is not the first educational institution to fall victim to a cybersecurity breach, and it will not be the last.

Education Update ( No.1, March 2019)

Colleges and universities are squeezed between a rock and a hard place when it comes to complying with Title IX’s requirements for responding to student-on-student allegations of harassment, discrimination, assault, and sexual violence. Last year, they experienced a record increase in complaints of sexual assault and related litigation. For example, in just the first six months of 2018, Yale University reported an 87.8 percent increase.

Education Update (No. 4, December 2018)

All K-12 school leaders understand that having a strong extracurricular program is almost as important as maintaining exceptional academic programs. Colleges expect high school students to excel outside the classroom, and those same students expect that their high schools will make extracurricular activities available to them.

Education Update (No. 3, September 2018)

For the first time, a court used a civil rights law to hold a school district financially accountable in a case of student bullying. In the recent case of Cohen v. Philadelphia School District, the court awarded $500,000 to a transgender student because the school district failed to stop her from being bullied. What can you learn from this development?

Education Update (No. 2, June 2018)

Can A University Terminate For Tenured Teacher’s Twitter Tweaks?

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act: A Pandora’s Box for Higher Education

The enactment of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 has raised a number of potential issues for institutions of higher education. Due to this significant impact, institutions need to study the Tax Act and plan appropriately.

Education Update (No. 5, December 2017)

Understanding And Surviving The Modern Campus Protest Movement .

U.S. Department of Education Faces Lawsuit Challenging Recent Guidance Concerning Campus Sexual Misconduct

Executive Summary: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and its corresponding regulations prohibit sex discrimination in education programs or activities conducted by educational institutions that receive federal financial assistance. It is well-settled that sexual harassment which creates a hostile environment constitutes sex discrimination prohibited by Title IX. On September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces Title IX, issued a “Dear Colleague” letter and new Q&A on Campus Misconduct. The Dear Colleague letter explains that OCR’s prior letter dated April 4, 2011 and Q&A guidance dated April 29, 2014 (issued during the Obama administration) have both been withdrawn. OCR cited criticism as to the fairness of the prior guidance as part of the reason for issuing the new guidance.

Education Department Rescinds Obama-Era Guidance on Campus Sexual Assault Investigations, Issues Interim Guidance

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on September 22, 2017, released Title IX interim guidance, while rescinding Obama-era policies, for handling sexual assault cases on college campuses .

Education Secretary Rescinds Obama-Era Campus Sexual Assault Guidance

In a long-anticipated move, the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights withdrew the Obama Administration’s 2011 Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence this morning, as well as its Questions and Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence. It also issued a replacement “Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct,” which will provide institutions with guidance on an interim basis pending formal regulations to be issued by the Department.

Education Update (No. 4, September 2017)

School officials often receive requests from students with disabilities to bring “service animals” and “assistance animals” on campus as an accommodation. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Fair Housing Act (FHA), virtually all institutions are required to accommodate students with disabilities by allowing service animals nearly everywhere on campus, including public spaces, academic buildings, dwelling units, and other facilities. By contrast, under these federal laws, institutions are only required to allow assistance animals in campus dwelling units and in the employment context (although state or local laws may impose additional requirements)

NAIS and TABS Release Their First Task Force Report on Addressing Educator Sexual Misconduct

On August 22, 2017, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and the Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) released their first joint report on sexual misconduct in independent schools. The report can be found on the groups’ websites.1 It is a “call to action” for schools: “We ask the leaders of independent schools and their colleagues to study these recommendations in depth and apply them to assess the efficacy of their own institution’s preparation for and response to incidents of educator sexual misconduct.” Many independent schools may look to this guidance as a road map on how to keep their campuses free from abuse and harassment. Schools may want to consult an attorney before implementing new policies on employee misconduct and assault prevention and response.

Education Department Signals Possible Changes to Sexual Misconduct Dear Colleague Letter

The Department of Education Office for Civil Rights has suggested that it is considering significant changes to or rescission of the April 4, 2011, Dear Colleague Letter on schools’ obligations to respond to sexual misconduct (“2011 DCL”).

New Sexual Violence Prevention Education Policy Adopted by National Collegiate Athletic Association

Coaches, athletics administrators, and student-athletes must be educated in sexual violence prevention under a policy adopted by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Board of Governors on August 8, 2017.

Education Update (No. 3, July 2017)

As the U.S. Supreme Court stated in a 1984 decision involving the University of Oklahoma, there exists in this country a “revered tradition of amateurism in college sports.”

Supreme Court Increases School Standards For Students With Disabilities

Today, in a unanimous decision crafted by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Supreme Court decided that the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires public schools to provide a heightened level of educational benefits for children with disabilities. This new and heightened standard will impact the crafting of individualized education programs (IEPs) for those students

Supreme Court Returns Transgender Bathroom Case to Lower Court

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would not entertain arguments in GG v. Gloucester County School Board, a case that would have been the Court’s first significant opportunity to weigh in on gender identity issues. Instead, the Court remanded the matter back to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals for further consideration in light of the Trump Administration’s recent decision to withdraw federal guidance that instructed public schools to allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

SCOTUS Service Dog Decision Could Spell Bad News For Schools

In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that a disabled child’s parents were not legally required to jump through certain additional hoops and exhaust administrative remedies in a service animal dispute before suing a school for damages under federal antidiscrimination law. This is a concerning decision for schools and school districts, as it will likely lead to an increase in lawsuits (Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools).

What to Expect under Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

After an unusually contentious Senate confirmation process, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Education on February 7, 2017.

Increasing Ransomware Attacks in Higher Education

Malicious “ransomware” attacks — where a hacker takes control of the victim’s information systems and encrypts data, preventing the owner from accessing it until the victim pays a sum of money — are on the rise against colleges and universities. Higher education institutions are well-advised to increase their efforts to defend against this particularly damaging form of hacking.

Education Update (No. 1, January 2017)

Throughout the course of his campaign, President-elect Donald Trump pledged to deport millions of undocumented immigrants and also eliminate the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy (DACA) – which allows some undocumented young people a renewable two-year period to work and live in the United States without fear of deportation. In response to his election, higher education students across the country have been circulating petitions at approximately 50 colleges and universities demanding their schools create “sanctuary campuses.”

This Is Going on Your Permanent Record: Contract Principles Applied to Student Handbook in Plagiarism Case

On October 24, 2016, the First Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a summary judgment decision in favor of a university in a case brought by a student who was disciplined for violating Harvard Law School’s plagiarism policy. In Walker v. President and Fellows of Harvard College, No. 15-1154 (1st Cir. 2016), the parties agreed that the law school’s student handbook constituted a contract between the law school and the student but disagreed on the meaning of the word “submit” as used in the plagiarism policy. In making its determination, the court applied principles of contract law and explored the plain meaning of the handbook language and the parties’ reasonable expectations.

Four Practical Tips For K-12 Title IX Compliance

Administrators at K-12 school districts around the country have enormous responsibilities, with Title IX compliance high up on their list. While all administrators are concerned with doing the right thing by their students, almost without exception they have exceptionally limited resources with which to operate.

White House Addresses Sexual Misconduct in K-12 Schools

A new notice and resource materials from the White House remind K-12 schools of their obligations to prevent and address sexual misconduct under Title IX of the Education Act of 1972. Like colleges and universities, K-12 school districts have a legal obligation under Title IX to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct.

Education Update (No. 4, October 2016)

Avoid Uber-Liability By Restricting Ridesharing Services On Campus; National Anthem Protests: How Should Educational Institutions Respond? The Unexpected Class Of 2016? Groundbreaking Labor Board Decision Creates New Class Of Supervisors; Child-On-Child Sexual Abuse: The Often Forgotten Reportable Offense

Taking a Page Out of the Olympic Playbook: A Spotlight on National Collegiate Anti-Doping Policies

With the increase in athletic competition often comes an increase in methods to find a competitive edge.

National Anthem Protests: How Should Schools, Colleges, And Universities Respond?

It’s the night of the big game. Parents, students, and fans fill the stands. The marching band takes the field, but as the band begins to play the national anthem, the football team’s star player drops to one knee – similar to the rash of professional sports figures that have recently done so – leaving district or university administrators scrambling to determine the appropriate response.

Proposed Borrower Defense Rules May Significantly Impact Higher Education Institutions

The US Department of Education (ED) recently released a significant Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which could impact most institutions of higher education. In a nutshell, the proposed regulations are designed to provide student borrowers with new ways to assert defenses to repaying student loans and, perhaps more significantly, to allow ED to seek reimbursement from schools for such claims brought by students.

Education Update (No. 2, July 2016)

The light criminal sentence meted out to former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner, coupled with a scathing independent report about the way Baylor University purportedly responded to claims of sex misconduct in general and sex misconduct claims against athletes in particular, has once again focused the nation’s collective attention on campus sex assault.

First Federal Appeals Court Rules that Title IX Applies in Transgender Bathroom Case

Yesterday, in a landmark ruling, a federal appellate court decided that under Title IX a transgender student can challenge a school board policy that limits bathroom and locker room access based on biological sex. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit deferred to guidance from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that “[w]hen a school elects to separate or treat students differently on the basis of sex. . . a school generally must treat transgender students consistent with their gender identity.” The decision is important for school districts grappling with this issue, both nationwide and in Illinois.

Summer Projects To Prepare For The 2016/2017 School Year

Each year we outline those issues or trends you should consider implementing as your summer projects to ensure that your school is in compliance with the law and best practices. We list below four areas that we recommend you address as you plan for next year.

Racial Tensions On Campus: Six Practical Solutions For Educational Institutions

Almost five years ago, the Department of Education issued its “Dear Colleague” letter on Title IX and sexual violence. The letter was a not-so-subtle reminder that Title IX requires federally funded educational institutions to prevent sexual harassment and violence. After that, the day-to-day work of many higher education attorneys and student affairs professionals has never been the same.

University Revises Transfer Policies In Effort To Combat Campus Sex Assault

One Title IX issue that has received considerable attention over the past several months is how colleges and universities should assess the student conduct records of students interested in transferring onto campus. Putting a finer point on it: should a finding that a student engaged in sexual misconduct at a prior school effectively bar that student from transferring to another school?

Three Things You Need To Know: School Ordered To Allow Girls' Locker Room Access To Transgender Student

Should anatomically male transgender high school students who identify as female be allowed to use female locker rooms? In what has been described as a “momentous” decision, the Department of Education Office of Civil Rights concluded that a school’s refusal to allow a transgender student to use a female locker room violated Title IX.

Transcending Gender In Schools: Is Gender Neutral The New Normal?

In Missouri, a 17-year-old student who was born male, but has identified as female since he was 13, chose to use the girls’ locker room during gym class. That decision sparked outrage in the school community and led to student-body protests.

$800K Settlement Illustrates Unique Issues Raised In Title IX Litigation

Student-on-student sex-assault cases have recently taken center stage in the higher education arena. The last two months have seen legal developments in this area which aptly illustrate the seemingly Sisyphean task facing colleges and universities responding to such cases.

Play for Pay? Not Today, Says the Ninth Circuit in the Latest NCAA Ruling

Whether the amateurism rules of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) violate federal antitrust laws remains an active issue before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. But the dramatic changes ordered by U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken to take effect for scholarship offers made starting on August 1, 2015, have been stayed by the Ninth Circuit panel considering the NCAA’s appeal.

Electronic Devices At School: What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

The reality of life for most employees is that most of them cannot make it through an hour, much less a full school or business day, without checking their smartphones, tablet computers, laptops, and other electronic devices. Some schools have sought to manage the chaos by implementing “bring your own device (BYOD)” policies.

Title IX And Sexual Assault On Campus

In January this year, President Obama created the Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault to provide colleges and universities with recommendations to prevent and respond to sexual assault and enhance efforts to hold educational institutions accountable when they fall short in addressing sexual assault on their campuses. Recently, the Task Force issued its first report containing action steps and recommendations to assist colleges and universities in meeting their obligations to protect students from sexual violence.

Who's On Your Campus? Have You Checked The Sex-Offender List Lately?

An administrator’s nightmare is receiving a phone call that an individual on the sex offender’s list has harmed a child within the school. To avoid this horrible situation, schools now regularly check the criminal backgrounds of employees of the institution. Many states and accrediting organizations require it.

Obama Administration Releases Names of Colleges and Universities Facing Sexual Assault Investigations

On May 1, the U.S. Department of Education released the names of 55 colleges and universities being investigated for their handling of sexual assault complaints.

Transgender Issues Highlight Tensions Between Students' Rights To Liberty And Privacy

In the wake of controversy over school vouchers, fights over appropriate curriculum, and the endless battles to decide whether school funding is adequate, the nation’s public and private schools certainly have their share of problems to overcome. It is no wonder that issues pertaining to transgender students haven’t received much press before now. But, with more openness in today's society regarding gender identity, sexual orientation, same-sex marriage, and the like, public and private schools are going to see more of these issues in both the employee and student arenas.

How to Ensure an Inclusive Environment for Student Athletes and Issues of Sexual Identity

Recently, college sophomore Conner Mertens became the first college football player in the United States to publicly come out. Conner is the kicker on the Willamette University football team in Oregon. This unprecedented event affects not only the lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) community, but also all colleges and universities regardless of size, division, and level. Why? Because Conner is not alone. Approximately 2 to 5 percent of college athletes are out, and this number will continue to grow as more athletes, both at the collegiate and professional level, continue to come out publicly. Given these statistics, colleges and universities will want to confirm that they are implementing programs that ensure a safe and respectful environment for student athletes.

Student Sexting: A Serious Issue in Need of a Thoughtful Response

Sexting among today’s teens is a problem that is under-the-radar in many schools. For those who have not yet encountered the issue, “sexting” is when young people take nude pictures or video images of themselves or others, using cell phones or webcams, and share them with others via text message, email, social-media post, or similar internet dissemination. The pictures are sometimes of sexually provocative poses or real or simulated sex acts. In other cases, images may be taken covertly and shared without the knowledge or consent of the subject. In some cases these images are taken in school locker rooms or bathrooms – places where privacy is reasonably expected.

Service Animals In School

Joey is a 5th grade student who is hearing impaired. Joey’s parents request that he be allowed to attend school with his service dog, Snickers. You learn that Joey’s teacher is severely allergic to animal dander. You are also aware that several students in Joey’s class are afraid of dogs. What do you do?

Education Update (October 2013)

Time For Your School's Annual Checkup October 1, 2013; Big Little Man On Campus: Protecting Minors At Colleges And Universities.

The Basics of Complying With the “Dear Colleague” Letter Issued by the U.S. Department of Education on April 4, 2011

This is part one of a four-part series discussing compliance with the “Dear Colleague" Letter on Sexual Violence issued by U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) on April 4, 2011, as well as subsequently issued guidance and recently adopted statutes addressing sexual harassment and sexual violence under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Part one addresses Title IX compliance under the April 4, 2011 “Dear Colleague" Letter. Part two will address OCR’s April 24, 2013 "Dear Colleague" Letter on retaliation, including retaliation claims under Title IX. Part three will address the Campus Sexual Violence Elimination Act, which amended the Higher Education Act of 1972 (the HEA) and imposes new reporting requirements under Title IX and the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (the Clery Act). Part four will address the Letter of Findings and Resolution Agreements with the University of Montana regarding Title IX of the HEA, issued by OCR on May 9, 2013.

Heads Up For Schools With TIAA CREF 403(b) Plan Documents

We try to alert our clients when we begin to see a trend developing. One trend our benefits attorneys have been addressing for private school clients is the fact that their third-party plan auditors have found that schools using 403(b) plan documents prepared by TIAA CREF do not (and cannot, as written) match their actual administration of plan eligibility.

Making The Grade: Ensure Your School is Following Best Hiring Practices

The holiday break is over. Classes are back in full swing. For most schools across the nation, this is the time to evaluate current staffing needs and begin the recruitment and hiring process for the upcoming school year. The ultimate goal when embarking on a mission to hire is always to find the best teacher or individual for the job.

Education Update: "Dear Colleague . . . "

With that disarming salutation, a little over a year ago Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced new Department of Education mandates, issued under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, to eliminate sexual assault on American campuses. Simply worded, but vastly complex as well as controversial in application, Title IX prohibits sex discrimination in public and private K-12 schools and universities that receive any federal financial assistance.

Has Your School Had a Check Up Recently?

Now that school has started, it is time to ensure that your house is in order for the school year. Each year we highlight those area in which we see trends developing or issues with which schools consistently have challenges. It is far better to address these issues preventively rather than waiting for a claim or problem to occur.

Education Industry: Avoiding Unemployment Claims For Summer Break

In a recent denial of unemployment for a substitute teacher, a Florida court provided guidance to schools hoping to avoid unemployment claims for summer breaks. The case involved an unemployment claim by a substitute teacher following her submission of a renewal application to the school that stated: "I understand that returning the Renewal Application will ensure that I have a reasonable assurance of re-employment as a substitute teacher for the school term applied for."

Education Industry: Compensation and Benefits Checkup

Schools are beginning to realize that the laws applicable to their operations are much more complicated than the Heads, Boards, and Business Managers thought. From 403(b) issues, to health insurance deviations, to wage-hour classifications, to stipends for coaching activities, each of these decisions has a specific impact on the school that could create large liability.

U.S. Department of Education Offers Guidance on ADA Amendments

The Department of Education issued a Dear Colleague letter and Frequently Asked Questions document providing guidance for elementary and secondary schools on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504). The guidance addresses changes to the ADA and Section 504 made by the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (the Amendments Act), which became effective on January 1, 2009.

DCFS: College and University Staff Must Report Suspected Child Abuse

In the wake of the Penn State child abuse allegations, a spokesperson from the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has stated that DCFS interprets the State’s Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act, 325 ILCS 5/1 et seq., (ANCRA) to require college and university employees to report suspected child abuse. This development was reported in the Chicago Tribune on November 11, 2011, and it may require prompt action by post-secondary institutions operating within the State of Illinois.

Wage & Hour Law On Campus - Your Webinar Questions Answered

Last Wednesday, my partner Ed Druck and I hosted a webinar on wage and hour law for colleges and universities. (For those who missed it, you can check out the recording.) We had a great turnout and a wonderfully responsive audience. We were thrilled to receive nearly 50 questions, but could only get to a handful of them during the webinar. Over the next several weeks, we will try to answer a number of them here on the blog. If we don't get to yours, please feel free to contact me or Ed.

Is The "Post" Man Coming To Your School?

Imagine that on November 14, 2011, as the Director of the St. James Interdenominational Faith Academy, one of the school's teachers comes into your office and informs you that unless the school immediately posts the National Labor Relations Board notice advising employees of their rights, including the right to form a union and bargain over their wages and other terms of employment, he will file a complaint with the NLRB forcing you to post it and also seek to have the NLRB impose the full penalties allowed by law. You have never heard of such a notice. Is it really required? The school has no union and isn't the NLRB only concerned with unions? Aren't religious schools exempt from such laws? What do you do? Where do you begin?

Oh, The Tangled Web: Avoiding Liability for Employees' Off-Campus Activities With School Students

You've just received a phone call advising that one of the school's employees is being sued for engaging in inappropriate activity with students attending the birthday party for the employee's child. The parent tells you that he is also considering bringing a claim against the school. This type of situation is occurring with more frequency today. Unfortunately, many schools have not yet taken action to assess the potential school liability for an employee's off-duty behavior.

Education Industry: The Art Of Investigation

One of the most challenging, but increasingly common, tasks a school will face is conducting an investigation into misconduct by a student, employee – or possibly even a parent. Nearly every instance of alleged wrongdoing a school learns about mandates some type of investigation. For example, schools should conduct investigations when a student complains of teacher misconduct, an employee complains of co-worker harassment, or the school suspects a student has cheated on a test.

Teachers: To Be Or Not To Be (Under Contract)

The vast majority of U.S. businesses employ workers on an "at-will" basis. The most significant exception to this general rule? Independent schools.

The New School Year: Three Challenges Schools Will Face

The business of running a school is much more difficult today than it was ten years ago. Independent schools have been forced to recognize that they are part of the corporate world with all of the resulting legal liability. Parents and employees are quick to make demands to enforce their actual or perceived legal rights and the media loves the negative attention. So, while it is still early in the school year, this is the ideal time to understand the challenges so that you can assess the areas where your school, its board or administration, may be weak and take steps now to begin to shore up the school's position and defenses.

Education Update: Today's John Hancock.

As the business of running a school becomes more time consuming and legalistic, many schools are assessing whether to consider going paperless by using electronic signatures in the application, enrollment, and other processes. To help schools understand the issues, this article summarizes the law in this area and some best practice guidelines.

Revised ADA Regulations Cover Service Animals and Auxiliary Aids

Attorney General Eric Holder signed revised regulations that implement Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to school districts. The major changes include new provisions on service animals and updated provisions regarding auxiliary aids and services

Education: Requiring Use of Electronic Book Readers May Violate ADA/504.

On June 29, 2010, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a joint letter to college and university presidents nationwide expressing concern that their institutions might be requiring students to use electronic book readers (e.g., Kindle, iPad) that are inaccessible to those with visual impairments

Education Industry: Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome.

In today's global economy, more and more educational institutions are seeking to create a culturally diverse educational experience at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary levels through foreign student enrollment and through accessing the international community for faculty and professional staff. Attracting top notch students, teachers and researchers from other countries not only adds to the bottom line (especially in these tougher economic times) but opens doors to an international reputation and recognition.

Are Your Students "Sexting"? Are Your teachers?

"Sexting" is the act of sending sexually-explicit images via cell phones, emails, iPods, pagers or social-networking sites. Unfortunately, the "sexting" phenomenon has exploded across the nation in the last decade and news reports of students engaged in sexting scandals are becoming all too common. Criminal prosecution of teenagers sending "sexts," lawsuits instituted against schools and school officials due to their response to incidents of sexting, and even reports of teenagers allegedly committing suicide after sexting incidents spiraled out of control have received nationwide media coverage.

Social Networking In Schools.

As more students, parents, teachers and administrators tap into social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube for educational, school communication, admissions marketing and other purposes, the lines between educational and personal networking are becoming more and more blurred.

Education Industry: Legal Considerations For Tough Economic Times.

Even though there are signs that the economy is recovering, many schools are still finding that they are overstaffed in light of their budget needs. Although most private schools issue contracts for new and returning teachers between February and April, they may not know the full extent of their re-enrollment commitments until later in the spring. Worse yet, parents who do commit in the spring may change their mind if the parents' financial situation changes after signing the re-enrollment contract. Schools then find that they are faced with a need for a reduction in force.

Should Your School's Dress Code Address Transgender Students?

Teenagers who push the limits of school dress codes are nothing new. Experimenting with clothing, hairstyles, and even make-up is a way for teens to explore their identities and test the limits of socially-acceptable behavior. Although school officials might find dress code enforcement challenging, dress code violations in the past tended to be fairly routine and usually revolved around prohibiting overtly sexually suggestive clothing or outward signs of gang affiliation.

FTC's Enforcement of the Red Flags Rule Delayed to June 1, 2010.

On October 29, 2009, we alerted schools to the looming November 1, 2009 deadline of the Federal Trade Commission's Red Flags Rule. This rule was implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and mandates that financial institutions and creditors with covered accounts develop and implement a written program that detects, prevents, and mitigates identity theft.

Eductation Industry: Raising A Red Flag.

Many schools have been contacted by vendors advising that the school must set up an identity theft program to comply with the new federal regulations called the "Red Flags Rule." This rule was implemented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and mandates that financial institutions and creditors with covered accounts develop and implement a written program that detects, prevents, and mitigates identity theft.

Education Update: "ID, Please" – School Security In The 21st Century.

Having just observed the eighth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, it's worth considering how much we have become accustomed to enhanced security measures in our day-to-day lives. Anyone who has traveled through a U.S. airport, shown up for jury duty at the local courthouse, or even attended a ball game over the past few years, knows that things aren't what they used to be. We've all become used to increased security, and we're usually willing to go along with the inconveniences and invasions of privacy, especially if it's clear the enhanced measures actually decrease the chances of an incident.

Court Hands School A Victory On Issue Of Student Sexuality.

Issues of student sexuality have been emerging in private schools for the last five years or so. Questions abound regarding student sexual-orientation rights in religious and non-religious schools, regarding the rights of students to create gay and lesbian school clubs, and regarding the propriety of administrators' disclosure of student same-sex relationships to parents. In some situations, private schools have been sued for taking strong action where the administration determined that students who are engaging in same-sex relationships have violated the school's religious principles.

Education Update: New Law, New Recordkeeping Headaches

Under recently-enacted legislation, educational institutions may find themselves defending discrimination claims arising from tenure or other types of employment decisions made long ago.

Education Update: Student Golfer's Lawsuit Lands In The Rough.

A school's right to control student membership in extracurricular activities was upheld recently as a North Carolina judge dismissed a breach-of-contract lawsuit brought by a collegiate golfer expelled from the school's team. The story received national media attention because it involved a prestigious school (Duke University), the son of a famous politician (Andrew Giuliani, son of former NYC Mayor and Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani), and a set of facts and allegations more befitting a soap opera than a college campus. Here's a summary:

Pre-Injury Releases Now in Question in Florida.

A recent Florida Supreme Court decision leaves more questions than answers when it comes to the enforceability of pre-injury releases executed by parents on behalf of a minor child who participates in school-sponsored activities. In the decision released on December 11, 2008, the Supreme Court held that a parent does not have the authority to execute a pre-injury release on behalf of a minor child when the release involves participation in a commercial activity. But the Supreme Court left open the possibility that, despite differing policy considerations, its reasoning may apply to pre-injury releases involving school or community activities.

Tough Economic Times Mean Tough Decisions for Schools.

As the economic crisis in our country continues, schools are trying to make predictions and hard decisions regarding staffing. Many schools are trying to determine whether and where they should cut staffing and programs based on projections for enrollment next year. Although most private schools issue contracts for returning teachers between February and April, they may not know the full extent of their re-enrollment commitments until later in the spring. Worse yet, parents who do commit in the spring may change their mind if the parent's financial situation changes after signing the re-enrollment contract.

Education Labor Letter: School Found Liable in Off-Duty Injury of Student.

"Be friendly, but do not be their friend," is an old adage often used to remind parents and educators of their responsibilities when dealing with students. Today's teachers and school administrators face the daunting task of trying to relate to high school students while maintaining a position of authority. The lines are often blurred and easily crossed with damaging, and in one instance deadly, results.

Education Labor Letter: Engaging Non-Teaching Staff Members.

Schools generally do a wonderful job of evaluating students and teachers on a regular basis. Surprisingly, very few schools have formal processes for evaluating non-teaching staff. Yet despite an absence of formal evaluations, every school has their "stars" – non-teaching staff members who are motivated without any prodding from their administrator. They go the extra mile and figure out what must be done and do it without being told. They anticipate problems from teachers and parents and solve them with a smile on their face.

Education Labor Letter: Foreign Students: What Are Your School's Rights and Obligations?

As the Admissions Director of a private elementary or secondary school, you receive a call that one of your students was stopped by U.S. Immigration at the border and will not be allowed to return to school because he does not have a "student visa." How did this happen? And what are the obligations of a private school regarding the immigration status of foreign students who are enrolled or want to attend your school?

Top Five Mistakes Made by Independent Schools.

A new school year approaches and the momentum to "start fresh" is at its annual high. Take advantage of this momentum and spend a few minutes reviewing your school's employment procedures, practices and policies. To help you, we have compiled a "Top Five" list of the most common mistakes made by independent schools....

Education Labor Letter: New Requirements for 403(b) Plans.

403(b) plans are tax-qualified retirement plans maintained only by nonprofit organizations and public school systems. Plan assets are invested in annuity contracts or custodial accounts instead of a tax-exempt trust, like 401(k) plan assets. Historically, 403(b) plans were subject to very little regulation by the IRS and DOL.

Education Labor Letter: Trans(cending) Gender in Schools.

A ninth grader at your school asks to exempted from the school's dress and appearance requirements based on her gender identity. Another student advises that his doctor recommends that he no longer use the boy's bathroom due to intimidation that the student is experiencing in the restroom by some of the boys that view him as too feminine.

Education Labor Letter: Why Your School Needs an Employee Handbook.

No matter the school size, any school benefits from an up-to-date, lawful employee handbook. Comparatively, the larger the school, the larger the benefits to the school.

Education Labor Letter: When Can (and Should) a School Require a Student to Undergo a Medical Evaluation?

A ninth grade student is sitting in your office because he said "wouldn't it be nice if you died tomorrow" to another student. And you learned that days prior to the comment, the same student had punched the student to whom he made the comment. Your first inclination is to require the student to submit to a psychiatric evaluation. But should you do so? Teachers and school administration frequently take a holistic view of dealing with students. Such an approach at times may be inconsistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (for schools receiving federal funding).

Education Labor Letter: Learning Disabled – But Compared To Whom?

Is a failing medical student "disabled" under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) merely because she is no longer a scholastic success at the graduate school level? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit recently answered "no."

Education Labor Letter: Private Entity Found Not Liable Under IDEA.

The U.S. Courts of Appeals for the 2nd and 6th Circuits, have each held that a private school is not liable under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to handicapped students or their parents who allege that they are not receiving an appropriate specialized education program. But, what about a private entity that actually contracts with the state to provide an "individualized education program" and provides the education program in the public classroom building?

Education Labor Letter: Service Animals-in-Training: Must You Allow Non-Disabled Employees To Train Service Animals on Your Campus?

Your school librarian tells you that next month, she will begin bringing to school a service dog that she is currently training and tells you that the dog is a great, unbiased listener for slower reading children. Before you automatically reject this fairly unique concept, read on.

Supreme Court’s "IDEA" Boon To Private Schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently resolved the issue of whether the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) provides for private school tuition reimbursement for students that have not received special education from a public agency. On October 10, 2007, the Court, in a four-four split, ruled in favor of respondent Tom F. and held that the IDEA does provide for private school tuition reimbursement for students who have not attempted a public school education.

Combating School Violence.

From Columbine to Virginia Tech to the "Jena 6," media coverage of violence in our schools spotlights what appears to be a growing problem. With another recent school shooting again making headlines, we may not realize that serious violent crimes – rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault – occurring in our schools are actually on the decline.

New IRS Rule Won't Affect Teacher Salaries In Upcoming School Year.

On August 7 the Internal Revenue Service reassured teachers and other school employees that new deferred-compensation rules under Section 409A (discussed in the July/August 2007 issue of the Fisher & Phillips' Education Labor Letter entitled "Are Teachers' Salaries Deferred Compensation?") will not affect the way their pay is taxed during the upcoming school year.
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