Supervision of Students

College CampusEarlier this month, Massachusetts’ highest court ruled favorably for Massachusetts Institute of Technology (“MIT”) and three school officials in a wrongful death lawsuit closely watched
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The Independent School Task Force on Educator Sexual Misconduct has released its final report, Prevention and Response: Recommendations for Independent School Leaders. This report incorporates feedback submitted in response to the August 2017 draft report released for comment and feedback. The Task Force was formed in the Summer of 2016 as a collaboration between the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) and The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) and was characterized as a “call to action” for schools to engage in a comprehensive and thoughtful review of policies and procedures to help ensure safe environments for students.

As the title implies, the report first walks through recommendations for steps independent schools should take to prevent incidents of educator sexual misconduct from occurring, followed by guidance and recommendations for response to allegations. In making these recommendations, the Task Force lauded schools which demonstrate honesty and openness on this issue and which continue to encourage transparency within the independent school community. A summary of the report’s recommendations are outlined below.


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College CampusOn Thursday, in a speech by U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy Devos, the Department announced that it would undertake a review of its current
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On Friday, the Connecticut Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Munn v. Hotchkiss School, the case involving a private school student who contracted tick-borne encephalitis on a school-sponsored trip to China.  In its ruling, the Supreme Court found unanimously that 1) the state’s public policy supports imposing an affirmative duty on schools to warn about and protect against the risk of insect-borne diseases and 2) an award of $41.5 million for the breach of that duty fell within the limits of just compensation.

Cara Munn was a 15-year-old student who participated in a school-sponsored trip to China in 2007.  The itinerary for this trip included a visit to Mount Pan, located in a forested region of northeast China.  Upon descending the mountain on foot, the student suffered several insect bites, and ten days later, began to experience symptoms of tick-borne encephalitis.  Though her condition subsequently stabilized, the student suffered permanent brain damage and has lost the ability to speak and has limited control of her facial muscles.  The student and her family sued the school for negligence. Following a 2013 jury trial, a federal district court in Bridgeport found the school negligent for failing to warn the student and her parents about the remote possibility of insect-borne diseases and ordered the school to pay $41.5 million in damages—$31.5 million of which was for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.  The school appealed.  In August 2015, the Second Circuit found that the student’s injuries were foreseeable; however, the court requested guidance from the Connecticut Supreme Court on two specific issues:  1) whether state public policy imposed a legal duty on schools “to warn or protect against the foreseeable risk of a serious insect-borne disease when organizing a trip abroad and, if so, 2) whether the jury’s damages award, particularly the noneconomic portion, warranted [vacation of or reduction in the jury’s damages award].”
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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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