An armed security officer accidentally shot a high
school student. Meanwhile, colleges and universities are quietly
conforming their campus policies to comply with state concealed
carry and other gun rights laws.
His fellow middle school students called him
"Aladdin" and, worse, a "terrorist" because he
wore a turban in keeping with his Sikh religious faith. The
behavior violated Title IV of the Civil Rights Act.
The Department of State's Exchange Visitor Program
drifted away from its cultural roots and was being used to fill
teaching jobs. Proposed amendments to the program regulations will
reemphasize cultural activities that promote mutual understanding.
Politically inspired criticism of the Common Core State
Standards is taking its toll. Even some states where the CCSS have
been adopted are having second thoughts. Teachers and parents are
beginning to voice doubts too.
A Justice Department settlement requires a school to
make menu accommodations for students with special dietary needs.
The implications are potentially far-reaching and could expose
educational institutions to complaints of discrimination under the
ADA by students with serious food allergies. What schools need to
know about this evolving aspect of disability law.
Suicide has become the leading cause of death among
college students. To secure the safety of not only troubled
students, but of all students and faculty, higher education
administrators need to know how to address the many interrelated
social, legal, ethical, mental health, and practical issues raised
by this crisis.
Along with greater post-secondary educational
opportunities for students with disabilities comes the very real
and practical issues involved in helping them adjust to living away
from home and succeeding socially, academically, physically, and
emotionally in a college environment. High school and college
administrators and special education teachers need to know the laws
and how to develop a collaborative plan for a smooth transition.
Instructional employees, interns, substitute teachers,
adjunct faculty, and temporary employees — they all need to be
classified for the tax withholding and wage and hour laws. The IRS
and Department of Labor are doing random audits to see if schools and
other employers have properly classified their employees as
independent contractors or full-timers. Get advice for how to
perform your own self-audit first.
Shared governance, egalitarianism, and individual
responsibility characterize how work is done in colleges and
universities, and as a result, traditional performance appraisal
systems don't work well. Learn how to develop a collaborative
approach to employee performance management that reflects the
structure and belief system of a true learning organization.
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Overseas School Trip Gone
Broad Liability Release Doesn't
Spare School From Huge Judgment
A private boarding high school in Connecticut is on the
hook for almost $42 million in damages after a jury found that the
school had been negligent in protecting one of its students during
an overseas trip. Bolstering the plaintiff's case was the judge's ruling
during the trial that the school's broad waiver of negligence
liability was unenforceable and could not be submitted as evidence
by the defendants.
In 2007, a ninth-grade student at The Hotchkiss School
signed up for a school-sponsored trip to Tianjin, China.
Participation in the trip was contingent upon parents and students
signing a "Release of Claims" that released the school
"(1) any and all claims that may arise from any
cause whatsoever, whether resulting from acts or omissions of any
persons, from the operation or condition of the facilities or
premises, from acts of war or terrorism, or from acts of God or
nature, or risks associated with the consumption of alcoholic
beverages, use of illegal drugs in any form, and injury or death from
causes such as traffic accidents, crime, assault, and theft,
(2) responsibility for any accident, illness, injury,
or any other damage or consequence arising or resulting directly or
indirectly from the student's participation in the program,
(3) any liability, damage, or injury that may be caused
by student's negligence or willful acts committed prior to, during,
or after participation in the program, and
(4) any liability, damage, or injury caused by the
intentional or negligent acts or omissions of any other participant
in the program, or caused by any other person."
While on the trip to China, the student was bitten by a
tick. She contracted encephalitis that left her brain damaged. The
plaintiffs argued that officers and employees of the school failed
to warn trip participants of the health risks of traveling to that
area of China and then were negligent during the trip, including
allowing students to visit known areas of insect-transmitted
diseases without taking appropriate precautions such as wearing
protective clothing and insect repellant and checking for ticks.
The Hotchkiss School argued that the odds of
contracting such a disease are extremely rare and that school
officials could not have foreseen the risk. The defendants also
said that the release of liability signed by the student and her
mother absolved Hotchkiss of liability for its actions.
The plaintiffs challenged the admissibility of the
release. Looking at past law, the judge observed, "As a
general rule, Connecticut courts disfavor broad waivers of
negligence liability." Looking at the school's release, the
judge found that it was written quite broadly, stating that:
"... it covers 'any and all claims' and 'acts or omissions of
any persons,' and waives 'responsibility for' not just 'any
accident, illness, injury,' but also 'any other damage.'" The
judge concluded that an ordinary person signing such a release
would not have understood that it shielded the school from a basic
duty to act with reasonable care.
The judge went on to say that, in essence, Hotchkiss
had left students and parents with two untenable choices: refuse to
sign the waiver and thus forego the trip to China and all the
advantages it offered, or sign a release that waived any rights to
sue for the school's failure to take basic precautions to protect
those on the trip.
The judge held that the release was unenforceable as a
matter of law and could not be used as evidence by the defendants.
A few days later, the jury handed down its verdict.
Read the judge's
ruling in Cara
Munn et al. v. Hotchkiss School, March 22, 2013
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· The prevalence of food and skin allergies among
children under age 18 increased between 1997–1999 and 2009–2011.
· As children get older, skin allergies decrease
and respiratory allergies increase.
· Allergy prevalence varies by race and
ethnicity, with Hispanic children having the lowest prevalence of
food, skin, and respiratory allergies compared with non-Hispanic white
and non-Hispanic black children.
· Food and respiratory allergy prevalence
increases as income level rises. There is no difference in skin
allergy prevalence by economic status.
-- Trends in Allergic Conditions
Among Children: U.S., 1997–2011, National
Center for Health Statistics, data