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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently ordered Facebook to pay $5 billion in fines due to violating the privacy rights of its users, but the FTC is not the only entity dealing with digital criminal activity. As the phenomenon of teen sexting continues to grow, school districts must be ready to address the fallout when it enters the schoolhouse.
Preventive Law: What Are the Odds? A Statistical Look at TEA Appointed Independent Hearing Examiners and Their Decisions
Nonrenewal “season” ended last month. That is the season that poorer performing employees are asked if they prefer to resign or be proposed for nonrenewal, and when probationary contract teachers are given a similar option, whether to resign or be terminated effective the end of the school year. Invariably most employees prefer not to have a termination or proposal for nonrenewal on their records and choose to resign.
Preventive Law: Competitive Bidding - “The most likely procedure for selecting the least able or qualified and the most incompetent practitioner….”
Not my words, but also not wrong words. This is an article about hiring design professionals—not about competitive bidding. In fact, as indicated by the title it is about some of the legal and practical reasons that Competitive Bidding for design professionals is almost universally shunned in the United States. Astronaut John Glenn once joked about how he felt before his 1962 trip aboard Friendship 7:
Texas is in the middle of the biggest measles outbreak in years. Across the nation, the 2019 outbreak is the largest (more than 681 reported cases, including at least 10 in Texas) in the United States since the year 2000, when the disease was declared eliminated. Other infectious diseases that were considered rare, such as whooping cough, are also on the rise.
This Spring, several districts across the country have received letters from the OCR concerning their Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”). The CRDC is a data collection conducted every other year, and per Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ January 2019 announcement is part of “a new initiative to address the inappropriate use of restraint and seclusion in order to protect children with disabilities.” A critical component to the initiative requires data quality reviews of 2015-2016 data submissions regarding instances of restraint or seclusion.
In February, the Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) of the U.S. Department of Education issued new guidance concerning School Resource Officers (SROs), School Law Enforcement Units, and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). The guidance answers some of the ongoing questions that districts have wrestled with as they try to balance the need to share information with law enforcement with FERPA’s confidentiality provisions.
Preventive Law: Does That Complete Your Order? Interpreting and Complying with Court Orders Involving Parent-Child Relationships
What do you do when a parent drives to your school on a Friday at 2:45 p.m. waving ‘custody papers’ in the air and demands that the school immediately withdraw her child or prevent the other parent from picking the child up from school? Take a deep breath and convince yourself that this person did not do this just to ruin your weekend. Then, explain that you will need to review the document to make sure the school complies with it and make a copy for the school’s records. When you review ‘custody’ documents, here are some steps you can use to help you interpret them and navigate through the legalese.
Texas Education Code § 34.007 allows (but does not require) a district to operate “an economical public school transportation system.” That same section requires that all bus drivers must be certified in accordance with Texas Department of Public Safety rules. Employees who drive regular bus routes must be certified by the DPS or be currently enrolled in an approved school bus safety education course. Tex. Transp. Code § 521.022(e). Because some employees who are not regular bus route drivers, especially extra-curricular coaches, must sometimes transport students, it is important to know if they must also hold school bus driver certification. The answer to the question is found by a combination of the Texas Transportation Code and the Texas Administrative Code.
We all know the importance of keeping employee information in a secure location, but did you know that you have the same responsibility to protect employee data electronically? In a recent case from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Dittman v. UPMC, the court found an employer has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care to safeguard its employees' sensitive personal information stored by the employer on an internet-accessible computer system. The employees alleged that a data breach had occurred through which personal and financial information, including names, birth dates, social security numbers, addresses, tax forms, and bank account information of all 62,000 current and former employees was accessed and stolen from company computer systems. The employees further alleged that the stolen data, which consisted of information the company required the employees to provide as a condition of their employment, was used to file fraudulent tax returns on behalf of the victimized employees, resulting in actual damages. The court agreed with the employees and found that the company was negligent in protecting employee data.
Preventive Law: Serving Parentally-Placed Private School Students with Disabilities in Public Schools
It is sometimes unclear what a public school district’s duty is when it comes to serving children with disabilities placed by their parents in private schools. Further complicating matters is the fact that sometimes a private school student requesting services can reside in the boundaries of one district and attend a private school in the boundaries of another district. What follows is a simplified list of steps to follow, and an explanation of each step, when evaluating a district’s responsibility to a private school student.
Preventive Law: Dogs and Horses and . . . Peacocks? Service, Therapy, and Comfort Animals in the Classroom – What Does the Law Require?
It has become common place to hear and read about requests for therapy dogs and horses in the classroom, emotional support peacocks and other animals on airplanes, and comfort critters in restaurants. This can lead to confusion concerning what type of accommodations a school district must make for students with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), or what types of animals must be allowed on campus to support a student pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). The information below is intended as a general guideline to help answer some of the most common questions concerning animals on campus and help district personnel prevent setting a precedent by approving overly broad requests while also avoiding liability for denying requests that may be appropriate under the state and federal law. Districts should however contact their general or special education counsel with questions concerning specific scenarios or making exceptions for unique individual circumstances.
In April this year the Texas Supreme Court appears to have sunk to a new low in rebutting not only the Me Too movement, but the common sense barometer. Before them was a sexual harassment case whose facts would shock the senses of most readers; the case involves a female school employee who claimed sexual harassment by her fellow female employees. See Alamo Heights Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Clark, 544 S.W.3d 755 (Tex. 2018).