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Monday, October 8, 2012

EducationAdmin WebAdvisor Newsletter Issue 11 October 8, 2012

Issue 11 · October 8, 2012
Preparing Teachers for Data-Driven Instruction: How Teacher Education Programs Are Doing
Teachers need the knowledge and capability to analyze student assessment data and translate it into effective instructional decisions. Are they being adequately trained in this critical skill?

Discrimination Against Future Law School Students?
Law school students have a tough row to hoe. Besides all the reading, studying, and writing, they may also suffer forms of hiring and testing bias.

Standards-Based Report Cards Proliferating -- Parents Play Catch-Up
Montgomery County, Maryland, elementary schools just adopted standards-based report cards. These progress reports indicate how children are performing relative to state learning standards, but parents are having a hard time deciphering the new, more complex grading system.

Early Learning "Race to the Top" Funding Available for Early Childhood Education Programs
Applications are due at the end of October for Phase 2 Race to the Top funding for innovative early learning and development programs for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Online Briefings for Education Administrators
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How to Write an Effective Anti-Harassment Policy and Related Procedures to Include
Wednesday, October 24, 2012 @ 1 PM Eastern

An effective anti-harassment policy must encompass all types of harassment (including sex- and race-based), all channels (from face-to-face to social media), and all types (student-to-student, staff-to-student, staff-to-staff, and student-to-staff). Get guidance on how to capture all these situations in a comprehensive policy that defines your responsibilities and lowers your legal risks.
Constitutional Protections of Employees During Misconduct Investigations
Thursday, November 1, 2012 @ 1 PM Eastern

Understand how to investigate alleged employee misconduct without violating the employee's constitutional rights -- particularly in situations where law enforcement becomes involved in the investigation. Learn about the scope of free speech rights, due process, and other relevant legal and constitutional principles.
Exempt or Non-Exempt Educator and Administrator Classification: How to Make Sure You're in Compliance with FLSA Requirements
Wednesday, November 7, 2012 @ 1 PM Eastern

Like any other employers, schools and universities have to correctly classify their employees -- faculty, administrators, and staff -- under the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In the academic world, that can be complicated.

Alcohol and Drugs in School: How to Deal with the K-12 Epidemic, Legal and Practical Issues
Wednesday, November 14, 2012 @ 1 PM Eastern

Marijuana, prescription drugs, and alcohol -- abuse of these substances keeps rising among middle and high school students and now engulfs even younger children. How do you protect students, staff, and the surrounding community without overstepping legal boundaries? An attorney will provide insights and advice.
How to Develop an Effective Performance Improvement Plan in the School Environment, Step-by-Step
Wednesday, November 28, 2012, 1 PM Eastern

A PIP is an effective way to help school employees turn around performance problems. It also documents school leadership's efforts to guide an employee who is performing poorly should discipline or removal eventually become necessary. An education law expert will explain how to draft a PIP and monitor its compliance.
FMLA Compliance: Special Rules for Schools
Wednesday, December 5, 2012, 1 PM Eastern

The Family and Medical Leave Act includes tailored requirements for teachers and instructional employees, who generally don't work year-round and whose workdays may include both paid and unpaid time. Failing to apply the FMLA correctly creates substantial legal and compliance risks for schools and school districts.
Special Education and Disability Laws: Understanding K-12 Compliance Requirements
Thursday, December 6, 2012 @ 1 PM Eastern

ADA, ADAAA, RA, IDEA -- these laws establishment the legal framework for special education in elementary and secondary schools. Learn what they require and how they intertwine, and get updates on recent changes that affect your obligations.
Did You Miss Something?
All Webinars Are Now Accessible on CD!
What if you have a time conflict and can't participate in a webinar of interest on its scheduled date and time? Don't worry. You can still take advantage of our CD option. Soon after completion of each webinar, the program will be available on CD. Click here for the complete listing and future ordering information.
Education in the Courts
Disabilities Discrimination: A Successful School District Defense

In a case where, according to the judge, "the facts ... are largely undisputed," a Texas school district prevailed by demonstrating that the facts were on its side -- namely, that its efforts to accommodate the educational needs of a student with disabilities were sufficient under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act.
The plaintiff in the case, I.A., is a paraplegic who relies on a wheelchair for mobility. During his enrollment in the Seguin Independent School District in Texas, I.A. qualified for and received aid and services under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. However, during his time there, which spanned the third through eighth grades, I.A. alleged that the school district discriminated against him on numerous occasions in violation of the ADA and Section 504.
With regard to ADA, some of the complaints included student bathrooms that were inaccessible; a route to one of the main classroom buildings that had numerous cracks in the sidewalk, making it inaccessible and dangerous; facility entrances that had no curb cuts; and a lack of reserved spaces for school buses carrying students with disabilities. The plaintiff also contended that, while a third and fourth grade student, he sat at a table instead of a wheelchair-accessible desk, which limited his view of the teacher and did not provide a place to hold his school supplies.
With regard to Section 504, the plaintiff alleged that the school district was liable for how school personnel handled several class events that resulted in his exclusion and/or embarrassment. For example, I.A.'s class took a fifth grade field trip to caverns that were wheelchair-inaccessible. The district said the science teacher developed a specialized hands-on experience for I.A. to engage in while the other students explored the cave. At the time, I.A.'s legal guardian said she did not have sufficient information about the alternative learning arrangement and urged that the field trip be cancelled instead.
On another occasion, when I.A. arrived with the band to play at a venue where there was no apparent ramp to get onto the stage, the band director suggested that I.A. play from the floor in front of the stage instead. It was later discovered that the facility had a ramp, but the band teacher was unaware of the ramp, and therefore the appropriate arrangements had not been made.
The judge noted that, to prove a violation under Title II of the ADA, a plaintiff must show: (1) that he is a qualified individual within the meaning of the ADA; (2) that he was excluded from participation in, or denied the benefits of, services, programs, or activities for which a public entity is responsible, or was otherwise subjected to discrimination by the public entity; and (3) that such exclusion, denial of benefits, or discrimination was because of the plaintiff's disability. To recover monetary damages, a plaintiff must prove that the discrimination was intentional.

The judge ruled that the plaintiff failed to establish that the school and its educational programs were not readily accessible. The judge further noted that the plaintiff had not requested any particular modifications to the facilities. "Undoubtedly these accessibility issues created inconveniences for I.A. that were highly frustrating, but they do not establish intentional discrimination," said the judge.
Prevailing in the Section 504 claim required proving that the school district acted in bad faith or exercised gross misjudgment -- in other words, that it "departed grossly from accepted standards among education professionals." The judge dismissed each of the plaintiff's allegations of bad faith and gross misjudgments, stating that "on the contrary, the evidence tends to show that Seguin consistently made an effort to accommodate I.A.'s various needs. Some of the problems arose from a negligent lack of prior planning, such as the band director failing to ensure that I.A. could access the stage for a band concert. However, I.A. has failed to show that any of these exclusions were done in bad faith or with gross misjudgment."
Consequently, the judge dismissed with prejudice the ADA and Section 504 claims, and awarded the school district its court costs.
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In This Week's Issue
· Education administration, innovation, and compliance news & issues

Informative Webinars Ahead
· Social media use by schools, students, and staff
· Comprehensive school anti-harassment policy
· School employee misconduct investigations: constitutional issues
· Classifying school employees correctly under the FLSA
· Pushback on alcohol and drug abuse in K-12
· School employee performance improvement plans
· FMLA special rules for schools
· K-12 special education and disability laws overview
Education in the Courts
· School district fends off disabilities discrimination claims
Here's a Thought
The Toughest Job
"As a former New York City public school student, now a grandfather of a New York City public school student, I wake up every morning blessed with the fantastic opportunity to lead the country's largest school system and charged with shaping the destiny of 1.1 million students. And, I taught kindergarten, so I know firsthand that teaching is the toughest job in the world."
-- Dennis M. Walcott, Chancellor, New York City Department of Education, September 13, 2012

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