ADEA and School Districts
We go to great lengths to avoid even the impression of being old, perhaps with good reason. Public schools, as employers, are not immune to this cultural conundrum. Individuals will not hesitate to sue if they believe their date of birth has been used against them in hiring, promotion, or benefits.
School Dress Code Repercussions
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the Waxahachie (Texas) Independent School District’s dress code policy prohibiting all shirts with printed messages. What did Waxahachie do right? The genius of Waxahachie’s policy is that it does not target any particular kind of message but rather imposes a ban on words, period.
Legal and Moral Obligations to Homeless Students
The McKinney-Vento Act guarantees kids without a permanent address the same opportunities to succeed at school as any other student. However, the law does not specify a time limit on benefits such as transportation and special academic help received at district expense. Such details can be fodder for fighting.
How to Handle School Tragedy
When a student commits suicide, the proper response by school officials is to offer compassion for the family, public condolences in the media, and psychological support for grieving friends and faculty. The other district reaction happens quietly and well out of sight: It’s time to dial up the school attorney.
Environmental Hazards and Public Schools
Bad air can be especially treacherous for students or workers with asthma or bronchial problems. It can also wreak havoc on especially young or elderly lungs, such as when schools share space with a preschool or senior center. The legal consequences for school boards range from personal injury lawsuits to costly building cleanup.
Legal Issues in Bidding
School districts are voracious consumers of goods and services. Through frequent procurement, boards and superintendents control how millions of dollars are spent in communities around the nation. But the amount of money spent exposes you to two potential problems: temptation for fraud or abuse and possible legal soft spots that spur financial losses.
School Support Staff and the Law
Aides, instructional assistants, and paraprofessionals play a significant role with students. They provide classroom support, special services, and assist students -- and they can produce legal issues requiring school board and superintendent attention.
School Law News of the Weird
An odd amalgamation of stories that inspire a paraphrase of William Shakespeare: ‘tis true ‘tis a pity and ‘tis a pity ‘tis true. It has become a tradition for this column to annually highlight the education law news of the weird. This year is no exception. Read ‘em and weep.
A punch in the eye seems so passé. Bullies these days travel in packs and use cyberspace to post their humiliating messages online. Like toughies of old, they are both boys and girls and demand nothing less than total submission as the price of peace. It’s a jungle out there.
Cybersullying' and You
If your district doesn’t have a policy setting the boundaries of acceptable Internet behavior, consider the North Carolina teacher who engaged in “cybersullying” – of herself. In this case, the term refers to electronically imploding one’s own good reputation in the community via spontaneous or downright silly online deeds.
Rebounding from Leadership Crisis
The rule of democracy makes it possible for any candidate, despite personal political agendas, to secure the influential role of a school trustee. In most cases, a vigorous public process keeps the system in check, but in some situations the emergence of special interest “activist” boards can devastate a community.
A School Board's Guide to FERPA
Here’s a good rule of thumb: The school must have a parent’s knowing permission before releasing student file contents to any outsider or even to an insider who is not on a need-to-know basis. Also, parents have an unfettered right to look at their child’s school file.
What's On Your Legal List?
An ASBJ survey of school attorneys reveals what you are most likely to face in your district. Four out of the 10 top-ranked issues in our survey deal with employees, with employee discipline and termination finishing number one overall.
Tips on Hiring a School Board Attorney
When hiring an attorney, the first decision school leaders must make is whether to bring an attorney in-house or hire an outside firm. School boards should be careful about basing that decision on cost; beware of attorneys who bill themselves as one-stop shops.
Legal Problems with Corporal Punishment
The problem with corporal punishment is that the end does not necessarily justify the means. In other words, bad things can happen to good people with good intentions. One undisciplined moment, one step too far, and a school district can find itself up the creek without a paddle.