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Anne represents schools in labor relations, employment and education law, including collective bargaining, personnel policies and practices, constitutional law, special education, student discipline, freedom of information, and education policies. She negotiates collective bargaining agreements on behalf of schools, including representation in interest arbitration proceedings as needed. Anne works with schools to address issues such as bullying and sexual harassment. She is often called upon to advise schools regarding professional boundaries and child abuse and neglect issues.  In her role as general counsel to boards of education around the state, Anne facilitates self-evaluation and goal-setting sessions. She also leads Shipman & Goodwin's model policy project, which provides policy support and guidance to a number of school districts.

Anne serves as General Counsel to Shipman & Goodwin. From 2010 through 2017, she was Co-Chair of the firm's School Law Practice Group, and from 2011 through 2017, she served on the firm's seven-member Management Committee.

Recently, a federal district court in Texas sided with Texas and several other states that challenged federal guidance instructing schools to accommodate transgender students under federal anti-discrimination laws.   The preliminary injunction, issued on the eve of a new school year, bars enforcement of guidance issued by the federal Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE).  Through the suit, thirteen states challenge the validity of the Dear Colleague letter (DCL) published jointly by both agencies in April.  The DCL interprets Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 to encompass discrimination based on gender identity, including discrimination based on a student’s transgender status.   Title IX was enacted to prevent discrimination on the basis of sex but does not explicitly include transgender individuals within its protective bounds.  The DCL sets forth the agencies’ interpretations and schools’ obligations regarding transgender students and puts federal funding at risk where schools are not in compliance with the requirement that public schools accommodate transgender students’ asserted gender identities.  The guidance is applicable to schools in receipt of Federal financial assistance at all educational levels, including colleges and universities as well as public school districts.Continue Reading Connecticut Unaffected by Federal Court Order Forbidding Enforcement of Transgender Guidance

Anne Littlefield has been quoted in an article on guidelines to follow when a school determines it necessary to modify a student’s schedule. This article originally appeared in SpecialEdConnection®.

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Use Caution When Shortening Student’s School Day to Address Behavior

littlefieldslblogA public charter school student with autism and an emotional disturbance is suspended frequently over the course of a school year, with 10 days of removals in total. In an effort to address his behavioral issues, which increase in the afternoons, the school’s special education director and the student’s mother agree to shorten his school days to half days. The change to the student’s schedule is emailed to his IEP team.

The school is later found to have violated the IDEA and ordered to undergo training. Where did it go wrong?

In this recent case, Millennium Community School, 116 LRP 11957 (SEA OH 03/25/16), the school violated the IDEA when it cut the student’s school day in half without convening his IEP team. It also failed to conduct a manifestation determination review of the student’s disciplinary removals.

Follow these guidelines to avoid a similar misstep in your district:

Convene IEP team when making changes to students’ schedules

Whenever a school determines that a change to a student’s schedule is needed for disability-related reasons, convene an IEP team meeting, said Anne Littlefield, a school attorney at Shipman & Goodwin LLP in Hartford, Conn. Be prepared to show data and discuss why the change is necessary for the student’s progress, she said.

“You have to be cautious whenever you shorten a student’s school day, because you’re ending up with a child with a disability who has less instructional time than a child without a disability,” Littlefield said.

Once the IEP team has agreed on changes to a student’s schedule, amend the IEP to reflect the changes and address how the student’s educational services will continue to be provided, said Nina Gupta, a school attorney at Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP in Atlanta, Ga. Don’t rely on emails or verbal agreements with parents; document all changes in writing, she said.

In the Millennium case, the charter school shortened the student’s school day in hopes of alleviating his afternoon behavior problems. However, the decision was made between the special education director and the student’s mother outside of an IEP team meeting. Outside agreements with parents often don’t work long term, Littlefield said. They also can amount to a denial of FAPE if changes in placement are made without an IEP meeting or an amended IEP, she said.Continue Reading Anne Littlefield Quoted in Special Ed Connection Article, “Use Caution When Shortening Student’s School Day to Address Behavior”

The U.S. Departments of Education and Justice released joint guidance today entitled Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students. This guidance is provided pursuant to the DOE and DOJ’s enforcement authority under Title IX, and is designed to assist educators with information needed to ensure that transgender students can attend school in an environment free from discrimination based on sex.  The guidance explains that when students or their parents, as appropriate, notify a school that a student is transgender, the school must treat the student consistent with the student’s gender identity.  According to the guidance, a school may not require transgender students to have a medical diagnosis, undergo any medical treatment, or produce a birth certificate or other identification document before treating them consistent with their gender identity.  The guidance states that a school that treats a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity is in violation of Federal laws prohibiting sex discrimination.
Continue Reading U.S. DOE and DOJ Release Joint Guidance Regarding Transgender Students

The United States Departments of Education and Health and Human Services (the “Departments”) recently issued a joint policy letter emphasizing the importance of improving school-based
Continue Reading U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services Issues Joint Policy Letter On Improving School-Based Health

littlefieldslblogAnne Littlefield has been quoted in an article on steps to consider when evaluating student misconduct. This article originally appeared in SpecialEdConnection®.

Download: Printable PDF

Investigate root of misconduct to rule out prior knowledge of disability

A kindergartner accumulates a number of suspensions for failing to follow directions, acting distracted, and talking during lessons. With intervention, he makes academic and behavioral progress.

But then, over the course of a month, he becomes insubordinate, yells at his teacher, and hides under desks, prompting the educator to evacuate the classroom.

The teacher attributes the child’s misconduct to his young age, lack of school readiness, and difficulty coping with his parents’ divorce.

The charter school’s disciplinary committee decides in December that the student should be suspended for the rest of the school year.

The child’s parents claim that the school denied their child FAPE for imposing disciplinary measures without affording him protections under the IDEA. They claim the school should have conducted an evaluation.Continue Reading Anne Littlefield Quoted in Special Ed Connection Article, “Investigate Root of Misconduct to Rule Out Prior Knowledge of Disability”

By: Anne H. Littlefield and Lyndon Haviland
American School Board Journal
February 2016

asbjlogo (00000002)School districts have legal and ethical obligations to promote safe and healthy environments in which students can thrive. Victims of childhood sexual abuse experience myriad adverse health and educational outcomes. School leaders must consider prevention education as a critical strategy to improve the health and well-being of students.

While many would prefer to think of childhood sexual abuse as a rare occurrence, research shows that it is experienced by an estimated 25 percent of girls and 16 percent of boys in the U.S. by the age of 18.

Districts can prevent or reduce the likelihood of sexual victimization of students both through training and through adoption of certain employment practices and policies. By adopting a robust approach that includes prevention, intervention, and support measures, schools will reduce the opportunity for sexual abuse, create a supportive environment for disclosure, promote positive outcomes for victimized children, and create a safe and healthy environment for all students.Continue Reading Safe Havens: Preventing Student Sexual Abuse Starts With You

EducationImageIn its 2015 regular and special sessions, the General Assembly made a number of changes in the statutes that affect Connecticut school districts. 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.

View the 2015 Education Legislation Summary.

View ADA Accessible File.Continue Reading Education Legislation Summary 2015