Public School Districts

On April 28th, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., a student free speech case that every public school district in the country needs to be watching.

Background

This situation arose with a Snapchat message posted while off campus by a then 14-year old girl on a Saturday following the announcement of the results of cheerleading tryouts.  That girl (“B.L.”) had been placed on the junior varsity team for her sophomore year of high school, despite an incoming freshman making the varsity squad. Her anger over that decision resulted in a few Snapchat messages, among the messages was a picture of her and a classmate raising their middle fingers with the caption (uncensored in the original message): “F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything.” Although Snapchat messages are designed to disappear within 24 hours, one of the recipients took a screenshot of the message, and it made its way to B.L.’s coaches.  B.L. was then suspended from the junior varsity team for one year, and she decided to sue. B.L. claims that the suspension violated her constitutional right to free speech.


Continue Reading Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. – the student free speech case every public school administrator should know about

On November 11, 2017, various groups of parents and several individuals filed suit in federal district court in Oregon challenging Dallas School District No. 2’s policy of accommodating transgender students’ requests to use sex-segregated school facilities on the basis of their gender identity.
Continue Reading Parents for Privacy v. Barr: Takeaways after Cert. Denial

On May 6, 2020, the U.S. Department of Education (“ED” or “the Department”) released the long-anticipated final Title IX regulations, which have a significant impact on schools all across the country—both K-12 and higher education institutions. This post identifies some of the key differences between requirements for K-12 and higher education institutions, as provided in the final regulations and related comments from the Department.

Interested in learning more? Join us December 3 and 4, 2020, for two half-day training sessions on Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools – Title IX Compliance and Response to New Regulations. Register here.
Continue Reading K-12 Education v. Higher Education in Title IX Compliance: 2020 Regulations

The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has presented unprecedented challenges for public and private educational institutions across the country. As schools evaluate how to move forward, Husch Blackwell and our entire Education team is continually monitoring and responding to federal and state guidance on this issue. We have various resources ready to assist you immediately.  We discuss those resources below and assure you that we will keep them updated as new guidance is issued as the situation evolves.

Executive Action

In response to the extraordinary public health threat posed by COVID-19, President Donald J. Trump declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020.
Continue Reading Federal COVID-19 Resources for Education Institutions

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) has made opioid overdoses a priority.  HHS initiatives include educating doctors about being more careful in prescribing painkillers.  The Alabama Department of Education and Department of Public Health took that one step further and recently announced a new educational program designed to reduce deaths caused by opioids.  The new, statewide program will provide Alabama high schools with access to Naloxone, the opioid-overdose reversal drug.  This program is the first in the United States to train school administrators, coaches, and teachers in how to use this life-saving drug.  Prior to this program, only nurses could administer Naloxone in Alabama schools.  The Naloxone supplied to schools under this program, which costs approximately $178 per dose, was paid for by a grant, not taxpayer funds.
Continue Reading New Alabama School Program Could Reduce Opioid-Related Deaths

On October 20, 2017, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services (OSERS) within the U.S. Department of Education rescinded 72 education policy guidance documents.  Sixty-three of the documents are from the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which administers the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and provides guidance to states and local governments on how to provide free and appropriate public education to children with disabilities.  The remaining nine documents are from the Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA), which assists individuals with disabilities in employment, independence, and community integration matters.  The OSEP documents concern topics including special education funding, due process procedures, private school placements, and more.  By contrast, the RSA documents primarily concern employment issues and centers of independent living for adults with disabilities.
Continue Reading Special Education “Clean Up” from ED: Trump Administration Rescinds 72 Special Education Guidance Documents

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

Supreme Court SunriseIn yesterday’s unanimous decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District RE-1, the Supreme Court articulated the standard by which federal courts should evaluate challenges to individualized education programs (“IEPs”) for students with disabilities.  To pass muster under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”), an IEP, according to the Court, must be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.”  Op. at 14-15.

The IDEA specifically requires that students with disabilities receive a “free appropriate public education” (“FAPE”), a term that is itself undefined in the statute.  The Supreme Court initially faced the interpretation of the FAPE requirement thirty-five years ago in Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School District, Westchester County v. Rowley, 458 U.S. 176 (1982).  In Rowley, the Court made some general observations about the FAPE standard, but confined its ruling to the specific facts of the case, leaving the question of what substantive standard applies to another day.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Clarifies Special Education Standards

Gavel On Rainbow FlagAs we noted was a possible outcome in our prior analysis of the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Obama-era guidance on facilities use by transgender students, the Supreme Court has remanded Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. without issuing a decision.  Prior to this remand order, the Court was set to decide whether Title IX

Family paper chainOn February 22, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its opinion in Fry ex rel. E.F. v. Napoleon Community SchoolsFry addresses the circumstances in which parents must exhaust the administrative remedies found in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), when their lawsuit purports to assert claims only under other federal discrimination statutes—namely, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.  The Court held, unanimously, that parents must exhaust IDEA’s administrative procedures only when the “substance, or gravamen, of the plaintiff’s complaint” seeks relief for the denial of a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE).
Continue Reading Supreme Court Clarifies Administrative Exhaustion Requirements Under IDEA