On December 7, 2017, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released a question-and-answer document on the Supreme Court’s 2017 opinion in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District, 580 U.S., 137 S.Ct. 988 (2017) (“Endrew”). Endrew addressed the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) clarifying the scope of a free appropriate public education (FAPE). The Supreme Court held that in order for a school to meet its substantive obligation under IDEA, it must offer an individualized education plan (IEP) “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances.” Continue Reading Department of Education Releases Guidance on IDEA, FAPE, and Endrew F.
The Supreme Court recently lost an opportunity to address important issues affecting transgender students. On August 25, 2017, the Kenosha Unified School District filed a petition for certiorari after the Seventh Circuit affirmed a Wisconsin District Court’s decision granting a transgender student a preliminary injunction to use the bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity, rather than his biological sex. Continue Reading Supreme Court Not Likely to Rule this Term on Issues Affecting Transgender Students’ Access to Restrooms that Correspond with their Gender Identity
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
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.
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.
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