On Wednesday, September 7, 2016, Hartford Superior Court Judge Thomas G. Moukawsher ruled in the case of Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding v. Rell, x07 HHD 14-5037565-S, that the current Connecticut education system violates the state constitution.  This ruling is the latest in a case first filed on December 12, 2005.

In 2007, the trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims and held that the Connecticut Constitution did not contain a right to “suitable educational opportunities.”  In 2010, however, the Connecticut Supreme Court reversed that 2007 decision and remanded the case back to Superior Court for trial, although the Supreme Court was split and there was no majority opinion.

Continue Reading Superior Court Judge Rules Connecticut Education System Unconstitutional

Frustrated teenage girlOn July 27, 2016, the United States Department of Education (“Department of Education”) released a dear colleague letter (DCL) and a non-regulatory guidance document (“Guidance Document”) discussing school districts’ obligations under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (“McKinney-Vento Act”) as amended by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  In an accompanying fact sheet, the Department of Education points out that the number of homeless students enrolled in public schools during the 2013-2014 school was more than 1.3 million, nearly double the number of homeless students enrolled in public schools in the 2006-2007 school year.

Continue Reading Department of Education Issues New Dear Colleague Letter Regarding the Enrollment of Homeless Students

Security ImageIn 2013, as part of Public Act 13-1, Connecticut enacted legislation that requires the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), in consultation with the State Department of Education, to develop school security and safety standards and further requires boards of education to establish committees to develop and implement school security and safety plans.  The state recently released its newest iteration of the security and safety standards as well as revised versions of its templates for district and school security and safety plans.  The new school security and safety standards are not yet posted on the DESPP website, but can be accessed here.

Continue Reading State Releases New School Security and Safety Standards

forbesslblogrichmansmithslblogmooneyslblogFor those of you in Fairfield County, we are pleased to offer this seminar in our Stamford Office. Join Shipman & Goodwin attorneys Thomas B.
Continue Reading Stamford Location Added: What Every School Board Member Should Know: A Review of Legal Rights and Responsibilities – December 15th

ritterslblogbrochuslblogJoin attorneys Gary R. Brochu and Jessica L. Ritter for a timely presentation for board of education members. This workshop is intended to provide a
Continue Reading Register Now for What Every School Board Member Should Know: A Review of Legal Rights and Responsibilities – December 15th

Orienting your Professional Governance Board to Success

Governance Board TrainingCABE Journal
November 2015

Practice makes perfect. Or so we were told throughout our childhood by parents, teachers and coaches. The lesson imparted was a simple, but valuable one. That expertise is not a gift or birthright, but is acquired through effort and application. This is not just true for math or basketball or playing the piano, but also holds true for any worthwhile endeavor, such as service on a professional governance board.

Service on a board of education is challenging, requiring familiarity with procedural rules, knowledge of educational trends, awareness of local conditions and student performance, and an understanding of what is required for professional governance. To simply expect that individuals will come to governance boards with this skill set, or that they will naturally and inevitability pick up the required knowledge and understanding during their service is, at best, optimistic and, at worst, unrealistic. In order to ensure that a legacy of professional governance is created and maintained, more is required, such as a thoughtful, focused program to acclimate new board members and train existing members.

Every professional governance board should make the training of its board members a priority. Such a commitment to a comprehensive orientation plan for new members provides numerous benefits. With meaningful orientation new members can quickly become comfortable with Board procedures and protocols, learn about board values and goals, understand the parameters and focus of the work of the Board, and be prepared to make meaningful contributions to the work of the school district. In sum, it’s the difference between serving on a governance board, as opposed to merely sitting on one.

Continue Reading THE PROFESSIONAL GOVERNANCE BOARD – November 2015

In recent years, there have been increasing concerns involving discrimination faced by the transgender community.  Not surprisingly, these concerns have centered on the challenges faced by gender non-conforming students and whether the needs of such students are being met by school officials.  Though the law on gender identity is still in its relative infancy, schools are now mandated to create and maintain a safe school environment free from discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression under Connecticut law.  Though the relevant federal civil rights laws do not expressly extend to gender identity or expression, it is increasingly clear that the federal government has taken the position that there is protection for gender non-conforming students under federal law.  For example, last month, the U.S Departments of Education and Justice (the “Government”) jointly filed a “Statement of Interest” challenging a school district’s legal contention that a transgender student may only establish a claim of sex discrimination based on evidence of sex stereotyping.

In his complaint, the plaintiff, a student presenting as male, alleged that school officials refused to allow him to use male restrooms, and instead, required that he use a female staff or a unisex restroom, which resulted in peer harassment. The plaintiff also alleged that school officials revealed his status to members of the school community by repeatedly using his birth name and female pronouns when referring to him. Moreover, the plaintiff alleged that after his mother expressed concerns to school officials, an administrator told his mother she was “being overly sensitive.”

In defense, the school district filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing that the evidence proffered by the plaintiff was insufficient to establish a claim of sex discrimination.  In challenging the school district’s argument, the Government argued that Title IX provides protection for transgender students.  More specifically, the Government asserted that “[u]nder Title IX and the Equal Protection Clause, discrimination based on a person’s non-conformity to sex stereotypes, a person’s gender identity, or a person’s transgender status constitutes [sic] discrimination based on sex.”
Continue Reading Federal Government Files ‘Statement of Interest’ In Gender-Identity Case

brochuslblogmooneyslblogJoin attorneys Thomas B. Mooney, Gary R. Brochu, Jessica L. Ritter and Jessica Richman Smith for a timely presentation for board of education
Continue Reading Register Now for Avoiding the Board Member Blues: How To Become a More Informed Board Member – March 24th and April 8th