CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 3/13/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I am an administrator in a middle school and one of our teachers (she is actually the president of the teachers’ union) came to me to report an ongoing struggle she is having in her classroom. She wanted to inform me that two bilingual students have been harassing another student in the classroom. The problem is that they are doing it in Spanish. The teacher does not speak Spanish, but had several students in the class come to her to report what was being said. She told me that she wants to tell these two students that, moving forward, they are not allowed to speak Spanish in her classroom. They are both extremely skilled in the English language, and she thinks that they are only speaking in Spanish when they want to use inappropriate language, including their harassing statements to the other student. Can she establish “English Only” as a rule in her classroom?

Ayuda Por Favor  Continue Reading

Webinar: Employer-Provided Parking Under the New UBTI Rules for Non-Profits

Join Shipman & Goodwin exempt organization tax attorney Ray Casella for this informative webinar discussing the new UBTI rules applicable to employer-provided parking. He will address questions about UBTI including:

  • Why do we have it?
  • How do we comply with it?
  • How do we minimize it?

Who should attend: Non-Profit Tax Exempt Organizations

When: March 25, 2019
12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

REGISTER NOW!

*Please note that this program is scheduled for 1 hour, but we have allotted an additional 1/2 hour for Q&A if required.

Private Schools Sue to Halt Curriculum Inspections

Private schools in New York recently filed a lawsuit to stop enforcement of the state’s new curriculum inspection guidelines, released this past November. Under the new guidelines, district officials will conduct regular curriculum inspections of private schools. The inspections are designed to ensure that private schools provide “substantially equivalent instruction” to that in public schools.

In the past, such inspections were triggered by complaints to education authorities. Under the new rules, district officials will begin to conduct regular curriculum inspections this year.

New York’s highest court struck down an attempt by the legislature to delegate authority to the department to regulate or license independent schools back in the 1940s. As asserted by the plaintiffs today, the court’s ruling in that case was clear: any attempt by the department to regulate independent schools is unconstitutional unless it is based on a legislative statute that gives the department regulatory authority and instructions. The plaintiffs argue that the legislature passed no such statute here and the department’s new regulatory scheme is therefore unconstitutional.

The plaintiffs further argue that the department has not yet provided district officials with a clear standard regarding what constitutes “substantially equivalent” instruction. Instead, the standards “must be gleaned from a series of changing and sometimes contradictory public communications issued by the Department.” The lack of guidance can leave district officials with substantial discretion in deciding whether an independent school is providing substantially equivalent instruction.

The new scheme thus jeopardizes the academic freedom of nearly 1,800 nonpublic schools in New York. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mark Lauria, the executive director of the New York State Association of Independent Schools, said the new regulations “cut to the core of what our schools do.” Indeed, a school’s ability to design its own curriculum is central to its independence.

Nonetheless, the inspections are scheduled to begin this year and reoccur every five years. In between reviews, the district official is expected to “keep abreast of important information, such as changes in leadership, curriculum, school building locations, grade levels served, etc.”

If an independent school is found non-compliant, it will effectively be closed by the department. After a preliminary finding that an independent school is not providing substantially equivalent instruction, the school has a brief period to address the board’s concerns. If the school is still found non-compliant, parents will have thirty days to transfer their children to a different school, and students who continue to attend the non-compliant school will be deemed “truant.”

As detailed by this recent lawsuit, independent schools in New York face substantially increased curriculum oversight. We are watching the case closely for important updates. In the meantime, please find the related Wall Street Journal article here for more information. (Please note a subscription is required.)

SEE YOU IN COURT! – March 2019

As the Nutmeg Board of Education was preparing to reconvene into open session after completing its executive session discussion last week, veteran Board member Bob Bombast told the Board to hold up because he had a concern.

Mr. Chairperson recognized Bob, “OK, Bob, but it’s late so keep it short.”

Bob thanked Mr. Chairperson and explained, “I heard from a friend that Tom Teacher has been on Facebook trashing the Board. I want to know what Mr. Superintendent is going to do about it.”

Mr. Superintendent looked puzzled. “I have no idea what you are talking about. I have better things to do than to monitor the social media accounts of the 500 teachers in Nutmeg. Who’s this ‘friend’ talking about Tom Teacher behind his back? And what is Tom Teacher supposed to have said?”

“I am not going to reveal my source,” Bob responded. “But he told me that Tom Teacher has posted on Facebook that the members of the Nutmeg Board of Education are idiots and that Mr. Chairperson couldn’t find Robert’s Rules of Order with both hands and a flashlight.”

Now Mr. Chairperson shared Bob’s concern. “We need to get to the bottom of this. Mr. Superintendent, I want you to meet with Tom Teacher ASAP and report back to the Board. It’s bad enough that we have to put up with parents slamming us on social media. But we don’t have to let our own employees take shots as well.”

Mr. Superintendent wasted no time. The next day, he called Tom Teacher down to the central office and laid it on the line. “We have it on good authority that you have been insulting the Board on your Facebook page. I am directing you to sign on to your Facebook account so I can see just how bad it is.”

Tom smirked at the directive, but he complied. Soon, Mr. Superintendent was leaning over Tom’s shoulder and reading Tom’s Facebook page. “So, it’s true!” he exclaimed. “Your posts are just as bad as I thought.” Mr. Superintendent then placed Tom on leave and printed out the offensive posts.

Mr. Superintendent had the posts scanned, and he sent them by email to the Board members. However, before Mr. Superintendent could follow up with a call to Mr. Chairperson, the phone rang. The President of the Nutmeg Union of Teachers was on the line. She explained that she did not agree with Tom’s rants on Facebook, but she asked Mr. Superintendent to drop the matter and return Tom Teacher to duty.

“Tom Teacher has the right to express his opinion about the Board members and to share it with the world. Remember the First Amendment?” she chided.

Mr. Superintendent reflected on whether he would rather fight with Tom Teacher and NUTS or with the Board members who employ him, and he chose the former. “Sorry, but we cannot put up with teachers undermining the good work of the Board of Education. Tell Tom Teacher that he has twenty-four hours to submit his resignation or I will initiate termination proceedings,” he responded.

Is Mr. Superintendent on solid ground? Continue Reading

Webinar: Employee Parking and the New UBTI Rules

Shipman & Goodwin exempt organization tax attorney Ray Casella will present an informative webinar and lively discussion where he will answer questions about school tax obligations for employee and teacher parking and the new UBTI rules. The presentation will begin with a short explanation of UBTI, followed by relevant examples from the IRS. Schools will come away with answers to questions about UBTI including:

  • Why do we have it?
  • How do we comply with it?
  • How do we minimize it?

This program is being offered to an audience of Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges (CCIC) member schools.

When: March 18, 2019, 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM EDT
Where: Webinar

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 2/27/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I am an assistant principal at a middle school. The other day I was in the teachers’ lounge shooting the breeze with a teacher who is active with our local teachers union. I told him that we really need to change the teacher evaluation program because its inflexible rating system permits mediocre teachers to skate through. I was not surprised by his vehement response (and maybe I was baiting him a little bit). But I was surprised by his claim that I should give up because the union would never agree to change the evaluation plan.

Does the union really have the right to prevent us from changing our evaluation plan? I would hate to waste my time advocating changes in the plan if the union really has a veto right over the wonderful changes that I would like to recommend.

Thank you,
What Me Judgmental?
Continue Reading

In Case You Missed It: The Nuts and Bolts of Student Handbooks for Independent Schools

In case you missed our February 26th webinar on student handbooks for independent schools, click here to access the recorded webinar in its entirety.

Student handbooks are essential documents for independent schools, and it is important for them to be up to date and reflective of school policies. This webinar provides an overview of key provisions that should be included in your school’s student handbook along with other recommended best practices and emerging trends, including a discussion of issues related to searching cell phones, vaping, establishing appropriate disciplinary processes and defining the scope of the school’s jurisdiction over student misconduct.

Providing an Effective Learning Environment: An In-Depth Discussion of Emerging Issues in Classroom Management

Today’s classrooms place considerable importance on providing environments conducive to learning.  Issues surrounding disruptive behavior, student and staff safety, anonymous reporting, and student-initiated electronic monitoring are becoming more prevalent, and now more than ever, school administrators are evaluating their approach to classroom management.

Join Shipman & Goodwin school law attorneys for this timely workshop providing a discussion of the emerging issues in this rapidly evolving space, including an analysis of recent legislation and legal requirements. Presenters will provide an in-depth review of topics including:

  • Dealing with disruptive students and student behavior
  • Student-Teacher interactions, including assault
  • Anonymous reporting Apps
  • Electronic Monitoring, including Angelsense, smartphone video/audio recording, etc.

This program is intended for: Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, Executive Directors, and Special Education/PPS Directors.

Hartford Session:
March 21, 2019: 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM EST
REGISTER FOR THE HARTFORD SESSION

Stamford Session:
March 28, 2019: 9:30 AM- 12:30 PM EST
REGISTER FOR THE STAMFORD SESSION

Seating is limited and registration will close when we reach maximum capacity for the event space. Please contact us in advance if you are registering more than 4 attendees from your district.

We look forward to seeing you at this complimentary seminar for our public and charter school clients.

CAS Legal Mailbag Question of the Week – 2/20/2019

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

Dear Legal Mailbag:

As an assistant principal at a large high school, it falls to me to classify absences for the purpose of the “chronic absenteeism” calculation we must do. We have our challenges at my school, and we are always close to being a school with chronic absenteeism. As you must know, if my school is so categorized, we are obliged to have an attendance review team. As far as I am concerned, we should just create such a team and be done with it. However, my principal doesn’t want to do anything he doesn’t have to do. So he has asked me to track this obligation carefully and let him know if we must have an attendance review team at my school.

Well, easier said than done. We also have our share of disciplinary issues at my school and, in any given week, there may be from two to five students out on suspension. It seems unfair to me to consider those students “absent.” After all, on the one hand, if they came to school after being suspended, they would get in more trouble. On the other hand, they are not in school, are they? So, Legal Mailbag, what’s the right answer?

Thank you,
Definitional Dilemma  Continue Reading

Peter Maher Quoted in Special Ed Connection Article, “Your guide to avoiding progress monitoring missteps”

Shipman & Goodwin attorney Peter Maher has been quoted in the Special Ed Connection® article “ Your guide to avoiding progress monitoring missteps.” To read the full article, please click here.

Reprinted with permission from: Special Ed Connection®. © 2019 LRP Publications, 360 Hiatt Drive, Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418. All rights reserved. Special Ed Connection® is your go-to source for compliance guidance and use-today solutions for all your day-to-day special education responsibilities. For FREE access or more information, please call 1-800-341-7874 or visit www.SpecialEdConnection.com. For more LRP Publications resources, visit www.shoplrp.com.

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