In light of shifting federal guidance and heightened awareness of sexual harassment, school districts should be on high alert with respect to their internal Title IX policies, staff, and training.  Otherwise, they may face complaints with the Department of Education or litigation surrounding the incidents of alleged sex or gender discrimination, sexual harassment, or interpersonal violence. Continue Reading Feeling the Shift in Title IX’s Landscape: Internal Policies and Procedures, OCR Investigations, and Litigation

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

Abstract sunny spring backgroundIn Chicago Tribune v. The College of DuPage and The College of DuPage Foundation, the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District issued a unanimous decision ordering a public college’s fundraising organization to release records in its possession pursuant to a state Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA,” a.k.a. “sunshine law”) request.  The Court in this case held that the College’s separately incorporated foundation conducts government business on its behalf and therefore is subject to the Illinois FOIA laws. Continue Reading Illinois FOIA Coming In Line with Other States

In Salazar v. South Antonio Independent School District, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit held that an educational institution can be liable under Title IX for sexual misconduct committed by its employees only when an employee with power to correct the misconduct—other than the wrongdoer himself—is aware of the misconduct and is deliberately indifferent to it. Although the student plaintiff in the case argued an institution could be liable based on a principal’s deliberate indifference to his own misconduct, the court rejected this result as inconsistent with Title IX. The court held: “We discern no congressional intent in Title IX to provide a private cause of action for damages when the only employee or representative of [an institution] who had knowledge of the [misconduct] was the offender.” The court’s ruling ensures that an educational institution—including a college or university—will not be liable under Title IX someone other than the wrongdoer at the institution is aware of misconduct and the institution has a fair opportunity to respond to it, but nonetheless remains deliberately indifferent to it.

The facts of Salazar are tragic.

Continue Reading Court Holds Title IX Liability Requires Someone Other Than Wrongdoer to Know of Misconduct

Complaints Key Shows Complaining Or Moaning OnlineOn June 8, 2017, Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Candice Jackson, sent a memorandum to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights regional directors, outlining immediate changes to the investigative practices to be used when investigating alleged violations of civil rights by public school districts in the United States.  The memorandum applies to pending complaints and newly filed complaints, but does not apply to complaints previously resolved by OCR. Continue Reading Change is Upon Us: Trump Administration’s OCR Issues Memorandum Regarding Changes to Investigation Practices

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn our present-day education system, technology is an essential, incomparable learning tool for students at all grade levels; and thus, the importance of its accessibility to each and every student cannot be overstated. However, some educational organizations around the United States have failed to provide user-friendly websites to people with disabilities, and the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) under the Obama Administration took notice.

In the last year alone, OCR investigated over 350 schools districts for violations of website accessibility for individuals with disabilities.  The OCR resolved the complaints against eleven educational organizations in seven states and one territory for these violations. These investigations were prompted by complaints that these organizations’ websites did not comply with the Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American with Disabilities Act of 1990. In a nut shell, these regulations, which apply to online services and programs, prohibit discrimination of people on the basis their disability and ensures that communications with people with disability are as effective as communications with those without a disability. Continue Reading Web Accessibility: What lies ahead in the Trump Administration?

The FCC recently provided additional guidance about the kinds of school-initiated text messages and automated calls that are exempt from liability under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Below is a brief background of relevant portions of the TCPA, a summary of new guidance from the FCC, and a few open issues to consider.

The TCPA

The TCPA was passed in 1991 to curb the rampant and harassing telemarketing practices of the time, and established relatively high-dollar civil liability – $500 to $1500 per violation – as its enforcement mechanism. In relevant part, the TCPA makes it unlawful to use “an automatic telephone dialing system” to call (or text) any number assigned to a cellular telephone service, and allows the recipient to sue the caller if he/she received such a call. There are two statutory exceptions to liability under the TCPA:

  • where the recipient of the call provided his or her prior express consent to be called, or
  • where the call was placed for an “emergency purpose,” defined as “any situation affecting the health and safety of consumers.”

47 U.S.C. § 227 (b)(1); 47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(f)(4). Continue Reading Texting Students and Parents: New Developments and Open Questions under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act