Education Law Insights

Are Your Students’ Parents “Friending” Teachers?

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 27, 2012

A recent @IlPrincipals tweet identified an interesting USA Today article: “Should parents ‘friend’ their child’s teacher?” At this time of year when social media policies, procedures and guidelines are being reviewed across the country, another important question school leaders should ask is what they should do if such “friendships” occur. 

The “Parental Paparazzi”

Perhaps the most important thing school leaders should do is to educate teachers of the risks they face if they agree to such “friendships.” If teachers and parents become “friends,” and the parent brings in evidence of what they believe to be misconduct by the teacher on his or her social networking website, the school district may be able to – or even have to – discipline the teacher for that online activity. 

It’s not true, as one commentator suggested on NPR’s Talk of the Nation, that “anything that a parent might object to in your life can be the basis of discipline.” But there are risks from what is becoming known as the “parental paparazzi.” Teachers should be informed that if they agree to online relationships with parents, they are potentially opening their lives to the “paparazzi.”  (more…)

Special Education: Which School Is Responsible for Evaluating a Private School Student?

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 21, 2012

In a recent ISBE Superintendent’s Message, school districts were reminded that it’s the time of year when districts should be planning to complete annual, timely and meaningful consultation (TMC) with private schools and families of home-schooled students with disabilities. ISBE encouraged school districts to complete the TMC by no later than October 15, 2012, and to submit documentation of the TMC by November 1, 2012. ISBE also reminded school districts that the specific steps for conducting TMC can be found in ISBE’s guidance memos—Supplemental Guidance Information To Memorandum #05-7 (August 11, 2005) Regarding The Non-Public Proportionate Share (April 21, 2006) and Special Education Services For Parentally Placed Private School Children With Disabilities (June 25, 2006), and that ISBE has an affirmation form available for school district use.

A review of the ISBE guidance materials raises a related and interesting issue relating to special education evaluations for private school students. When a student resides in school district A, but attends a private (non special-education) school located in school district B, which school district has the responsibility to evaluate the student? (more…)

Illinois Prevailing Wage Act Amendment

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 19, 2012

With guest blogger Maria Mazza

The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act requires public bodies to pay all laborers, workers and mechanics performing work for a public works contract at least the prevailing rate of wages.  If the Department of Labor (DOL) revises the prevailing rate of wages, the public body must apply the revised rate and provide notice of the change to the contractor and each subcontractor working on a public works contract.

A recent amendment to the Prevailing Wage Act, Public Act 97-0964 provides that public bodies may now provide the required notice regarding revisions in the prevailing wage rate by inserting a provision in the contract that states that the prevailing wage rates are revised by the DOL and available on its website.  Thus, public bodies would not be required to provide notice every time the DOL revises a rate.  Instead, the provision in the contract serves as the required notice.

Given this recent amendment, public bodies should include such a provision in all public works contracts.

Diabetes Awareness Day Reminder from ISBE

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 13, 2012

Recent legislation designated November 14 as Diabetes Awareness Day. As the University of Chicago reported when the bill was signed into law this summer, more than 800,000 Illinois residents have been diagnosed with diabetes and as many as 500,000 more are unaware that they have the disease. The day is designated for the purpose of supporting efforts to decrease the prevalence of diabetes, develop better treatments and work toward eventual cure for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.

Unfortunately, the law doesn’t provide much insight into what schools should do to observe Diabetes Awareness Day. But, the recent ISBE Superintendent’s Weekly Message provides some resources for administrators making plans for November. ISBE indicated that it will facilitate school implementation of Diabetes Awareness Day through notice each fall in the Weekly Message and by providing resources for improved research, treatment, and prevention on the ISBE School Health webpage. Those resources, which can be found here, currently include an insulin administration chart, an explanation of Public Act 93-0530 Diabetes Risk Assessment, and a Memorandum from Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and Department of Human Services (DHS) explaining the enforcement of PA 93-0530 Diabetes Risk Assessment. The webpage also includes links to a number of other Diabetes Resources, including the American Diabetes Association and Pediatric Diabetes Information. Administrators can use the resources to make a game plan for how to observe Diabetes Awareness Day this fall.


Are Illinois Schools Required to Stock EpiPens?

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 10, 2012

With guest blogger Darcy Kriha

We have received an unusually large number of calls from school districts over the past few weeks concerning the administration of EpiPens® in schools. The relevant Illinois statute was amended over one year ago, on August 15, 2011. So why the sudden uptick in calls? It turns out that the local media extensively covered a press conference held on August 13 by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan at Chicago’s Lurie Children’s Hospital, urging Illinois school districts to acquire Epinephrine Auto-Injectors (EpiPens®) to administer to students who experience anaphylactic shock at school.

The big question: are schools required to stock EpiPens®? The answer is no – the statute is permissive, not mandatory. We are aware that a handful of school districts decided to obtain extra EpiPens® to administer to students in case of an emergency, even in situations where the student does not have a known allergy. Policy revisions, notice to parents, staff certifications, filling of prescriptions, etc., are all issues that need to be addressed and discussed with counsel if a district chooses to stock EpiPens®.

If you are looking for more information, the Attorney General’s Office website contains a comprehensive and well written summary of the Emergency Epinephrine Act (P.A. 97-0361; 105 ILCS 5/22-30) along with three ‘fact sheets’ directed to parents, physicians, and schools.

For School Tablet Computer Rollouts, Don’t Forget Potential Legal Stumbles

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 6, 2012

The Illinois Association of School Administrators recently alerted followers on Twitter (@IllinoisASA) to an interesting blog entry by Eric Lai for UberMobile entitled “Four Reasons Why School Tablet Rollouts Can Stumble – Or Fail.” In the blog, Lai explains why even the best technology can’t overcome poor planning and lack of follow-through when it comes to 1:1 technology programs in schools. The entry is timely in light of national news that Apple’s iPad is overtaking PC sales in schools and local news of schools swapping textbooks for tablet computers/laptops (examples here and here).

Lai’s entry hits the mark with respect to technological and pedagogical issues that schools may face. Yet, school leaders should also consider potential legal challenges when implementing 1:1 technology programs in schools.

Here are just a few of the issues about which school leaders should keep alert:

Filtering or Blocking

Technology that students take home with them is subject to the same monitoring requirements applicable to technology within a school. For example, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), which applies to schools that receive universal service (“E-rate”) discounts, would apply to tablet and laptop computers sent home with a student just as it does to computers in a school’s library.

Privacy Issues

School leaders should consider carefully how to balance the need to monitor students on district issued technology with any rights of privacy that the students may claim. Although privacy concerns might not be as sensational as this webcam spying case from 2010, schools should work carefully to strike the right balance with 1:1 technology issued to students.

Fee Waivers

Illinois requires that public schools provide fee waivers to eligible students for essential materials like textbooks (here is a summary provided by ISBE). Even in states without such provisions, schools should take steps to ensure that any fee policies for required 1:1 technology (such as deposits for use of a tablet and insurance premiums for a laptop) are not out of reach for students whose parents lack the means to pay for them.

By both following the technological and pedagogical advice from Lai’s blog and carefully planning ahead with legal counsel regarding legal issues, school leaders can set up their 1:1 programs for success from all angles.

Flu Virus Guidance Issued by Department of Public Health

Posted by Brian Crowley on September 5, 2012

With guest blogger Amy Dickerson

The Illinois Department of Public Health recently issued flu virus guidance to the Illinois State Board of Education, as well as various Illinois health agencies, on slowing the spread of flu viruses in K-12 schools. The Department issued this guidance in response to the recent increase in cases of individuals being infected with the H3N2v flu virus in Illinois and other states. The majority of confirmed cases of H3N2v virus reported having direct contact with pigs, mainly at agricultural fairs.

While the Department reports that no outbreaks in schools have been identified to date, the guidance provides schools and other agencies with information to help identify individuals who may be infected with the H3N2v virus and to slow the spread of this and other flu viruses in K-12 schools. The guidance includes recommendations that schools educate teachers and staff on everyday preventive actions, refer students with certain symptoms to their health care providers, encourage students and staff to get the seasonal flu vaccine, and inform parents and guardians on how to protect themselves from the H3N2v virus.