Preventive Law: Back To Basics

June 0308:35 AM

As this unprecedented school year draws to a close, it is important not to forget the basics as we sift through new state and federal legislation, funding paradigms, agency policy changes, and the continued effects of a pandemic on the wane in Texas. Many of the client calls and emails received this spring have been from administrators, over-extended and exhausted after navigating a flurry of new regulations and being tossed about in wave after wave of “guidance” for schools. These calls and emails have been about issues such as:

In what could be a bellwether for schools across the U.S., young students in the nation’s fourth-largest school district are doing poorly on basic academics, recent data suggest, a key sign that pandemic schooling is taking a bracing toll. Officials with Florida’s Miami-Dade County Public Schools earlier this month reported that 43 percent of students who took January diagnostic tests in grades pre-K-3 tested below grade level in reading. And 54 percent tested below grade level in math. Students in both at-home and in-person settings took the online tests. The district educates some 334,000 students, more than nearly every district in the U.S., with the exception of New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. view article arw

Gov. Greg Abbott told lawmakers Thursday evening that he would place the allocation of nearly $16 billion in federal funds for COVID-19 recovery on their plate during a special session in the fall.  Abbott already planned to call a special session later in the year for the Legislature to do its decennial redrawing of Texas political maps, which was delayed because of the Trump administration's handling of the census. But the allocation of the federal COVID-19 relief funds adds another item to their to-do list and allows the Legislature to participate in the administration of those funds.  House members were notified of the plan in an email Thursday evening. In a statement to The Texas Tribune, Abbott congratulated lawmakers for crafting a “conservative and balanced budget that will secure a more prosperous future for Texas” that keeps “government spending under control.”    (21) view article arw


May 1908:40 AM

Market Conditions – Finally Some Good News Last month I indicated a concern about premium and rate increases. TASB RMF just sent a letter to its members stating that they might expect a 4% increase in their Property and Casualty renewals and a 20% decrease in Unemployment Compensation. This minimal adjustment was undoubtedly due to the increase in Member Equity outstripping the effects of Storm URI (Freeze). And the storm damage effect on the Member Equity was due to an intelligent selection of reinsurance retentions (deductibles).    (18) view article arw

Now that at least 100 days have passed since the inauguration of President Joe Biden, it is a good time to examine some of the actions his administration has taken that have an impact on public schools. Of course, the executive agency with the most direct impact on schools is the United States Department of Education (DOE), so we will start there and then pay a visit to the Department of Labor, whose actions have an impact on the employment relationships in schools.

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed H.R. 1319, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, an emergency legislative package in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. You are likely familiar with the $1,400 direct cash payments for qualifying individuals and $2,800 for joint filers (with an additional $1,400 for each qualifying dependent) based on adjusted gross income, and the minimum wage provision that was not included. But what’s in it for Texas public school districts?

While the pandemic rages on you may be wondering: is now a bad time to invest in property or finally sell that darn barn? We’re here to tell you after a year of the world locking down and the court systems interrupted, there is one aspect of school law that is chugging along just fine—real estate. Trust us, now is a fantastic time to continue your real estate transactions. There’s also one thing to watch out for, and that’s eminent domain. We’re coming up in September on a 10-year deadline regarding condemned land that you may want review.

Following the exciting conclusion of the recent TXHSFB State Championships, many Texas student athletes are looking forward to competing in spring sport offerings. Others, particularly those students who continue to receive instruction through virtual platforms due to COVID-19-related concerns, might feel that their school is unfairly preventing them from participating in their athletic or academic competitions of choice due to their decision to receive virtual-only instruction. As a result, you may have been fielding questions from aggrieved parents and students who claim that the school should offer an additional year of eligibility for a particular event or competition, commonly referred to as a “redshirt” year, for those students who miss significant playing time due to COVID-19.

When a child’s parents have undergone a divorce or another legal proceeding adjudicating rights and duties to a child, there is some basic information to be aware of as it relates to the child’s education. In the context of special education, a parent may present you with a copy of a court order and demand that it be followed in the process of providing services to the student.

In May 2020, President Trump’s Department of Education issued new Title IX regulations, effective August 14, 2020. The regulations resulted in a sea change in the handling of sexual harassment complaints in schools. This article will start by covering 20 new tasks for Title IX Coordinators under the regulations that districts should be aware of now and will close by examining the possible fate of the regulations in a Biden administration later.

My favorite article that I have written over the years is one on official state holidays and recognitions. I find it fascinating to see which lobbyists succeed in recognitions for their cause. I look at this calendar and wonder why Monarch butterflies and veterinarian technicians get their own week, Lung Cancers Awareness gets only one day, Gold Star mothers get a day but not fathers, and there are no recognition days in December?

A chill in the air means two things in Texas: school’s back in session, and football is here. With most districts already beginning their football schedule, some have discovered the dilemma of how to prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19 while still maintaining their spot under the Friday Night Lights. The current executive order in Texas requires face masks to be worn unless you’re in a county with less than 20 active cases or have filed exemption paperwork. As of today, only 57 counties are exempt from this mandate, and these counties have to face the challenge of remaining under 20 reported cases. With new teams every Friday filling the bleachers from different high infection-rate counties, people are now in close quarters without masks to watch their teams play. And, as Homecoming fast approaches, alumni from all across the country may be bringing their germs with them as they scream the fight song. It’s time to put a winning strategy in place before the impending flu season outshines playoffs.

No, not John Bolton’s book. Ambassador Bolton’s book title comes from the song from the musical Hamilton. “The Room Where it Happens,” tells the story of the secret meeting between Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and John Madison, that led to Washington DC becoming our nation’s capital in exchange for a federal financial system designed by Alexander Hamilton, our nation’s first Treasury Secretary. Yes, I admit that I am a history junkie and a Hamilton groupie: I love the musical and actually have visited Hamilton’s home (Hamilton Grange) in New York City, his grave (Trinity Church Cemetery), Weehawken (the duel location), and even visited Aaron Burr’s grave (Princeton, NJ).

By August 14, 2020, school districts must implement OCR’s new Title IX regulations, which create novel roles for school personnel. Districts need to decide now who will be assigned to each role and ensure they are trained before school starts.

Does it seem to anyone else that the laws regarding transmissible disease and illness only came into existence after COVID-19 arrived to dominate our daily lives? Each week we wait breathlessly for a new direction (or some direction) as to how to respond when our students and employees are confronted with the prospect of walking into the school. At no time in modern history has this yearly ritual been the object of such dread. While children may still worry over whether their new clothes will pass muster, parents have to decide if they can afford to keep their children home. A parent who cannot keep their child at home sends them to you in hopes that you will protect them from being infected by “other students.”