Big Data Wants Your Students
School leaders need to monitor mobile app and website operators that collect student information
Bullying and the Law
Recent court decisions emphasize the importance of identifying and responding to bullying and harassment
Public debate is raging over implementation of the Common Core State Standards. The administration of new state assessments aligned to the Common Core has fueled the debate and raised many legal issues relating to standardized testing and parental rights. School boards and administrators have found themselves caught in the crosshairs.
Avoid Construction Fraud
Fraud, waste, and abuse still are prevalent in construction. Based on my experience, they may be even more common in school capital improvement programs. The primary fraudulent schemes in the construction industry are corruption and billings. The median reported loss: $245,000. School board members can take actions to prevent fraud.
Level Playing Fields
In recent years, Indiana high school basketball has faced its biggest challenges as it has run headlong into the gender equity provisions of Title IX (requirements that schools provide girls with opportunities equal to those provided by boys) and the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment.
The Affordable Care Act and You
With yet another delay in the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate, this year is a great time to start analyzing your current workforce and to make sure you have the right data to make smart decisions next year.
Seeking Counsel: Honoring Brown
Our commemoration of Brown would be incomplete if we did not acknowledge the persistence of what is de facto segregation. This racial isolation is not legally mandated – instead, it reflects residential patterns, private choices, and public policy decisions. In the spirit of Brown, school boards should tackle this issue.
Seeking Counsel: The Trouble with Texting Teachers
Teachers soliciting sex from students is not new. However, when it is done via electronic means, it creates its own electronic paper trail. In fact, parents frequently are the ones who discover the crime when they check their child’s cell phone messages.
How to Hire School Resource Officers
Bullying prevention, suicide intervention, disaster response – school districts of all sizes and demographics regularly face these issues. Increasingly, school officials are hiring school resource officers (SROs) to help address them. The conversation has shifted from whether we should get an SRO to how we can best use them.
Handling the Holidays
What used to be known as the Christmas holiday season has long ago become the secular winter holiday season. These suggestions can help you to stay not only on the right side of the law, but also to make your schools welcoming for all of your students, staff and families.
Artificial Turf Contract Considerations
Schools are in control when it comes to contract and warranty negotiations with artificial turf vendors, despite the preset form documents provided by the turf company. The following are some points to consider and, if necessary negotiate, when entering into an artificial turf installation contract.
How to Handle Special Ed Disputes
IDEA disputes do not only affect the special education department. A few high-profile special education disputes can do more damage to your school system than you can imagine. This article focuses on 10 steps you can take to plan for, assess, and mitigate the risks associated with costly IDEA battles.
What Should Student Handbooks Look Like?
The best student handbooks help establish a tone and culture for the school. The key, of course, is to balance the need to provide important information to students and parents with the audience’s need to receive the information in a manner that is clear, comprehensive, and concise.
Student Information and Divorced Parents
Both parents, custodial and noncustodial, have equal access to the student and the student’s educational records unless the court has decided otherwise. In other words, unless a parent’s rights are terminated, both parents have equal access to the student and his or her records at school.
Schools and Disabled Athletes
As administrators get ready to begin a new school year, school athletic fields will be buzzing with junior varsity tryouts and practices for the fall athletic season. With this new school year, challenging questions may arise regarding how to accommodate students with disabilities who want to participate in these sports.
Legal Issues and BYOD
With the ever-increasing focus on technology in education and limited district resources to purchase technology, more and more backpacks contain personal electronic devices, as schools adopt “bring your own technology” (BYOT) policies. This article examines the legal and policy questions that a district should consider when adopting a BYOT policy.
How to Lower Unemployment Costs
Employees pay a tax for unemployment. (Wrong!) When you file for unemployment, you are entitled to it after working for so many years. (Wrong!) Employers just pay some of it, but what? (Sorta wrong.) I had to throw out everything I thought I knew about unemployment.
The Value of Networking
It is a truism of ranchers everywhere that the safest place for cattle to be is in the middle of the herd. School boards can learn a lesson from this analogy. When it comes to issues of legal liability, the safest place for a board is to be near other boards.
Online Student Speech and Tinker
As school officials encounter student speech that is or may be disruptive to the educational environment, they are learning (sometimes the hard way) just how far the Tinker standard stretches. Attempts to discipline students for online off-campus speech are increasingly met with legal resistance, but decisions differ in the threshold for disruption that is required before student expression can be regulated.
Religion and School Food
With the diversity of religious diet requirements, and potential for legal challenges to school action in this area, it is important for school district to understand the constitutional and practical considerations involved when requests are made to accommodate specialized religious diets.
Teachers Who Bully
Teacher bullying is more prevalent than most would acknowledge. Given the potential liability to districts, you are wise to recognize this issue as the ticking time bomb that it is, and take affirmative steps to identify, prevent, and address such behaviors before they become the next national headline.
First Amendment Lawsuits and Schools
Whether a parent alleges certain components of the curriculum promote a particular religion, a student alleges a curricular activity infringes on his or her right to exercise religious beliefs, or a teacher alleges the free speech clause protects her right to select classroom materials, methods and topics, these challenges nearly always implicate the First Amendment.
Choosing School Construction Systems
School districts commonly use three types of project delivery systems for public construction projects: design-bid-build, design-build, and the Construction Manager at Risk project delivery system. Here are some of the benefits and risks of each one.
Preventing Child Sexual Abuse in Schools
Because teacher sexual misconduct is alarmingly common, a proactive, rather than reactive, approach at the district level is required to address this issue squarely and directly. Create an environment that is emotionally and physically safe and where teachers and students know in advance what behaviors are both acceptable and unacceptable.
Complying with Title IX
Athletic equity is not simply about the number of sports teams available to either gender. Title IX addresses not only whether the allegedly underrepresented gender was denied equitable athletic opportunities, but also the requirement that athletes of both genders be provided with equitable athletic benefits.
Title IX's Legacy
Thirty-three years ago, the disparities between boys’ and girls’ teams were striking. Peggy Hausler, a varsity player, shared a uniform with a JV player whose team played immediately before hers. The JV team would peel off their uniforms, and the “Women of Troy” put them on and took to the court.
Five Things Your School Board Lawyer Wants You to Know
The arrival of new school board members, whether appointed or elected, almost always causes anxiety and anticipation in the hearts of the people they will work closely with. Here are five pieces of advice from a school board lawyer for new school board members that will help them do their job better.
Liable for Student Achievement?
It is safe to assume that states and the federal government will continue their efforts to redefine and reconstitute the governance of school districts, and parents will try to legally hold school boards accountable for poor student performance. Accordingly, the best strategy for school boards is to improve student achievement.
Will Autism Changes Mean Special Ed Changes?
Recently, the American Psychiatric Association proposed revisions for inclusion in the upcoming version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As a school leader, you may find this news important. This version could change how autism is diagnosed, and revisions could result in fewer students receiving special education services.
Good Governance: A Legal View
Effective school board leadership is found where there is effective preparation, communication, and teamwork. Each team member comes fully prepared for their role. Each participates in honest communication with others, learning and sharing. Each knows that it takes a team effort to ensure comprehensive success in all the responsibilities of the board.
Putting a Face on Data
The public’s image of education has largely been shaped by the publication of test scores. It is essential that the public and the media hear the real story of public education in your schools. Here are five practical ways to serve as effective ambassadors for your schools.
Food Allergy Disaster Prevention
When a school learns a student’s food allergy may require accommodations, it must take the same steps it would take to address any potential disability. If medical and anecdotal information support the need for accommodations, schools must address and accommodate an individual student’s needs in a written plan.