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Supreme Court Clarifies FAPE Standard in Endrew F. Case

School classroom in Japanese high schoolIEPs Must Be Reasonably Calculated to Enable Appropriate Progress in Light of Child’s Circumstances

For the first time in nearly 35 years, the Supreme Court of the United States has addressed the legal standard by which courts determine whether a school district has provided a student with a disability a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) through an individualized education program (IEP) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Specifically, in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, No. 15-827 (U.S. March 22, 2017), the Court held in a unanimous opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts that, “[t]o meet its substantive obligation under the IDEA, a school must offer an IEP reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Id. at 11 (slip op.). Continue Reading

Last Chance to Register! Webinar: Board Member Boot Camp – Conducting BOE Hearings

Businesspeople at boardroom tableThere’s still time to register for this complimentary webinar offered to board of education members and chairs.

One of the responsibilities of serving on a board of education is serving as a hearing panelist. Boards of education are statutorily and often contractually required to conduct hearings, placing board members in a new and often unfamiliar role.

Join Shipman & Goodwin attorney Gary Brochu for this complimentary webinar where he will discuss the variety of hearings that board members may be required to participate in, the legal requirements concerning them, as well as guidance and tips for the proper conducting of these hearings.

Who should attend:  Board of Education Members and Chairs

When: March 31, 2017 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

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CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 3/17/17

Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter. Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney

Dear Legal Mailbag:

It seems that we cannot turn on the television these days without hearing the ongoing debate about travel bans, immigration reform and the presence of undocumented foreign nationals in this country. But I must say that I was still surprised when the issue was raised at my quiet little elementary school. The other day I received an anonymous letter that caused me concern. This letter purports to inform me that I am violating federal law by “harboring illegals” at my school. This anonymous letter identifies three of my students, two siblings and a cousin, as undocumented foreign nationals who are here illegally. Moreover, the author of this terrible letter then berated me for “wasting” public funds by providing educational services to these children, the costs for which the writer claims I may be personally liable.

As you can imagine, I am steamed to get a nasty letter from a coward who is afraid to even sign his or her name. Moreover, the children he mentioned are good school citizens, and though their parents clearly come from modest means, they seem to be involved and caring. But I do want to be responsible and do my job. How do I go about asking these parents to prove that they are citizens entitled to send their children to my school?

Signed,
Doing My Duty

Continue Reading

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 3/10/17

Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter. Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, I am reminded that we are approaching that time of the year – non-renewal season. But I am always afraid that I will be challenged if I recommend that a teacher be non-renewed. I do my best to evaluate these non-tenured teachers and this year one of them is really pretty bad. But if I recommend that he not be renewed, I am concerned that the union will come after me hammer and tongs. What if the union comes up with some technical defect in the evaluation process? It could be terribly embarrassing if the teacher I recommend for non-renewal asks for a hearing and some smarty-pants lawyer puts me through the wringer.

I was thinking that it may be better to simply tell the teacher too bad/so sad but we are reducing staff and the teacher’s position will be eliminated. In these tough times, that is certainly plausible. And by characterizing the separation as a layoff, we can avoid a messy hearing, can’t we? How does all that sound to you, Legal Mailbag?

Signed,
Scaredy Cat

Continue Reading

Webinar: I-9 Compliance and Immigration Law Update for In-House Counsel and Human Resource Professionals

ImmigrationBlogWidgetJoin Shipman & Goodwin Immigration attorneys Brenda Eckert and Ashley Mendoza for this complimentary webinar addressing essential updates in immigration law for U.S. employers.  Presenters will review I-9 compliance, as well as recent changes to immigration law and the impact on U.S. employers.

When: March 29, 2017  12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where:  Webinar

Who should attend:  In-House Counsel, Human Resources Professionals and professionals involved in immigration matters.

A tailored version of this program will be offered for a college and university audience on November 8th:

CLE Event: Webinar: I-9 Compliance, Visa Options, and Immigration Law Update for Colleges and Universities

Neither the Connecticut Judicial Branch nor the Commission on Minimum Continuing Legal Education approve or accredit CLE providers or activities. It is the opinion of this provider that this activity qualifies for up to one hour toward your annual CLE requirement in Connecticut, including zero hour(s) of ethics/professionalism.

Webinar: Board Member Boot Camp – Conducting BOE Hearings

Businesspeople at boardroom tableOne of the responsibilities of serving on a board of education is serving as a hearing panelist. Boards of education are statutorily and often contractually required to conduct hearings, placing board members in a new and often unfamiliar role.

Join Shipman & Goodwin attorney Gary Brochu for this complimentary webinar where he will discuss the variety of hearings that board members may be required to participate in, the legal requirements concerning them, as well as guidance and tips for the proper conducting of these hearings.

Who should attend:  Board of Education Members and Chairs

When: March 31, 2017 from 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

register_now button

 

Supreme Court Remands Transgender Rights Case to Lower Court

Decorative Scales of Justice in the CourtroomOver the past year, the U.S. Department of Education’s directives concerning the rights of transgender students under Title IX have changed course, muddying the collective understanding of how federal agencies interpret Title IX with regard to transgender students’ access to sex-segregated settings.  Clarification is not likely to be immediately forthcoming, as the Supreme Court yesterday remanded the high profile transgender student rights case Gloucester County School Board  v. G. G. ex rel. Grimm, no 16-273, to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in light of the Dear Colleague Letter (“DCL”) issued February 22, 2017.  In a brief order, the Supreme Court vacated the lower court’s judgment and instructed the Fourth Circuit to give the matter further consideration in light of the February 22nd DCL, which withdrew two pieces of federal guidance.  In effect, yesterday’s order vacates the Fourth Circuit’s decision in favor of the student, Gavin Grimm, which allowed him to access male restrooms and locker rooms in accordance with his gender identity in contravention of a board policy allowing access based only on a student’s biological sex.

The February 22nd DCL made mention of the significant litigation that arose in the lower courts in connection with the now-withdrawn guidance, and referenced the importance of state and local involvement, but it did not offer conclusive guidance on how the Departments of Education and Justice would interpret the relevant provisions of Title IX and its implementing regulations.  The now withdrawn guidance included a letter from a Department of Education official James A. Ferg-Cadima, dated January 7, 2015, and the joint Departments of Education and Justice DCL of May 13, 2016, both of which concluded that Title IX and its regulations require that access to sex-segregated facilities be granted based on a student’s gender identity.   Notably, the February 22nd DCL did not withdraw all guidance concerning transgender students.  Additional guidance, including the Office for Civil Rights’ Questions & Answers on Title IX and Sexual Violence (Apr. 29, 2014) and its Questions and Answers on Title IX and Single-Sex Elementary and Secondary Classes and Extracurricular Activities (Dec. 1, 2014), is still valid.  These documents predate the withdrawn guidance and extend certain protections to transgender students under Title IX.

By remanding the matter to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court has, for now, extricated itself from resolving the issue despite both parties having urged the Supreme Court to proceed and resolve the questions as presented.  Many states, including Connecticut, have extended protection to transgender students under state anti-discrimination law.  For the time being, boards of education should consult state law on this issue.  As detailed in our post of February 24, 2017, Governor Dannel Malloy has instructed Connecticut school districts to continue following the withdrawn federal guidance until the Connecticut State Department of Education releases guidance on the rights of transgender individuals in Connecticut schools.  Additionally, school districts may refer to the Connecticut Safe School Coalition’s FAQ document setting forth guidelines for schools regarding compliance with Connecticut’s gender identity and expression non-discrimination laws for additional guidance.

Register Now for Hot Topics in Special Education and Section 504/ADA

Join Shipman & Goodwin school law attorneys for a timely discussion of hot topics and legal developments in special education and Section 504/ADA. Presenters will review:

  • School supplies on green empty space background.U.S. Supreme Court decision in Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools
  • OCR December 2016 Guidance (504, Restraint and Seclusion, Charter Schools)
  • Working with a third party in special education and Section 504 (i.e. magnet/charter school, nexus district)
  • This year’s hearing decisions
  • And more

This program is intended for: Special Education Directors and Personnel, Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Executive Directors

Seating is limited and registration will close when we reach maximum capacity for the event space. Please contact us in advance if you are registering more than 4 attendees from your district.

We look forward to seeing you at this complimentary seminar for our public and charter school clients.

HARTFORD SESSION:
When: April 4, 2017  8:00 AM – 10:30 AM EDT
Where: Shipman & Goodwin Hartford Office, One Constitution Plaza, Hartford, CT 06103
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STAMFORD SESSION:
When: April 6, 2017  9:45 AM – 12:00 PM EDT
Where: Shipman & Goodwin Stamford Office, 300 Atlantic Street, Stamford, CT 06901
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CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 3/3/17

Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter. Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I am sick and tired of parents who think that middle school education is unimportant. Every spring, I receive a spate of emails from parents notifying me that they will be taking their children out of school for family vacation. I dutifully follow up with the parents to tell them that school is in session on the days that they are planning to be on vacation. However, some parents politely tell me that their children are young only once, and that family vacation is certainly more important over the long term than two weeks of middle school. Other parents simply tell me that they don’t care what I think and that I am not the boss of them. When they even bother to try to justify their decisions, they tell me that, as the parents, they have the right to excuse their child’s absence from school.

As a committed educator, I feel that I should do something, but I don’t want to step in mud. I dimly remember that there are some rules around this whole excused/unexcused absence thing. Do I have the right to override a parent’s attempt to excuse these absences or do I have to accept their decisions, however ill-advised?

Signed,
An Absence-Minded Principal Continue Reading

SEE YOU IN COURT! – March 2017

SeeYouInCourtImageSally Scrivener was elected to the Nutmeg Board of Education last November, and she was surprised when her Board colleagues voted to elect her to serve as secretary of the Board.  Sally is nothing if not conscientious, and she has taken her role very seriously.  At each meeting of the Board, Sally assiduously scripts the proceedings, and she then carefully crafts her detailed minutes and sends them to Mr. Superintendent’s secretary in a Word document to publish on the Board website.

Sally’s efforts to produce verbatim minutes have had an unintended consequence.  What was a perfunctory exercise to approve the minutes each month has become a lengthy debate, as Board members offer various corrections to the detailed minutes, sometimes in an attempt to appear more thoughtful and articulate than Sally had described.  After one especially contentious and lengthy review of the draft minutes, Bob Bombast spoke up, asking Sally not to go so “crazy” and to provide a more general description of the Board’s discussions and actions. Continue Reading

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