Education Law Insights

Is Your School Caught in Custody Dispute?

Posted by Brian Crowley on December 4, 2012

With guest blogger: Julie Heuberger Yura

A father calls to inform you that his ex-wife is not permitted to pick up their son from school anymore. Up until now, the parents operated under a joint custody agreement submitted upon the student’s enrollment in the District. Mother picks the student up from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays and drops him off on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. Father covers the remaining pick-up and drop-offs.

More and more, school officials are called on to determine who has the right to contact or see a student during the school day, review student records, be present at conferences and other school events and/or make special education and other decisions. It is often difficult to discuss these issues without feeling like you are picking sides or prying into family business. However, in situations like the one above, safety should be the school district’s priority. Ask to see the most current court order. Unless father can provide you with a protective or other order or agreement modifying mother’s rights, she cannot be prohibited from picking up her son.

In cases where custody is awarded solely to one parent, both the Illinois School Code and Illinois Dissolution of Marriage Act permit the other, non-custodial parent to receive copies of report cards, reports of the student’s emotional and physical health, notices of school‑initiated parent‑teacher conferences, notices of major school‑sponsored events, such as open houses, which involve student‑parent interaction, and copies of the school calendar and other items furnished by the school district to the custodial parent. However, the laws also state that where a protective order prohibits a parent from contact with the child, the parent is prohibited from accessing or inspecting the child’s school records.

Often, a non-custodial parent will ask school officials if he or she is permitted to attend school conferences. Even in cases where the other parent has sole custody, absent a protective or other order, the non-custodial parent usually has some right to participate in his or her child’s education (even though the custodial parent may have the final say in educational decisions). This is another instance where you should turn to the parenting agreement for the answer. The school should also check with custodial parent to see if he or she has any recent orders addressing this matter.

New FCC Mandates Affect Schools

Posted by Brian Crowley on October 19, 2012

With guest blogger Ashley Heard*

Many school districts and institutions of higher education use two-way radios for campus security, athletics, bus transportation, and facilities management. New FCC mandates require that all such radio systems be “narrowbanded,” or made to operate on channel bandwidths no bigger than 12.5kHz, by January 1, 2013. “Narrowbanding” is a process of updating radio technology so that it is more efficient.

In order to comply with the “narrowbanding” mandate, all radios must be either reprogrammed or replaced. Additionally, the corresponding FCC licenses must be updated to reflect the radios’ new mode of operation. The good news for schools is that most radio technology made after 1997 can be reprogrammed to operate in 12.5kHz. Moreover, there is no FCC fee for updating the corresponding licenses. Equipment made prior to 1997 and any equipment made thereafter that cannot be reprogrammed will have to be replaced.

Any systems that are not “narrowbanded” and properly licensed by January 1, 2013 are subject to license revocation and fines of up to $10,000 a day. Additionally, noncompliant systems may experience interference or be taken off the air entirely.

Radio users who worry they won’t meet the January 1, 2013 deadline may request a waiver. However, the FCC has indicated an unwillingness to grant waivers and the request process is lengthy. Thus far, at least one organization operating in the Illinois education space, First Student, a school bus provider, has received a waiver [pdf]. First Student has until January 1, 2014 to “narrowband.” The lesson for school and district leaders is to ensure they are on track to meeting the January 1, 2013 deadline and, if not, request a waiver immediately.

Overall,Illinoisradio users are making strong progress toward meeting the “narrowbanding” mandate. Under 20% of radio transmitters in the state remain noncompliant.

Looking toward the future, the FCC plans to undergo additional “narrowbanding.” Radio users should expect to “narrowband” from 12.5kHz to 6.25kHz though the FCC has not set a timeline for this second round of “narrowbanding.” School and district leaders would be wise to plan early for impending “narrowbanding” mandates.

* Ashley Heard, a law student at Loyola University Chicago School of Law, is Franczek Radelet’s Fall 2012 education practicum student.


2013 School Board Elections: Handling Nominating Petitions and Objections to Petitions

Posted by Brian Crowley on October 1, 2012

With guest blogger Scott Metcalf

There is confusion and concern about how school districts should handle receiving nominating petitions and objections to petitions for the 2013 school board elections. The Election Code says that school board nominating petitions must be filed between December 17 and 24, 2012. Objections to nominating petitions must be filed within five business days after December 24.

Many school districts intend to be closed at some point during the weeks of December 24 and December 31 (which both fall on Mondays this year). But, the law says certain things and doesn’t say others.

First, while the Election Code requires the office in which petitions are filed to remain open until at least 5:00 p.m. on December 24, the law does not specify how long the offices must be open before 5:00 p.m. In our opinion there is no legal requirement that the office be open for a specific number of hours, only that it be open until 5:00 p.m. Second, nothing requires a school district to open its offices on the five business days after December 24 (i.e., December 26-28, December 31, and January 2). One Illinois Appellate Court has held that the relevant business days for determining when objections are due are the regular business days of the public body that accepts the nominating petitions. The business days of the State Board of Elections would not be relevant for school districts. Thus, a school district could be closed on December 31, but would have to accept objections for one additional day (i.e., the last day for accepting objections would be January 3 instead of January 2). (more…)