On October 30, 2017, a national, Washington-based civil rights group, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, issued a reminder to state attorneys general that all students, regardless of immigration status, have the constitutional right to enroll in K-12 public schools. Continue Reading New Initiative to Ensure Access to Education for Immigrant Children

October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and a brighter light is being shed on bullying-related suicide. Bullying-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical and emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting (circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person). The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) recently released a resource, Preventing Suicide: A Technical Package of Policy, Programs, and Practices, for guidance and strategies to prevent suicide. Continue Reading CDC Releases Guidance for Schools to Prevent Suicide

On October 4, 2017, Chicago Public Schools (CPS) agreed to drop its lawsuit against the state of Illinois over education funding distribution. The lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed by CPS without prejudice, meaning that CPS could still choose to re-file the case at a later date. Filed on February 14, 2017, by five families, the suit claimed that Illinois had violated the civil rights of students by distributing fewer funds to Chicago public schools than other public districts across the state. CPS alleged that only 76 cents were spent on Chicago students for every dollar spent on children in public schools outside of the city leading to a $500 million funding gap for Chicago public schools.

Continue Reading Lawsuits as Leverage: Chicago Public Schools Drop Lawsuit Against Illinois After Legislators Reach a Deal on Education Funding

The October 2016 term of the United States Supreme Court was historic. Justice Neil Gorsuch was nominated by President Donald Trump to the United States Supreme Court on January 31, 2017.  After Democrats filibustered the confirmation vote of Gorsuch, Republicans invoked the “nuclear option,” allowing a filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee to be broken by a simple majority vote.  In yet another historic moment, Gorsuch became the first Supreme Court justice to serve alongside another justice for whom he once clerked (Justice Anthony Kennedy).  Continue Reading Emerging Legal Issues in Urban Education: Recent Court Decisions and Agency Actions Affecting Public Education

On Friday, September 22, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) and Q&A on Campus Sexual Misconduct. The DCL withdrew the 2011 DCL on Sexual Violence and the 2014 Q&A on Title IX and Sexual Violence issued by the previous administration. In the DCL, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights stated, “[t]he 2011 and 2014 guidance documents may have been well-intentioned, but those documents have led to the deprivation of rights for many students-both accused students denied fair process and victims denied an adequate resolution of their complaints.” The Acting Assistant Secretary went on to state that the 2011 and 2014 guidance documents imposed regulatory burdens without affording notice and the opportunity for public comments.

Continue Reading OCR Withdraws Sexual Violence Guidance Issued by Previous Administration

President Trump and U.S. Department of Education (ED) Secretary DeVos have consistently emphasized and promoted the idea of “local control” in education. However, what does local control really mean? Power to the states? Power to the local school boards? Until now, many have believed that local control applied to all non-federal government involvement in education. The question continues to loom regarding the power struggle and what to do when the state government is in conflict with school boards and school districts. Continue Reading The Locus of Local Control: What Do Politicians Mean by Local Control in Education?

On Wednesday, July 13, 2017, a three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit (the “Eighth Circuit”) made a significant decision regarding states’ ability to impose requirements for special education services to students.  The Eighth Circuit ruled that although under federal law the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) does guarantee nonpublic school students with disabilities a free appropriate public education (FAPE), states are not prohibited from granting that right to private school students. Continue Reading Decision by Eighth Circuit Panel Clarifies States’ Ability to Impose FAPE Requirements

In Krueger v. Appleton Area School Dist. Bd. of Educ., No. 2015AP231, 2017 WI 70, (Wis. 2017), a parent of a child who attended school in the Appleton Area School District (District) alleged that a school board advisory committee meeting was improperly closed because it was a governmental body subject to Wisconsin’s open meetings law.  Reversing the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded that the committee meeting improperly excluded the public from attending. Continue Reading Curriculum Meetings and Public Concerns Collide in Wisconsin Supreme Court Decision on Open Meetings Law

Legislation passed by the Missouri General Assembly this term will have a significant impact on Missouri schools. First, the General Assembly quickly passed a right-to-work bill that Governor Greitens signed into law less than a month after his inauguration. Second, on June 30, 2017, Governor Greitens signed a bill into law changing the requirements for state employment discrimination claims and providing a statutory basis for whistleblower suits. Continue Reading Missouri Schools Face Changing Employment Laws This Year

On June 6, 2017, Candice Jackson, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights for the U.S. Department of Education, sent the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Regional Directors a memorandum outlining how to evaluate and investigate complaints involving students who identify as transgender. Under the Obama Administration, the Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint Dear Colleague Letter which provided specific information regarding Title IX recipients’ obligations and examples of how transgender students’ complaints of sex discrimination should be evaluated. On February 22, 2017, the Department of Education withdrew  the 2016 Dear Colleague Letter, and now Jackson’s memorandum serves as guidance. Continue Reading OCR Issues New Guidance Seeking to Address Transgender Student Complaints