On October 26, 2017, the General Assembly passed Emergency Certified Bill 1502 (“Bill 1502” or “the Bill”). The Bill was signed by Governor Malloy on October 31, 2017 (except for a line item veto related to hospital charges). This summary is intended to give you a brief overview of some of the more significant changes affecting public elementary and secondary education.

Changes Affecting School Operations

Mandatory Medicaid Provider Enrollment

Effective no later than December 1, 2017, each local and regional board of education must (1) enroll as a provider in the state medical assistance program, (2) participate in the Medicaid School Based Child Health Program administered by DSS (Department of Social Services), and (3) submit billable service information electronically to DSS or its billing agent. The local or regional board of education may enter into an agreement with a third-party vendor or another local/regional board of education to comply with these requirements. See Bill 1502 § 51.
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Recent headlines make clear that sexual harassment is a serious problem in our society. It has also been a focus of attention on school campuses. Since the adoption of Title IX, colleges and universities, as well as other educational institutions, have taken steps to address complaints by students that they have been harassed or sexually assaulted; however, there is increasing push back regarding the procedures by which academic institutions adjudicate allegations of sexual misconduct, as well as on the training for those employees responsible for responding to allegations of inappropriate student conduct.

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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. 
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Judge Holding Documents

We have been tracking the development of litigation concerning rights, obligations, and duties with regard to transgender students as cases unfold across the country.

Earlier this summer, Texas and twelve other states challenged the propriety and legality of a joint Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) issued by the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Education on May 13, 2016 which interpreted Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) to extend antidiscrimination protections to transgender students. On Wednesday October 19, 2016, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Texas, Judge Reed O’Connor, issued an order clarifying the scope of the preliminary injunction previously granted in the court case challenging the legality of the DCL in Texas v. U.S., No. 7:16-cv-00054-O (N. D. Tex. May 25, 2016).  The injunction is now being appealed to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals by the defendant federal agencies.
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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.


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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.

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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.


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