Dome of State House in Hartford, ConnecticutEarlier this month, the General Assembly passed House Bill 7276, now Public Act 17-220, which contains a number of provisions aimed at providing “mandate relief” to boards of education.  Section 5 of Public Act 17-220, effective July 1, 2017, makes significant changes to the physical restraint and seclusion training requirements that were enacted as part of Public Act 15-141 (now codified at Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-236b).  While this new law must still must be signed by the Governor to become law, school districts may wish to consider these revisions as they plan for staff professional development.
Continue Reading Legislature Revises Physical Restraint and Seclusion Training Requirements

Portrait of confident professor with university students in classroomEarlier this month in the city of Pittsburg, Kansas, a group of curious student journalists raised serious questions about the credentials of their newly hired principal, Amy Robertson.  According to the Kansas City Star, Robertson had received 100 percent support from the district school board, but some of the students at the Pittsburg high school were not equally convinced.  The student journalists decided to look into the legitimacy of Robertson’s qualifications.  As the students investigated Robertson’s educational credentials, what they discovered was quite suspicious and raised red flags about the new principal’s background.

First, the students learned that her university degree came from Corllins University, which operated as a diploma factory of sorts where enrollees could buy the degree of their choice.  Later, the Kansas City Star reached out to the U.S. Department of Education and learned that the federal agency had no evidence of Corllins’ operation or closure.  Subsequently, the student journalists learned that Robertson had served as Principal at the American Scientific School in Dubai, a school receiving multiple ratings of “unsatisfactory” by Dubai’s education authority, which ultimately closed down in 2013.   Armed with revealing information about Robertson’s education and career, the student journalists wrote a news story in their school paper. Days after the release of that story, Robertson resigned.

What lesson can schools take from these Pittsburg students? When considering applicants, especially for positions that require extensive scholarship and experience, schools must do more than check off credentials.  An extra search into an applicant’s background can save a school from an embarrassing situation such as that faced in Pittsburg, Kansas. 
Continue Reading High School Sleuths Expose Questionable Credentials of New Principal

Students in ClassroomOn January 30, 2017, the Connecticut State Department of Education (“CSDE”) released a memorandum titled, “Guidance for Districts Regarding Refugee Students,” in response to an Executive Order signed on January 27, 2017, restricting immigration into the United States.  The CSDE memorandum reaffirmed the obligation of public schools to provide children with an education regardless of their race, color, national origin, citizenship, immigration status, or the status of their parents.
Continue Reading State Department of Education Addresses Immigration Executive Order

On January 11, 2017, the Supreme Court heard oral argument in the case of Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School District RE 1, Docket No. 15-187, to address the level of benefit a school must confer on students to provide them with a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) under the IDEA.  The Court’s ultimate ruling on the case could have provide some clarity as to what constitutes a FAPE, especially for students with severe disabilities.

In 1982, the Supreme Court stated that the IDEA required districts to provide students with special needs with “some educational benefit.”  Bd. of Educ. of Hendrick Hudson Cent. Sch. Dist., Westchester Cty. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200 (1982).  It stated that for students who participated in the regular education curriculum, this meant schools had to provide the student with a program that was “reasonably calculated to enable the child to achieve passing marks and advance from grade to grade.”  Id. at 204.  It did not articulate a similar test for determining when students who were not participating in the general education curriculum were receiving “some educational benefit.”

In Endrew F., the student petitioner argued that the Supreme Court should clarify that, for such students, “some benefit” meant more than a “barely de minimis educational benefit.”  He urged the Court to interpret the IDEA to require schools to provide programs for students not participating in the general education curriculum that were “reasonably calculated to provide substantially equal educational opportunities” and included “standards, that were the highest possible achievable by the student.”  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out, however, that this was the standard the majority of the Court rejected in Rowley.  The petitioner responded that Congress had amended the IDEA twice since the Rowley decision, indicating an intent to require districts to provide students with “[e]qual educational opportunity.”
Continue Reading Oral Argument Presented in Supreme Court Case Addressing the Level of Educational Benefit that must be Provided under IDEA

Back view of a businesswoman asking a question on seminar.There’s still time to register for this complimentary seminar offered to board of education members.

School Law attorneys Richard A. Mills, Rebecca Rudnick Santiago
Continue Reading Last Chance to Register! Board Meets World: A Board Member’s Guide to Working With Stakeholders

This workshop will provide board of education members with best practices and guidance regarding effective board operation with respect to internal governance, administration, school staff,
Continue Reading Register Now for Board Meets World: A Board Member’s Guide to Working With Stakeholders

On September 29, 2016, the Supreme Court of the United States agreed to hear the case of Endrew F. ex rel. Joseph F. v. Douglas County School District RE 1, Docket No. 15-187  to decide the question “What is the level of educational benefit that school districts must confer on children with disabilities to provide them with the free appropriate public education guaranteed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), 20 U.S.C. § 1400 et seq.?” See Appellant’s Petition for Certiorari.  At issue is how courts have applied the well-known Rowley FAPE standard, announced by the Supreme Court in 1982, which provides that a school district must provide an individualized education program that allows a child with a disability to receive “educational benefit.” See Bd. of Educ. v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176, 200 (1982).  The Rowley case expressly rejected a potential-maximizing FAPE standard. Id. at 198-99.  Since Rowley, lower courts subsequently have described the Rowley standard as ranging from requiring “some” or merely “more than trivial” benefit to requiring “meaningful” benefit.  Congress has amended what is now known as the IDEA several times since the Rowley case, most notably in 1986, 1990, 1997, and 2004, but Congress has never expressly provided a standard by which to analyze whether a child’s programming and services substantively provide the child with FAPE.
Continue Reading Supreme Court to Revisit Rowley IDEA FAPE Standard for First Time in Nearly 35 Years

On September 8, 2016, the United States Department of Education and the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (“COPS”) jointly released new guidance regarding school resource officer programs.  The new Safe School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (“SECURe”) rubrics are the result of the collaboration and partnership between these two federal agencies in an attempt to ensure that local and state educational agencies are implementing effective and positive school resource officer programs in the nation’s schools.  The SECURe rubric for local educational agencies aims to provide guidance to school districts on how to build trust between students and law enforcement officials through the school resource officer programs, while ensuring that school resource officer programs are administered responsibly in a non-discriminatory manner that takes a proactive approach to keeping students out of the school-to-prison pipeline.


Continue Reading U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice Release Dear Colleague Letters Jointly Announcing New SECURe Rubrics for School Resource Officer Programs

Group of high school girls eating healthy lunch togetherThe Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture has released its final rule regarding Local School Wellness Policies under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.  All local school wellness policies must be compliant with the new rule by June 30, 2017.  The new rule requires local educational agencies that participate in the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs to update their wellness policies in line with the content requirements outlined in the rule.  The new rule also highlights the requirement for local educational agencies to collaborate with community stakeholders in making the required updates to their wellness policies and in implementing the policies.  The new rule further provides that local educational agencies must assess the effectiveness of school wellness policies on at least a triennial basis.  Finally, under the new rule, each state educational agency will be responsible for evaluating the wellness policies of local educational agencies under its jurisdiction.

Continue Reading Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA Releases New Rule Regarding School Wellness Policies