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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 – 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

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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.

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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.

SEE YOU IN COURT! – November 2018

As the Nutmeg Board of Education prepares for new budget season, Board member Mal Content is worried about the budget discussions becoming antagonistic and personal. The last budget season had been brutal, but people were generally civil and respectful in their comments on the budget. However, the last year has been hard on civility in public discourse at the local, state and federal levels of government, and Mal was worried that during budget deliberations the Board will experience the rude behavior seen too often these days on the television news.

Mal would not have to wait long. Seymour Dollars, the venerable Chairperson of the Nutmeg Board of Finance, invited the Board of Education to a preliminary meeting to provide “guidance” to the Board during the budget process. Ms. Chairperson of the Board of Education saw little choice but to play ball and ask her colleagues on Board of Education to suck it up and attend the meeting.

When Seymour called the meeting to order a few days later, he grandly announced, “This is my meeting,” he intoned, “and the members of the Board of Education are here as my guests.” Though it was early in the meeting, veteran Board of Education member Bob Bombast lost his composure. “It is our meeting too, you old windbag,” Bob blurted out. Seymour glared and ruled Bob out of order, cautioning Bob that he would be ejected from the meeting if he kept it up.

“We have invited the Board of Education here to remind our spendthrift colleagues that money is still tight. We suggest that you follow the zero-based budget approach and ask for more money only if there is a compelling need for it. Got it?” The Board members didn’t want to dignify Seymour’s condescending suggestion with a response. However, as they walked out quietly, Seymour called after them, “Remember, we are waiting for your suggestions for efficiencies and collaboration!”

In the weeks that followed, the Board of Education struggled to come up with a low-increase budget, and at the public hearing on the Board budget, it was the public’s turn to get testy. Bruno, President of the Nutmeg Union of Teachers, was first up, and he was anything but deferential. “This budget is a sham, and you are all cowards,” he shouted. To the applause of his union coterie, he sat down. But the criticism continued unabated. The PTO President was in high dudgeon as well, accusing the Board members of being “traitors” to the cause of high quality education. With that, a group of parents stood up and started waiving signs and chanting, “Traitors, Traitors.”

Ms. Chairperson had never seen anything like it, and she banged and banged on her gavel to restore order. Eventually, the group quieted down, but whenever Ms. Chairperson tried to move on with the Board meeting, the claque from the PTO stood back up and started chanting again. Eventually, Ms. Chairperson gave up trying, and over the din she asked whether there was a motion to adjourn. Bob Bombast made the motion, which was quickly seconded and passed unanimously.

Did Ms. Chairperson have any alternative here? Continue Reading

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 10/30/2018

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

In case you didn’t notice, it’s election season. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the property was being littered with campaign signs from the summer primary, I recently noticed that a candidate for state office has used school property and images of my school in his campaign literature. As the principal of the school and its leader, I’d rather not be affiliated with any candidate. I know schools are public property. However, I am concerned that the images of the school may give voters the wrong impression.

Thank you,
It’s the Principle of the Thing

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Recent Unionizing Developments on Campus

College CampusThere have been two recent developments regarding union organizing efforts on University campuses.  At Northwestern University, a mail ballot election among adjunct faculty took place in July 2016. The Service Employees International Union challenged 25 of those ballots but the challenged ballots were not finally resolved and opened until earlier this month.  Those ballots, which represented approximately 5 percent of the total vote, were sufficient to determine the outcome of the vote.  The Labor Board reviewed the eligibility of each of the persons whose vote the Union  challenged and found that each was eligible to vote.  The Labor Board then opened the ballots and as a result, the final count led to a University victory.  The final vote was 242 to 231 against joining the Union.  Although the University prevailed, getting eligible voters to participate in the election process  continues to present a significant challenge.  In this case, there were approximately 700 eligible voters, but only about 72 percent of them cast votes in the election. In any organizing drive, it is imperative to get eligible voters to vote, particularly those who are apathetic, as they tend to resist change and are not supportive of having to pay a union.  Colleges and universities, therefore, must consider the best ways, through actions and words, to inspire voting.  Continue Reading

Julie Fay Presents at the 2018 AISNE Governance Conference

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Julie C. Fay will present the session, “Legal Landscape: Today’s Hot Topics and Trends” at the 2018 Association of Independent Schools New England Annual Governance Conference. This session will review some of the emerging and recurring issues facing independent schools, including topics such as data privacy and protection, student mental health, campus security and new challenges related to the student use of e-cigarettes and vaping devices. As part of this discussion, she will review recent cases and discuss best practices for risk management.

When: November 1, 2018, 8:00 AM – 2:30 PM EDT
Where: Four Points by Sheraton, Norwood, MA

The AISNE Governance Conference is a place for board members and senior school leadership to consider what the practice of great governance looks like, in service to schools, students and society. It’s a time to come together to share and learn, recognizing the support and power within the community of AISNE peer member schools. For more information and to register, visit AISNE’s Governance Conference event page.

Gwen Zittoun Presents on Student Data Privacy

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Gwen J. Zittoun will co-present on legal compliance and best practices of student data privacy on November 20, 2018, at the CEN Education and Development Advisory Council Workshop.

The interactive workshop will provide a solid understanding of, and how to comply with, relevant federal and Connecticut laws protecting student data privacy, especially PA 16-189 and recent updates to the law.

When: November 20, 2018, 10:00 AM – 12:00 PM EST
Where: Connecticut Education Network, 55 Farmington Avenue, Hartford, CT 06105

Click here for more information on the event.

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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