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2018 Education Legislation Summary

In its 2018 regular session, the General Assembly made a number of changes in the statutes that affect public education in Connecticut. This summary is intended to give you a brief overview of some of the more significant changes that were made this year in the area of education. In addition, for more information about new legislation affecting employers in general, please see our Employment Legislation Summary.

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CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 10/16/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I had a weird experience the other day that I need to share with you. A family new to the district came by to enroll their 4th grade daughter, and they stopped in to see me. I was delighted to welcome the newcomer to our happy little school. However, I was not happy to see her “best friend,” Woofy. I politely told the family that we do not allow dogs in our school, but they pushed back immediately. “Woofy,” the dad said, “is more than a dog, much more. Woofy is a service animal who provides emotional support for our daughter.”

I did my best to be polite, but Woofy was out of control, running around my office, sniffing everything in sight, and even licking my face. “Isn’t he great?” the dad asked rhetorically. “He brings such joy and comfort to our little girl.”

I admit that I am a cat person, but I am not anti-dog per se. However, I can’t imagine letting this “Woofy” creature into my school. Can I tell the family that Woofy belongs in the dog house? Please email me your answer, because the daughter is starting school tomorrow.

Thank you,
Dog Be Gone
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CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 10/9/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As the principal of a large middle school, I pride myself in running a tight ship. I want my teachers on time where they are assigned. I want my custodians to keep the building spic and span. I want my parents to keep out of my hair, and above all else, I don’t want to be surprised. Ever.

Given my admittedly inflexible personality, I was disappointed that one of my teachers did in fact surprise me, big time. The other day I received a call out of the blue from DCF asking to schedule some meetings as part of an investigation. Apparently, one of my teachers decided all on her own that the way a paraprofessional was treating a special needs child was child abuse. Given that she teaches math, I really don’t see how she is qualified to make that determination, and I was miffed that she would not consult with me before opening up this Pandora’s box.

I sent her an email, directing her to schedule a meeting with me. I plan to convey my disappointment and to tell her that she should talk with me first before filing a DCF report, but I don’t plan to impose any formal discipline. Nonetheless, she wrote back and asked if she can bring a union representative. That’s the last thing that I want. Can I tell her no?

Thank you,
Stiff Spine

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Julie Fay, Bob O’Brien and Laurann Asklof to Present at the 2018 NAIS-TABS Legal Symposium

Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Julie Fay, Bob O’Brien and Laurann Asklof will present sessions at the 2018 NAIS-TABS Legal Symposium.

Julie will present the session, “Managing Students: A Day in the Life of a Dean.”  This session will address legal issues and best practices on issues such as misuse of social media, searching student phones, vaping, and how to develop an effective and compliant student handbook. As part of this discussion, Julie will discuss challenges in developing sexual misconduct policies, addressing confidentiality issues and establishing effective adjudication process.

Bob and Laurann will present a roundtable discussion titled, “Key Considerations for School Construction Projects.”  This roundtable discussion will review school construction matters, including request for qualifications/proposals, project delivery methods, contract forms, consistency among documents, liquidated damages provisions, bonding, types of insurance, dispute resolution provisions, and risk management/mitigation.

Designed for trustees and school administrators of all kinds to learn about the pressing legal issues facing independent schools, the NAIS-TABS Legal Symposium is a unique opportunity to spend quality time with legal professionals and colleagues to dig into the concerns of the day and come away with solutions.  The Symposium will be held October 18-19 in Philadelphia, PA.

Shipman & Goodwin is a proud sponsor of this year’s event. For more information and to register, visit the NAIS-TABS Legal Symposium website.

2018 Labor and Employment Fall Seminar

Please join us for our annual fall seminar on October 25, 2018 at the Hartford Marriott Downtown. This promises to be an interesting and informative program regarding recent developments in labor and employment law. Our half-day seminar will include discussions of the timely topics listed here as well as updates on recent legislation and court decisions affecting employers.

When: October 25, 2018
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM EDT

Where: Hartford Marriott Downtown
200 Columbus Boulevard, Hartford, CT

REGISTER NOW! Continue Reading

SEE YOU IN COURT! – October 2018

Mr. Chairperson has had his hands full with two new members of the Nutmeg Board of Education. Mal Content and Chrissie Critical were elected to the Board just last November, but they quickly started antagonizing Mr. Chairperson and the other Board members. Nothing, it seemed, was right in their view. Mal and Chrissie complained at the Board meetings about the “do-nothing” Board, and they repeatedly complained by email to all the other Board members. Some Board members tried to respond to their concerns by return email, but the disaffected two were unmoved and continued to find fault with the Board.

Mal and Chrissie were frustrated, they claimed, because Mr. Chairperson was thwarting their reform efforts. They had both repeatedly asked that an item be added to the Board meeting agenda – appointment of a special counsel to investigate Board member collusion with Seymour Dollars, venerable Chair of the Nutmeg Board of Finance. They claimed that Seymour was pulling the strings on Board decision-making, and they wanted the other Board members to be questioned under oath as to what Seymour Dollars has said to them and when he said it. They even suggested that Mr. Chairperson take an straw poll of the Board members by email, claiming that he would find that a majority of the Board members agree with their request. However, Mr. Chairperson stonewalled them, telling them that such a witch hunt would not be allowed on his watch.

Finally, the other Board members had had it with the disaffected two, and speaking for the others, veteran Board member Bob Bombast proposed at a special meeting to add an item to the agenda – “Executive session for the purpose of evaluation of the performance of two difficult Board members.” Before the motion could even be seconded, however, Mal spoke up, stating the any discussion as to his efforts to straighten out the “dysfunctional” Board of Education should be held in open session. Chrissie weighed in as well, claiming that she would not be a party to any attempt secretly to defame her and interfere with her efforts to clean house.

“Never mind,” Bob responded. “If we can’t have a candid discussion about these two trouble-makers in executive session, we’ll just have a more general discussion in executive session about Board operation.” With that, the Board voted to convene into executive session. Not surprisingly, however, the discussion of “Board operation” soon devolved to an angry exchange between the other Board members and Mal and Chrissie about how they as Board members were misbehaving.

Mal and Chrissie were unchastened, and they decided to pursue their crusade through FOI requests. They asked for any and all email communications between and among any member of the Board and/or with Seymour Dollars concerning budget matters. Pushing hard, they demanded that all such emails be produced within four business days, “in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act,” they said.

Mr. Superintendent responded within four business days, informing Mal and Chrissie that the district is working on their request, but it will take some weeks to find, review and produce all of the emails.

Can Mal and Chrissie file an FOIA complaint, and will they win? Continue Reading

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 9/25/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I drive the speed limit; I drink only in moderation; and I attend church every Sunday. Given that I try so hard to live right, I was surprised and upset when a state marshal arrived at my school yesterday to serve me with a subpoena to appear in court.

As it turns out, the case involves two parents who are involved in a divorce, and they are in a bitter struggle over custody of their one child together. Both parents are constantly haranguing me about how bad the other is, and I have tried my best to stay neutral. To make matters worse, the subpoena requires that I bring with me the various school records that I have received, including emails that they have sent to me about the other.

In short, I want no part of this court battle. Do I need a lawyer? Do I need insurance? Help!

Thank you,
Panic Attack

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CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 9/18/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

For the last five years as the principal of an elementary school, I have done my very best to stay under the radar of the board of education. I appreciate the public service of the board members and all, but they are really a bunch of nosy parkers who should get a life.

Why am I telling you this, you ask. Here is the situation…The first day of school a parent came to see me with a concern that his daughter was being bullied. I was, of course, appropriately sympathetic, and I tried to ask the father what we could do to help. But he kept getting louder and angrier, and then he started making vulgar verbal attacks on my staff and on me personally. He was impervious to my efforts to de-escalate, and finally I had to tell him that our meeting was over. Even then, he kept on shouting until I threatened to call the police. He finally agreed to leave, but not before he warned me that I would be hearing more from him.

Hear, I did. The father continued the attacks, except this time on social media. To read his posts, I am a heartless bureaucrat who chased him out of my office and hates students. Unfortunately, some of the Board members took notice of these attacks, and now I find myself the subject of an executive session discussion. On the whole, I’d rather be in Philadelphia, but I am thinking that it would probably be best for me to attend the executive session. Can I do that?

Thank you,
I Am Innocent Continue Reading

Peter Maher Presents 2018 Education Legislation Review

The Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents is hosting an upcoming event on October 3, 2018, where Peter Maher will present a review of the legislation from the 2018 legislative session.

Appetizers and beverages will be provided as well as open time to network. This event is for superintendents and retired superintendents only.

When: October 3, 2018
4:00 PM – 7:00 PM EDT

Where: Alumni House, Fairfield University
1073 North Benson Road
Fairfield, CT 06824

For registration information, please click here.

Webinar: Hot Topics in Environmental and Renewable Energy Law for Independent Schools

Please join Shipman & Goodwin partners Andrew Davis, Aaron Levy and Matt Ranelli for this informative program regarding current and pressing environmental and renewable energy-related issues and opportunities for independent schools. The presenters will address key legal and practical issues independent schools face in their day-to-day operations as well as with campus building, renovation and demolition projects, with particular focus on:

  • Managing Environmental Risks and Hazardous Building Materials (e.g., mold, asbestos, lead, PCBs)
  • Best Practices When Dealing with Outside Environmental Consultants and Contractors
  • Responding to Environmental, Health and Safety Concerns and Crisis Management
  • Facility-wide Energy Planning
  • Important Considerations for Solar and Other Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Projects
  • C-PACE and other State Financing Programs for Renewable Energy and Green Building Projects

Attendees will benefit from an engaging discussion with attorneys who regularly assist independent schools with environmental and energy-related matters. The presenters invite your input on particular issues your school is facing and any other matters you would like them to discuss during the presentation. Please provide your suggestions, comments and questions by email to jsiegel@goodwin.com if there are specific issues you would like the presenters to address.

WHEN: October 3, 2018  from 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM