Employer Responsibilities

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

Smiling woman having job interviews and receiving portfolios

Previously, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-222c merely required school districts to make a documented good faith effort to contact previous employers of applicants to obtain “information and recommendations which may be relevant to the [applicant’s] fitness for employment” before hiring that applicant.  As of July 1, 2016, however, local and regional boards of education, charter school governing councils, and interdistrict magnet school operators (collectively, “school districts”) are required to implement additional, more extensive background check procedures when hiring any applicant for employment in a position that would involve direct contact with students, including contracted positions.  These new requirements are imposed by Section 2 of Public Act 16-67, which amended Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-222c.

As described more fully below, the new background check procedures imposed by Public Act 16-67 require schools districts to request specific information from an applicant, from the applicant’s prior employers, and from the State Department of Education before hiring an applicant for a permanent position involving direct student contact.  The new procedures further require that current and former employers respond to requests for information pursuant to the statute within a specified timeframe.  Moreover, Public Act 16-67 permits school districts to hire an applicant for a position involving direct student contact on a temporary basis only, pending successful completion of the new background check process and review of the applicant’s employment history.


Continue Reading Effective July 1, 2016, School Districts Subject to New Requirements for Employee Background Checks

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

In response to the Ebola epidemic, the U.S. Department of Education (“USDOE”) has issued a letter to schools and districts providing updated guidance and resources to assist schools and communities in establishing practices and protocols related to Ebola, as well as seasonal flu.

The most comprehensive resource provided through this letter, which was issued in December 2014, is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”).  The CDC guidance outlines actions school officials may implement, in consultation with public health authorities, to further reduce the potential risk of Ebola transmission in schools.  In doing so, the CDC delineates the roles of public health officials and educators and warns against educators usurping the responsibilities of public health officials.  Specifically, this guidance clarifies and confirms that the assessment of a person’s risk of Ebola exposure and evaluation of clinical condition to determine appropriate public health actions is within the purview of public health authorities and advises that only public health authorities may determine whether, and to what extent, monitoring or restriction on movement, including the issue of school attendance, is necessary.

Conversely, the CDC guidance advises educators to develop an emergency operations plan for responding to Ebola-related incidents, including situations where a school may need to contain the disease.  To assist in this process, the CDC guidance provides educators with practical considerations and advises the review of, and compliance with, “public health codes, infection control guidance, and applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.”  Further, the guidance provides school officials with recommended actions based on a person’s identified risk level, which may be found here.

In addressing issues related to Ebola, the CDC reminds schools and districts to be cognizant and compliant with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPPA”) and any applicable privacy laws when working with public health authorities to establish protocols for communication and implementation of recommendations relative to Ebola.


Continue Reading U.S. Department of Education Issues Guidance on Ebola for K-12 Schools