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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 – 12/12/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I very much enjoy the Legal Mailbag, and I have a simple question for you. I’m wondering what can and cannot be placed in students’ cumulative files. In particular, I’m wondering about DCF 136 Forms, school records of behavioral/academic interventions, etc.

Thank you,
A Fan  Continue Reading

SEE YOU IN COURT! – December 2018

As the holiday break grows near, the members of the Nutmeg Board of Education have been on their best behavior, almost mellow in tone, dutifully moving through the agenda for each meeting. Things changed at the meeting last week, however, when veteran Board member Bob Bombast moved to add an item to the agenda: Investigation into Unauthorized Trip. Fellow Board member Mal Content was intrigued, and he seconded the motion without knowing what Bob was planning. Now everyone was curious, and the Board voted unanimously to add the item to the agenda.

“What on earth are you talking about, Bob?” asked Mr. Chairperson.

“I heard from reliable sources,” responded Bob, “that the Nutmeg Concert Band is going to Europe over the holiday break. I want to know who authorized this trip, because I know that the Board certainly did not.”

Mr. Superintendent was only too happy to respond. “I did. As you recall, the Board authorized a similar trip last year. And the year before that. And the year before that. Given that past practice, I figured that I would just save you all the trouble, and I approved the trip. The Band Director got a great deal on the tickets, and the venues are all set. Do you have any other questions?”

“I certainly do,” Bob responded with a steely tone. “How dare you approve this trip on your own? This is Board business!”

Fearing an argument, Mr. Chairperson suggested that Bob and Mr. Superintendent continue their discussion in executive session. However, Bob carried on. “What about liability?” Bob asked. “How can you let our students go on an unapproved trip? I can’t imagine that our insurance would cover that!”

At this point, the other Board members grew concerned about Bob’s diatribe, and Penny Pincher texted Mal Content, asking him to do something. However, Mal texted back that he shared Bob’s concern about the field trip, and he went on to express his own concerns about Mr. Superintendent’s “lack of respect” for the Board. Before Penny could text back, however, local reporter Nancy Newshound from the Nutmeg Bugle interrupted the meeting. “Point of order,” she shouted out. “I see Board members texting each other. This is an outrageous violation of the Freedom of Information Act, and I will be filing a complaint with the FOIC.”

Mal quickly put away his cellphone, but Penny responded angrily to Nancy. “My texts on my personal cell phone are no business of yours!”

Mr. Chairperson ruled both Penny and Nancy out of order, stating that the question of texts was not in the agenda and should not be the subject of discussion. But Nancy got in one more shot: “You are on notice that I will be making an FOIA requests for those texts tomorrow morning, and you had better not delete them. Understood?” Mal understood all too well, and as soon as he got home, he deleted the text messages, figuring that they were just texts that he did not have to keep.

The next morning Nancy made good on her threat, submitting a written request for all Board member text messages sent by and between the Board members, both during the meeting and afterwards.

Was it OK for Mal to delete his texts about Mr. Superintendent? Continue Reading

Graduate Students Organize Outside the National Labor Relations Board’s Jurisdiction

Unions have been actively organizing graduate students, while wanting to avoid having the National Labor Relations Board involved. They are particularly concerned that President Trump’s appointees to the National Labor Relations Board, who are now a majority of the Board members, will revisit and reverse the Columbia University decision. That decision determined that graduate students were employees and could organize and bargain collectively.

Already, the University of Chicago and Loyola University Chicago have refused to bargain with their graduate students after they formed unions through the NLRB process. These universities are challenging the status of graduate students as employees and appear to be willing to have the new Labor Board review their cases and potentially go to the circuit courts before negotiating with the unions. Continue Reading

Webinar: Use of Physical Restraint, Seclusion and Exclusionary Time Out: An Interactive Webinar Addressing Legal Compliance

Join Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Gwen J. Zittoun and Peter J. Maher as they present a complimentary webinar addressing the legal restrictions and requirements relating to the use of physical restraint, seclusion and exclusionary time out with students in schools. The webinar will also focus on the 2018 legislative changes.

By January 1, 2019, boards of education are required to implement policies and procedures concerning the use of exclusionary time out; this webinar will include the legal requirements for these policies and procedures and a discussion of legal implications. Participants will receive important information about legal compliance and have the opportunity to pose questions to the presenters.

When: December 13, 2018, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EST
Where: Webinar


CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 11/21/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As the principal of an elementary school, I love the holiday season. Every year, I cannot wait to get through Thanksgiving dinner to start the festivities. Of course, I enjoy the excitement of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But nothing compares to the joy of picking out a fresh Christmas tree to decorate and place in the foyer of my school to welcome students and celebrate the holidays.

Sadly, I work for a Grinch, and I need your help. Earlier this month, my superintendent sent out a grim directive prohibiting Christmas carols, gift exchanges, and even Christmas trees in our schools. Apparently, the superintendent is laboring under the misapprehension that the public schools cannot celebrate Christmas. I don’t know where he is getting his legal advice, but I know for a fact that he is wrong. There is nothing wrong with a little Christmas cheer, and I have my own right to celebrate. What I need from Legal Mailbag for Christmas is a clear response that I can wave around next week so that I can go out and buy that tree.

Thank you,
Glad Tidings of Joy
Continue Reading

#Metoo: Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment in the Professional Workplace

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Leander A. Dolphin will participate in the panel discussion “#Metoo: Preventing and Responding to Sexual Harassment in the Professional Workplace” hosted by the University of Saint Joseph.

When: November 26, 2018, 6:30 PM – 7:30 PM EST

Where: University of Saint Joseph
West Hartford Campus, Crystal Room

For more information, please click here.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 11/14/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

One of the teachers in my building is quite involved in political affairs and he regularly posts commentary on his blog. This week, however, I think that he went too far. Posting about the results of the recent election, he offered the observation that the mayor and entire political establishment in my town should be very worried because their days in control of town affairs are numbered. That was bad enough, but then he went on to recount a number of incidents in which the mayor had made mistakes and embarrassed himself. Unfortunately, I was not alone in my concern; the mayor’s assistant called me up to ask what I was going to do about this “disloyalty” by a town employee. I told him that it’s a free country and that the teacher has a right to express himself. The response from the mayor’s assistant, however, was concerning. He just responded curtly that he would report back to the mayor on where I stand.

I do believe that teachers do have free speech rights but, given the conversation with the mayor’s assistant, I thought that I should do something. I called the teacher down to the office and asked him in my most charming voice if he ever considered toning it down. I explained that the mayor tries hard and has a lot of influence. Maybe it would be better for everyone, I wondered aloud with him, if he would stop criticizing the mayor. The teacher was polite but non-committal. In any event, I was shocked to read in his next blog post his version of our meeting. There, he described how I had sought to “stifle” his “free speech,” and he declared that he would never be silenced.

Now I am mad. Can I discipline the teacher for publicizing a private meeting in which I simply counseled him that his obnoxious posts may not be worth the trouble they cause?

Thank you,
Righteously Indignant

Continue Reading

Federal Excise Taxes on Executive Compensation

On November 5, 2018 the Internal Revenue Service released proposed regulations addressing the filing requirements related to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act’s federal excise taxes on an exempt organization’s executive compensation in excess of $1,000,000 and excess parachute payments. The proposed regulations provide that IRS Form 4720, Return of Certain Excise Taxes, is to be used for reporting the excise taxes and that Form 4720 must be filed by the 15th day of the fifth month after the end of the organization’s taxable year. Thus, an organization reporting on a calendar-year basis that incurred excise tax during the calendar year ending December 31, 2018, must file a Form 4720 and pay the tax due by May 15, 2019. As of the date of this notice, the IRS has not yet updated the Form 4720 to account for these new excise taxes, but we urge exempt organizations to plan ahead for compliance.

Continue Reading

Leander Dolphin Presents on Conduct and Disability Within Higher Education

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Leander A. Dolphin will discuss the intersection of conduct and disability within higher education at an upcoming event sponsored by the Connecticut Association on Higher Education and Disability (“CT AHEAD”).

When: November 9, 2018, 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST

Where: Central Connecticut State University
Memorial Hall, Constitution Room 201
1615 Stanley Street, New Britain, CT

Click here for more information on the event.


Thomas Mooney Presents at the 2018 CABE/CAPSS Convention

School law attorney Thomas Mooney will be a presenter at the 2018 Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE)/Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents (CAPSS) Convention Connecticut’s Future: Transforming Schools, Transforming Lives. 

Tom will present a workshop based on a mock board meeting, which is patterned on the CABE Journal’s “See You In Court” column. The 33rd Annual Meeting of the Nutmeg Board of Education is designed to amuse and educate participants, while the actions of the Nutmeg Board will be analyzed from the legal perspective.

When: November 16-17, 2018

Where: Mystic Marriott Hotel, Groton, CT

Visit the CABE/CAPSS Convention site for more information.