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Monday, May 20, 2013

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Issue 26 · May 20, 2013
A 2012 law amended the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program to extend the 3.4 percent interest rate for another year and encourage student borrowers to finish their academic programs on time.
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.
Continuing Education for Administrators
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Wednesday, May 29, 2013 @ 1 PM Eastern
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.
Wednesday, June 5, 2013 @ 1 PM Eastern
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.
Thursday, June 6, 2013 @ 1 PM Eastern
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.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 @ 1 PM Eastern
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.
Tuesday, June 11, 2013 @ 1 PM Eastern
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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Education in the Courts
Overseas School Trip Gone Tragically Wrong:
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 from:
"(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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In This Issue
· Education administration, innovation, and compliance news & issues
Continuing Education for Administrators
·  Food allergies as a protected disability in school food service
·  College student suicides and threats: risks & responses
·  Students with disabilities transition from HS to college
·  Faculty and employees: independent contractors or full-timers
·  Higher education performance management
Education in the Courts
·  School's overseas trip liability not released
What Counts
Students Sneezing and Itching
·  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 brief

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