The Connecticut Supreme Court has upheld the expulsion of a college student for making statements and gestures that it concluded could reasonably be interpreted as
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The U.S. Department of Education recently released its anticipated proposed regulations regarding sexual harassment under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. If adopted,
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Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

At the end of each year, the English Department at the High School publishes “The Light,” an anthology of poetry written by our students. Teachers can nominate particularly good student work, and students can submit work themselves for publication. A small group of teachers reads the submissions and chooses the “best” poetry for inclusion in the anthology. I say “best” in quotations because one of the poems that was included has caused a firestorm on social media. I am no tender flower, but the poem in question made even me uneasy in its quite graphic depiction of a sexual encounter between two students. Now, the Internet is blowing up with parental and community outrage that we would have published this poem in a school anthology.

I talked to the members of the selection committee, and they sheepishly agreed that they wondered whether the poem was appropriate for a school publication. After some debate, however, they agreed that the poem has substantial artistic merit, and they felt that they could not censor this student’s poem because the student has free speech rights.

I know that the United States Supreme Court has provided some guidelines for addressing student speech in its decisions in Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1988) and Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser (1986). However, I don’t know where we can draw the line in telling a student that her poem won’t be included in the anthology despite, in the eyes of some, its artistic merit. Help!

Thank you,
What’s Art Anyway


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Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I have long suspected that one of the students at my high school is a dealer and I would love to prove it. Yesterday, another student told me confidentially that he saw the student rolling a joint in the bathroom and I called the suspected student down to the office for a little questioning.

I started the conversation by asking him if he had anything illegal in his possession and he denied it in a particularly unconvincing way. So I told him to empty his pockets and, suddenly, he “remembered” that a friend asked him to hold a couple of joints, which he then produced.

Things were going so well that I was sorely tempted to ask him to hand over his cell phone so that I could check it for text messages about drug deals. But I chickened out and simply suspended him for possession of marijuana on school property. Now I am kicking myself, thinking that I blew an opportunity to put this miscreant away for good. Could I have searched the cell phone?

Thank you,
Having Second Thoughts


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Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

Our school has a number of security cameras, which are a blessing and a curse. Sure, it is nice to be able to identify students who are up to no good. But the rules about whether and how we can use video footage are giving me a headache.

A case in point is the security camera video of a serious student altercation last week. The video is crystal clear in showing that one student started the fight and that the other student was just defending herself. Unfortunately, there are three other students in the frame who are watching the action. We sent out FERPA releases to the parents of all the students so that we could show the video at the expulsion hearing. But the mother of a student who was just a bystander called me to let me know that she would not be signing the release. I asked her why and she said that she didn’t want her daughter to get involved.

The hearing is next week and I need your help. Can I testify at the hearing as to what I saw on the video? Should I subpoena the video? Help!

Thank you,
Roll the Tape


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On November 29, 2017, the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection held a hearing on the use of computer algorithms and their impact on consumers.[1]

This was the latest in a series of recent efforts by a variety of organizations to explore and understand the ways in which computer algorithms are driving businesses’ and public agencies’ decision-making, and shaping the digital content we see online.[2]

In its simplest form, an algorithm is a mathematical formula, a series of steps for performing mathematical equations. The witness testimony and questions from the members of the Subcommittee highlighted a number of issues that businesses and government regulators are facing.


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The requirements of the European Union (“EU”) General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) come into effect on May 25, 2018.   These regulations promise to usher in sweeping changes to the way institutions, companies, and other organizations collect and handle the personal data of EU residents.

The GDPR is a holistic set of data privacy requirements that address the entire life cycle of collection, use, and disclosure of the “personal data” of EU residents. While we anticipate jurisdictional challenges that may someday limit the GDPR’s reach outside of the EU, the law as currently drafted purports to affect institutions of higher education, companies, and other organizations, such as boarding schools, worldwide. This means that the GDPR will affect not only institutions that do business with or operate inside of the EU, but will also affect institutions in the United States that processes the personal data of persons residing in the EU.[1]


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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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