On September 25, 2019, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released The Role of Districts in Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans, which is a guide to emergency operations plans (“EOPs”).  The guide addresses a variety of topics, including the roles and responsibilities of schools, school districts, and community partners regarding school safety, along with prevention and mitigation techniques.  The guide also describes that school districts should coordinate with schools and community partners to make EOPs more collaborative.  The guide details that districts can improve their EOPs by providing planning parameters for use by schools throughout their entire districts and supporting schools as they create EOPs to address and plan for hazards (such as natural disasters, disease outbreaks, or accidents) and threats (human-caused emergencies, such as crime or violence) specific to their school’s needs. 
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Following the school shootings at Marjory Stoneman and Santa Fe High Schools, President Trump established an executive Commission on School Safety. The Commission’s members were Betsy DeVos, U.S. Secretary of Education, Kirstjen Nelson, Secretary of Homeland Security, Alex Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Matthew Whitaker, Acting Attorney General. The Commission was charged with producing policy recommendations in an effort to help prevent future tragedies. After conducting field visits, listening sessions, and meeting with state and local leaders, the Commission issued a report calling for, among other things, “more threads of love, empathy, and connection” in our country’s “moral fabric.”

The report covers a host of school safety topics, including proposed best practices for improving school climate, increasing access to school-based mental health services, coordinating with the media in reporting safety breaches, and school discipline. The report also recommends improving and increasing school safety training, including modules on active shooter preparedness.
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The Department of Education (“ED” or the “Department”) issued its long-awaited Notice of Proposed Rulemaking[1] to amend regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (“Title IX”) on November 29, 2018. Comments to the proposed regulation are due on or before January 30, 2019. Here are ten notice requirements the proposed regulation would impose on elementary and secondary schools if they become final.
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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.
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Ladies room and mens roomThe extension of civil rights protections to transgender and gender non-conforming individuals is rapidly evolving.  These issues are playing out in schools across the country, and a recent Seventh Circuit decision seems to suggest that transgender students will be afforded Title IX and Fourteenth Amendment protections.

In Whitaker v. Kenosha Unified School Dist. No. 1., No. 16-3522, 2017 WL 2331751 (7th Cir. 2017) 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. 
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Columns_000017257808_LargeA recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision should serve to remind schools of the importance of engaging in the “interactive process” with employees
who may request work-related accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and comparable state laws.

In this case, the plaintiff was a special education teacher living with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).  The School District that employed her became aware of her diagnosis when she requested a leave of absence and transfer to another school due to a deteriorating relationship with the school principal that led to a PTSD relapse. Her requests were granted, and the teacher was transferred to teach in a program for children with learning disabilities as well as behavioral and emotional disorders.
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Your opinion countsTomorrow is the last day to submit comments to the Department of Justice (the DOJ) in response to the 123 questions the DOJ posed in its supplemental advance notice of proposed rulemaking (SANPRM) regarding the regulation of web accessibility under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The SANPRM was released in May 2016, after the DOJ previously elicited comments on this issue back in 2010.
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On Friday, the U.S. Department of Education (the “Department”) released guidance regarding services and resources for English learners (“ELs”) to be provided under the Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”). ELs are among the fastest-growing populations in public schools in the United States, making up nearly 10 percent of the student population nationwide. A growing concern for the Department is the graduation rate of ELs; in the 2013-2014 school year, the high school graduation rate for ELs was 62.6 percent, which was almost twenty percentage points lower than the graduation rates of all students at 82.3 percent.
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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).
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