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Proposed Title IX Sexual Harassment Regulations Would Have Significant Impact on Public Schools and Colleges and Universities

The U.S. Department of Education recently released its anticipated proposed regulations regarding sexual harassment under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If adopted, these regulations could have a significant impact on the manner in which educational agencies and institutions investigate and address claims of sexual harassment or discrimination.  As currently drafted, these proposed regulations would be applicable to both public K-12 school districts and colleges and universities that receive federal funding.

Key components of the proposed regulations include: a definition of sexual harassment; a duty for recipients only to investigate complaints of conduct that occurred within their program or activity; the adoption of an “actual knowledge” and “deliberate indifference” standard of liability; and detailed grievance procedures.

Currently there are no binding federal regulations related to sexual harassment under Title IX, only administrative guidance issued by the Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which enforces Title IX. The proposed regulations are open to public comment for 60 days, and may result in further revisions before they become final.

Please click here for our summary and analysis of the proposed regulations.

Providing an Effective Learning Environment: An In-Depth Discussion of Emerging Issues in Classroom Management

Today’s classrooms place considerable importance on providing environments conducive to learning.  Issues surrounding disruptive behavior, student and staff safety, anonymous reporting, and student-initiated electronic monitoring are becoming more prevalent, and now more than ever, school administrators are evaluating their approach to classroom management.

Join Shipman & Goodwin school law attorneys for this timely workshop providing a discussion of the emerging issues in this rapidly evolving space, including an analysis of recent legislation and legal requirements. Presenters will provide an in-depth review of topics including:

  • Dealing with disruptive students and student behavior
  • Student-Teacher interactions, including assault
  • Anonymous reporting Apps
  • Electronic Monitoring, including Angelsense, smartphone video/audio recording, etc.

This program is intended for: Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Executive Directors, and Special Education/PPS Directors.

Hartford Session:
March 21, 2019: 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM EST
REGISTER FOR THE HARTFORD SESSION

Stamford Session:
March 28, 2019: 9:30 AM- 12:30 PM EST
REGISTER FOR THE STAMFORD SESSION

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.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 2/20/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As an assistant principal at a large high school, it falls to me to classify absences for the purpose of the “chronic absenteeism” calculation we must do. We have our challenges at my school, and we are always close to being a school with chronic absenteeism. As you must know, if my school is so categorized, we are obliged to have an attendance review team. As far as I am concerned, we should just create such a team and be done with it. However, my principal doesn’t want to do anything he doesn’t have to do. So he has asked me to track this obligation carefully and let him know if we must have an attendance review team at my school.

Well, easier said than done. We also have our share of disciplinary issues at my school and, in any given week, there may be from two to five students out on suspension. It seems unfair to me to consider those students “absent.” After all, on the one hand, if they came to school after being suspended, they would get in more trouble. On the other hand, they are not in school, are they? So, Legal Mailbag, what’s the right answer?

Thank you,
Definitional Dilemma  Continue Reading

Peter Maher Quoted in Special Ed Connection Article, “Your guide to avoiding progress monitoring missteps”

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Peter Maher has been quoted in the Special Ed Connection® article “ Your guide to avoiding progress monitoring missteps.” To read the full article, please click here.

Reprinted with permission from: Special Ed Connection®. © 2019 LRP Publications, 360 Hiatt Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. All rights reserved. Special Ed Connection® is your go-to source for compliance guidance and use-today solutions for all your day-to-day special education responsibilities. For FREE access or more information, please call 1-800-341-7874 or visit www.SpecialEdConnection.com. For more LRP Publications resources, visit www.shoplrp.com.

Title IX Class Action Lawsuit: Women Allege Yale Fraternity Culture Enables Harassment

College CampusThree female students recently filed a Title IX class action lawsuit seeking damages against Yale University. They allege that the University subjected them to a sexually hostile educational environment by failing to take remedial action as women were sexually harassed and abused at fraternity parties. The students also allege that they were denied equal access to the social, professional, and economic resources and opportunities that all-male fraternities provide.

Yale argues that they have limited ability to regulate fraternities because they are unregistered, off-campus organizations. In response, the lawsuit argues that fraternities “act as extensions of Yale.” In particular, Yale permitted the fraternities to use university email addresses, bulletin boards, and campus facilities for recruitment.

On June 15, 2012, the OCR issued a letter summarizing its investigation into Yale. The letter devoted several pages to fraternity-related harassment, including the 2010 DKE “no means yes” chant. The letter noted, “Students interviewed expressed concern about the 2010 fraternity incident being part of such a chain of incidents to which the University did not effectively respond.”

This recent lawsuit reminds us of the unique challenges colleges, universities, and independent schools face in regulating student organizations and implementing the mandates of Title IX on campus. In 2019, educational institutions will face increasing scrutiny over their student life policies. For more information, you can read the recent New York Times article and complaint here.

Reminder to Register! Webinar: The Nuts and Bolts of Student Handbooks for Independent Schools

Student handbooks are essential documents for independent schools, therefore it is important that handbooks are up to date and reflective of school policies.

Join Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Julie Fay and Thad Bochain for this complimentary webinar as they provide an overview of key provisions that should be included in your school’s student handbook along with other recommended best practices and emerging trends. This presentation will also include a review of legal and practical issues related to more challenging topics, such as the applicable standard of proof, searching student cell phones, vaping, and misuse of social media both on and off campus.

When: February 26, 2019, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EST

Where: Webinar

REGISTER NOW!

*Please note that this program is scheduled for 1 hour. The additional 1/2 hour is allotted for Q&A if required.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 1/30/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I am sure that you have heard about all the issues with DCF reporting. With the arrest of a number of educators for failing to report suspected abuse or neglect, we are all running a little scared. My personal approach is “better safe than sorry,” and I file a report with DCF whenever something bad happens to a student. The problem, of course, is that it can take hours to get through to the Careline, and I am having trouble doing my regular job.

Recently, I heard that we can now avoid the long wait for the Careline to answer the telephone by filing our reports electronically. That sounds great, but I am not convinced. Someone told me that DCF is drawing a distinction between “emergent” and “non-emergent” situations (whatever that means) and that mandated reporters who use the online reporting system do so at our personal peril. Is this new online reporting option worthwhile? I don’t want to guess wrong and get arrested.

Thank you,
Wondering But Wary
Continue Reading

SEE YOU IN COURT! – February 2019

The Nutmeg Board of Education is in the thick of its budget deliberations, and the members are having trouble establishing priorities. Board members Red Cent and Penny Pincher are still smarting from the budget overrun in special education costs last year, and they have been arguing that the Board should allocate more money to the special education line item in the 2019-2020 to avoid another problem. By contrast, Ms. Chairperson and Mal Content are presuming optimistically that special education costs will moderate, and they want the Board to allocate funds to hiring more teachers to reduce class size in the elementary schools. Given these conflicting views, the Board members are having a very difficult time coming together on a budget to present to the Nutmeg Board of Finance. When Mr. Chairperson adjourned the meeting last week, he admonished the Board members to reflect and reconsider their respective positions.

Veteran Board member Bob Bombast saw this impasse as an opportunity to be the leader he fancied himself to be. He sat down with A Practical Guide to Connecticut School Law and read all he could about the budget process for boards of education in Connecticut. The reading wasn’t exactly scintillating, and it was a slog for Bob. However, by the end of the evening, he came up with the answer, at least in own mind.

“Fellow Board members,” Bob began grandly in an email to the entire Board, “I am pleased to share with you the results of my research on the Board budget process. We don’t really have to worry too much about where we put the dollars in the first instance. Under Connecticut statutes section 10-222, we can transfer funds throughout the year. In preparing the budget right now, we just have to make our best guess. If special education costs are higher than we budget or lower than we budget, we can just move money around. So we should do our best and chill out.”

In less than an hour, both Penny Pincher and Mal Content responded to Bob’s email, copying the other Board members. Penny wrote that, with that understanding the Board can simply move money around, she will drop her insistence on allocating additional funds to special education. Ever the naysayer, however, Mal Content wanted to know more. “What is the process for making these transfers?” he asked. “I don’t want to make a big public deal out of it!”

Bob was ready with the answer. “Have no fear!” he wrote back. “The Board can delegate the authority to make transfers to Mr. Superintendent (or whomever else we want). We can just tell Mr. Superintendent in executive session what we want him to do, and the necessary transfers will be made.”

That explanation mollified even Mal Content, and the path was clear for an agreement at the next meeting. When the Board met again, the discussion was short and sweet, and the Board promptly adopted a budget to submit to the Town. Mr. Chairperson was greatly relieved to have this important task complete, and he thanked Bob Bombast for his leadership and guidance on the issue.

Local reporter Nancy Newshound was already curious as to why the Board members were now playing so nice, and Mr. Chairperson’s comments confirmed her suspicions. Nancy stood up and asked, “Hey! Did you guys have a secret meeting?”

Mr. Chairperson tried to walk it back. “Of course not; Board members just chatted a bit between meetings. Nothing wrong with that!” Continue Reading

The Achievement Gap: Legal and Educational Challenges

A Complimentary Discussion sponsored by Shipman & Goodwin LLP as part of our “In Community Series”

About the Discussion

Shipman & Goodwin’s School Law Practice Group and Diversity & Inclusion Committee are pleased to co-sponsor a panel discussion on what is still widely considered the most persistent problem in public education: the “Achievement Gap.”  This term is commonly used to refer to the gap in academic achievement that separates economically disadvantaged students and students of color from non-minority students and students with greater socioeconomic resources.

Our panelists will discuss:

  • What the Achievement Gap is and Why it Continues to be a Challenge
  • Causes of the Achievement Gap
  • Solutions for Closing the Achievement Gap, including a Look at Reforms Devised by Policy Makers Continue Reading

Webinar: The Nuts and Bolts of Student Handbooks for Independent Schools

Student handbooks are essential documents for independent schools, therefore it is important that handbooks are up to date and reflective of school policies.

Join Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Julie Fay and Thad Bochain for this complimentary webinar as they provide an overview of key provisions that should be included in your school’s student handbook along with other recommended best practices and emerging trends. This presentation will also include a review of legal and practical issues related to more challenging topics, such as the applicable standard of proof, searching student cell phones, vaping, and misuse of social media both on and off campus.

When: February 26, 2019, 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EST

Where: Webinar

REGISTER NOW!

*Please note that this program is scheduled for 1 hour. The additional 1/2 hour is allotted for Q&A if required.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 1/16/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As a new administrator, I am excited about my new responsibilities, especially the opportunity to evaluate teachers, playing my part in improving instruction for children. Well, I must say that it has been an eye-opening experience.

For starters, I have identified one of the most experienced teachers in my school as a poor performer. Her lessons lack coherence and her classroom management leaves much to be desired. I have worked closely with her for the last three months and I can say with assurance that she is an ineffective teacher.

My mother never coddled me and I knew just how to give this teacher some tough love. Specifically, I called a meeting with her and her union representative and laid it on the line. I told her that it was abundantly clear that she has no business standing in front of a classroom. I told her that we can do this the easy way or the hard way. I explained that the easy way will be a resignation with dignity now, effective at the end of the school year. By contrast, the hard way will be an intensive assistance plan, with extra responsibilities and weekly meetings, with little chance of an outcome other than termination.

I thought that my candor would be appreciated, but it was not. Not only did the union representative challenge my judgment about the teacher’s effectiveness, he also “demanded” that I be removed as the evaluator. Can I tell the union representative that we will not agree to his ridiculous demand?

Thank you,
Eager Beaver
Continue Reading

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