As NSBA prepares for its 73rd Annual Conference in Boston, April 21-23, School Board News Today is featuring previews of major and noteworthy sessions, workshops, and other events. We’ll query some familiar names and introduce you to behind-the-scenes experts who can show how to best perform your duties.
Special education law is one of the most complicated and confusing issues school boards must handle. On Saturday, April 21, Jim Walsh, an attorney with Walsh, Anderson, Gallegos, Green & Treviño, P.C., based in Texas, will present “Avoiding Liability in Special Education Disputes: Lessons for School Board Members,” which will analyze the most recent and relevant decisions pertaining to school boards and districts.
Walsh says school board members should attend his session because, “legal issues in the operation of your school’s special education program continue to multiply. Litigation over special education issues has become common, raising costs and concerns for school board members. This session will outline the key features of special education law that school board members need to know about, with an emphasis on preventive steps to be taken. The best way to keep costs and legal concerns under control is to operate a program that complies with the law. This session will focus in what school board members can do to make sure that happens.”
Question: What has changed? Are school board members being held liable in more cases?
Answer: Litigation over special education these days usually involves not only the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, our special education law, but also Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act. These other laws open the door to damages that are not available under IDEA. School board members as individuals are generally not sued personally or held liable over special education disputes, but there is a noticeable increase in litigation seeking to impose liability on individual administrators or teachers.
Q: What are some basic rules school boards should follow to avoid litigation?
A: The rules to be followed with regard to special education are no different than the rules that apply to other areas of school operations. Schools need to hire good people, train them well, follow the law, and get early and preventive legal advice.
Q: What are some major new decisions that could impact school board members’ work?
A: There are many cases over the past few years alleging that the school district harmed a child through the use of physical restraint, or that the school turned a blind eye to the bullying of a student with a disability. These issues have generated considerable media attention and raised awareness of these issues.
If you haven’t already registered for NSBA’s 2012 Annual Conference, to be held April 21 to 23, go to the Conference website for more details.