Articles tagged with Council of School Attorneys

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys elects new leadership

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), the national network of attorneys representing K-12 public school districts whose mission is to support school attorneys and provide leadership in legal advocacy for public schools, elected new leaders and directors during its annual meeting in New Orleans. The 22-member Board of Directors oversees COSA’s continuing legal education programming and working groups for its 3,000+ members across the United States and Canada.

Gregory J. Guercio became Chair; he is founding partner of the Farmingdale, N.Y., law firm of Guercio & Guercio, LLP and received his law degree from St. John’s University, School of Law.

Justin D. Petrarca became Chair-elect; he is a partner with the Chicago, Ill. firm of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, and received his J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.

Andrew M. Sanchez became Vice-Chair; he is a partner in the Albuquerque, N.M. office of Cuddy & McCarthy, and received his law degree from George Washington University Law School.

Pilar Sokol became Secretary.  She is the Deputy General Counsel of the New York State School Boards Association in Latham, N.Y.  Sokol is a graduate of Albany Law School.

“This is an exciting time for COSA and NSBA.  COSA’s new leadership represents the top education law attorneys across the country, ensuring that NSBA will continue to be the nation’s foremost legal advocate for public schools,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel.

COSA also elected four new directors to two-year terms: Joy Baskin is the Director of Legal Services of the Texas Association of School Boards; Kathleen S. Mehfoud is a partner at Reed Smith L.L.P. in Richmond, Virginia; W. Joseph Scholler is a member with Frost Brown Todd LLC in West Chester, Ohio; and Patricia J. Whitten is a partner at Franczek Radelet P.C. in Chicago, Ill.

In addition, COSA elected four directors to a second two-year term:  Séamus Boyce is a partner with Church, Church, Hittle & Antrim in Noblesville, Ind.; Danielle Haindfield is a partner in the Des Moines, Iowa firm of Ahlers & Cooney, P.C.; Phillip L. Hartley is managing partner of the Gainesville, Ga. law firm of Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, LLP, and General Counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association; and Anne H. Littlefield is a partner with the Hartford, Conn. firm of Shipman & Goodwin, LLP.

“The council’s new leaders are accomplished school law practitioners and dedicated advocates on behalf of public schools,” said Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda, past COSA Chair and head of this year’s nominating committee. “Together, they bring deep and rich legal experience and tremendous energy to the organization.”

Formed in 1967, the NSBA Council of School Attorneys provides information and practical assistance to attorneys who represent public school districts. It offers legal education, specialized publications, and a forum for exchange of information, and it supports the legal advocacy efforts of the National School Boards Association. 

Alexis Rice|April 5th, 2014|Categories: Leadership, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , |

NSBA advises on student data privacy

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) participated in an expert panel session last month to discuss legal issues associated with transferring, storing, and protecting student data.

Held as part of the Consortium for School Networking’s Annual Conference, the student privacy panel included COSA Director Sonja Trainor; U.S. Department of Education (ED) Chief Privacy Officer Kathleen Styles; Assistant Director at the Federal Trade Commission Mark Eichorn; and was moderated by Alicia Solow-Niederman of Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

Styles highlighted ED’s resources on the student data privacy, including a recent publication, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services. She recommended three key steps school districts should be taking to address student data privacy: (1) take a hard look at policies addressing student records and data; (2) train staff on your district’s student data privacy policies, and in privacy concerns generally; and (3) be transparent in your student data privacy policies and practices.

Noting that outdated student privacy laws have created holes, making it difficult to craft school policy, Trainor stressed the importance of anticipating trends in legislation and taking a comprehensive approach to student data privacy, while working with a school attorney to keep on top of changing laws.

NSBA will be releasing a resource guide in conjunction with the NSBA Annual Conference to be held April 5-7 in New Orleans, which will help school boards identify the crucial issues associated with student privacy when the school district uses online educational services.  COSA  will also release a detailed resource for school attorneys, which will include suggested contract terms.

In addition to recommending a comprehensive approach to student data privacy protection, the guide will recommend that school boards keep their communities informed and involved in the steps they are taking to guard against loss of student data privacy. Trainor will present a school law session at the conference entitled “Cloud Computing and Student Privacy – What School Boards Need to Know” on Sunday, April 6 at 1:30-2:45 pm in rooms 346-347.

 

Staff|April 2nd, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, NSBA Publications, School Boards, School Law|Tags: , , , |

U.S. Department of Education issues guidelines on student data privacy

The U.S. Department of Education has issued new online resource guidelines to help school districts and educators interpret major laws for protecting student privacy and develop best practices for using online educational services.

The report, Protecting Student Privacy While Using Educational Services: Requirements and Best Practices,  issued by the department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), noted that classrooms are increasingly employing technological advances such as on-demand delivery of personalized content, virtual forms of interacting with teachers and other students, and many other interactive technologies.

“Early adopters of these technologies have demonstrated their potential to transform the educational process, but they have also called attention to possible challenges,” says the report. “In particular, the information-sharing, web-hosting, and telecommunications innovations that have enabled these new education technologies raise questions about how best to protect student privacy during use.”

Examples of online educational services include online services that students use to access class readings, see their academic progress, watch videos, or comment on class activities, the report said. Complicating the issue is the fact that  “the diversity and variety” of these online educational services provide no single answer regarding which technologies, and which student data disclosures and uses, are covered by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

As is often the case with emerging technologies, the interpretation of existing laws such as FERPA and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment are slower to evolve than the technology itself. These issues continue to be at the forefront of discussions among educators, software companies, legal experts, and others with a stake in student data privacy.

“Student data privacy has received a great deal of national attention in recent months, with many groups working to develop resources for their own constituents and collaborating with others to determine best practices,” said National School Boards Association (NSBA) Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “NSBA has been a part of this national conversation.”

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) formed a working group on student privacy this year, which will issue a guide for school attorneys this spring.  “We are producing a resource for school attorneys that will help them navigate the legal landscape and identify best practices for student data privacy protection that go beyond legal compliance,” said COSA Chair Allison Brown Schafer of the North Carolina School Boards Association. NSBA will issue guidance for school board members.

“As an education community, we have to do a far better job of helping teachers and administrators understand technology and data issues so that they can appropriately protect privacy while ensuring teachers and students have access to effective and safe tools,” U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said. “We must provide our schools, teachers, and students cutting-edge learning tools — and we must protect our children’s privacy. We can accomplish both — but we will have to try harder to do it.”

The report discussed several best practices schools should use to protect student privacy when using online educational services. Among them are: maintaining an awareness of relevant federal, state, tribal, or local laws; having policies and procedures to evaluate proposed online educational services; and being transparent with student and parents about how schools collect, share, protect, and use student data.

Read more in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|March 6th, 2014|Categories: Educational Technology, School Law|Tags: , , , , , |

COSA seminar guides school attorneys on newest legal trends and challenges

School attorneys from across North America learned about new topics and trends in education law at the National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys’ 2013 School Law Practice Seminar, held Oct. 10-12 in Nashville, Tenn.

“The event’s program gave school attorneys an opportunity to dive deep into issues they face every day in their busy practices, and to look at some issues from a fresh perspective,” said COSA Director Sonja Trainor. “Our attendees were particularly engaged in the networking events, where they interacted with colleagues and corporate partners facing the same issues.”

Hot topic sessions tackled student privacy in the cloud computing era, armed guards in schools, and the latest on the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The student privacy panel included technology law expert and COSA member Dotti Bollinger, Microsoft’s Steve Mutkoski and COSA board member Phil Hartley, who guided the audience through the evolving legal standards affecting student data privacy in the cloud. Former COSA Chair Tom Wheeler and COSA member Joe Tanguma provided an overview of liability standards for schools faced with violence, and noted the widely differing approaches taken by various states regarding arming school staff.

COSA member Chris Stevenson and NSBA Senior Staff Attorney Leza Conliffe presented attendees with an update on employer-related issues of the ACA, known as Obamacare. They discussed the implications of the employer mandate, a.k.a. the “Pay or Play” penalties, and the upcoming requirements the latest IRS rules place on school districts, as employers, in the areas of collecting and disclosing information about insurance coverage of all of its employees, their spouses and dependents, and the collection of an additional Medicare tax for a district’s high wage earners.

Attendees also addressed every-day issues such as involuntary resignation and constructive discharge, intellectual property creation and fair use, and litigation practice – including a poignant session on working with child witnesses. They heard COSA member D. Scott Bennett, whose son suffers from a severe form of autism, describe the fears and priorities of parents of disabled students.

“Autism presents unique challenges, and the parents’ well-being tends to ebb and flow depending on the child’s symptoms and behavioral condition,” Bennett wrote in a recent research paper. He advised school attorneys and educators to collaborate with parents and show them multiple strategies to foster the best educational experiences for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder and other disabilities.

Attendees also participated in interactive sessions addressing recent guidance from federal agencies on issues such as participation of students with disabilities in athletics and the appropriate use of pre-employment criminal background checks.

State school board association attorneys attended pre-seminar meetings on Oct. 10. At a lunch event on Oct. 11, attendees found their way to roundtable discussions on many different topics. Reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, student data and cloud computing, international student travel, and labor negotiations were particularly popular discussion topics.

NSBA Executive Director Tom Gentzel noted the integral role COSA plays in the advocacy work of NSBA at the opening general session of the conference. NSBA President David Pickler, a practicing attorney, joined his colleagues at the practice seminar. At the seminar reception hosted by Lewis King Krieg & Waldrop and the Tennessee Council of School Board Attorneys, he welcomed attendees to his home state and invited COSA attorneys to join NSBA’s grassroots work to support public education.

NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. updated school attorneys on NSBA’s Legal Advocacy Agenda. He highlighted NSBA’s amicus work in recent and upcoming Supreme Court cases addressing diversity in student assignment and employer liability for claims of discrimination. He also noted NSBA’s recent amicus work in federal courts of appeal in student-related cases in which the Departments of Justice and Education have filed amicus briefs opposing the school district’s position.

COSA members and NSBA staff also took a moment to remember former NSBA General Counsel Gus Steinhilber, who passed away in August. He was remembered as a kind and generous friend, an avid outdoorsman, and a lifelong supporter of public schools and the attorneys who advocate on their behalf.

For more information on COSA events, go to www.nsba.org/SchoolLaw/COSA.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 18th, 2013|Categories: Affordable Care Act, Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, Diversity, School Law|Tags: , , |

COSA annual conference examines diversity, school law issues

Special education, employment law, school safety and diversity are the hot topics this week at the National School Boards Associations’ (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) annual School Law Practice Seminar in Nashville, Tenn.

“COSA’s fall seminar is our chance as attorneys to dig deep into the weeds of school law issues facing our public school clients, to discuss approaches and solutions with colleagues, and to get an update on the national legal advocacy work of the National School Boards Association,” said Allison Schafer, the 2013-14 COSA Chair and Legal Counsel for the North Carolina School Boards Association.

In the opening discussion, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools Superintendent Jesse Register will discuss his plans to move beyond desegregation litigation to a groundbreaking diversity management plan. The accompanying panel will also discuss the broader issue of diversity in school settings after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin as well as upcoming cases for the 2013-14 term.

Other COSA sessions will be led by experienced school attorneys on relevant issues such as “Student Privacy Concerns in the Cloud Computing Era,” “Responding to the EEOC’s Guidance on Criminal Background Checks,” “the NSBA Legal Advocacy Agenda,” and “Adventures in Ethics.”

Joetta Sack-Min|October 9th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Board governance, Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, School Law, School Security|Tags: , |

Register today for 2013 COSA conference in Nashville

The National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) will host its 2013 School Law Practice Seminar Oct. 10 to 12 in Nashville, Tenn. Join other school attorneys from across the U.S. and Canada for the premier school law event, where participants will drill down to the meaty issues, discuss shared challenges, and grow as school attorneys and colleagues.

Highlights of the event will include early bird sessions, which feature specialized and timely discussions on special education and autism, and employment law. The seminar’s opening general session, “From Desegregation to Diversity,” will be presented Thursday morning by John W. Borkowski, Hogan Lovells, Jesse Register, Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and Leonard Stevens, Leonard Stevens Consulting. Friday morning kicks off with “Evaluating Mental Health Needs in Light of Safety and Security Concerns;” NSBA’s Legal Advocacy Agenda with NSBA’s General Counsel, Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.; and Student Privacy Concerns in the Cloud Computing Era.

Other sessions will discuss ACA health insurance shared responsibility penalties, intellectual property and fair use, and defining equal opportunity in school-sponsored extracurricular activities; and school law trial practice.

The conference concludes on Saturday with two dynamic presentations, titled, “Armed Guards in Schools,” and “Adventures in Ethics: Will You End Your Career with Integrity or Will You be Eaten by a Bear?”

Attendees can earn up to 11.5 hours of CLE credit in the process.  Check out the program and register at the seminar website!

 

 

Joetta Sack-Min|August 7th, 2013|Categories: Announcements, Conferences and Events, Council of School Attorneys, School Law, School Security|Tags: |

NSBA announces upcoming school law webinars

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) offers online learning experiences for attorneys who represent schools. Here are the upcoming June 2013 webinars pertaining to U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights issues.

June 11, 2013 1-2:15 p.m. EDT

Types of OCR Investigations and Their Outcomes

Leza Conliffe, NSBA Senior Staff Attorney and former practitioner in Northern Virginia as well as OCR, discusses the characteristics of different types of investigations OCR conducts. Leza will review the myriad contexts in which these investigations can occur, what these investigations look like in real time in terms of staff and district operations, and the ways OCR complaints are brought to closure.

June 18, 2013 1-2:15 p.m. EDT

Nuts & Bolts of an OCR Investigation: From Initial Notice to Closure Letter

On the final webinar on OCR investigations, NSBA Senior Staff Attorney Leza Conlife takes us through an OCR investigation step-by-step from the time the school district receives the complaint to when OCR closes the case. During this conversation, we will discuss preparing the initial response to the complaint; handling OCR document requests, site visits, and OCR interviews with staff and students; negotiating resolution agreements, and addressing various situations that develop along the way.

To register, go to https://secure.nsba.org/register/webinar. If you have questions regarding your registration, please contact Lyndsay Andrews at 703-838-6738 or landrews@nsba.org.

Purchase archived webinars, including the very popular Affordable Care Act: Its Major Components and What They Mean for School Districts, and Investigating and Responding to Complaints of Bullying, at http://allendsmeet.com/cosa/.

 

Alexis Rice|May 22nd, 2013|Categories: Multimedia and Webinars, School Law|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys elects new leadership

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA), the national network of attorneys representing K-12 public school districts whose mission is to support school attorneys and provide leadership in legal advocacy for public schools, elected new leaders and directors for 2012-2013 during its annual meeting in San Diego. The 22-member Board of Directors oversees COSA’s continuing legal education programming for its 3,000 members across the United States and Canada.

Allison Brown Schafer became Chair; she is Director of Policy and Legal Counsel for the North Carolina School Boards Association and she received her J.D. from Wake Forest University.

Gregory J. Guercio became Chair-Elect; he is founding partner of the Farmingdale, N.Y., law firm of Guercio & Guercio, LLP, and he received his law degree from St. John’s University School of Law.

Justin D. Petrarca became Vice-Chair; he is a partner with the Chicago firm of Scariano, Himes and Petrarca, and he received his J.D. from the John Marshall Law School.

Andrew M. Sanchez became Secretary; he is a partner in the Albuquerque, N.M. office of Cuddy & McCarthy, and received his law degree from The George Washington University Law School.

“This is an exciting time for COSA and NSBA,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel. “COSA’s new leadership represents the top education law attorneys across the country, ensuring that NSBA will continue to be the nation’s foremost legal advocate for public schools.”

COSA also elected three new directors to two-year terms: C. Wesley Bridges II is the general counsel for the School Board of Polk County, Fla.; Nancy Hungerford is the founder of The Hungerford Law Firm in Oregon City, Ore.; and James A. Keith is a partner with Adams and Reece in Jackson, Miss.

In addition, COSA elected four directors to a second two-year term: Diane Marshall-Freeman is a partner in the Sacramento, Calif., office of Fagen Friedman & Fulfrost, LLP; Joanne Nelson Shepherd is the district counsel for Jackson (Mississippi) Public School District; Leslie R. Stellman is a partner in the Towson, Md. office of Pessin Katz Law, P.A.; and Christopher P. Thomas is general counsel and director of legal and policy services to the Arizona School Boards Association.

“The council’s new leaders are extremely dedicated professionals who will admirably serve COSA members in their advocacy on behalf of public schools,” said Patrice McCarthy, past COSA Chair and head of this year’s nominating committee. “Together, they bring deep and rich legal experience and tremendous energy to the organization.”

Alexis Rice|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Law|Tags: , , |

NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys honors Gary R. Thune with Lifetime Achievement Award

The National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) honored a school board attorney who has dedicated his career to education at the 2013 Annual School Law Seminar in San Diego.

Gary R. Thune of Bismarck, N.D. was presented with COSA’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award for exemplary leadership in legal advocacy and distinguished service to COSA.

“We are so proud to present Thune with an award that recognizes his exemplary dedication to legal advocacy on behalf of public school boards and the students they serve,” said Elizabeth Eynon-Kokrda, COSA’s Chair.

Thune began his career as a mathematics teacher in a public school. After receiving a master’s degree in education, he served as principal, teacher, and coach of a private religious school. He later became the assistant principal of a larger public school. Thune received his juris doctorate, with distinction, from the University of North Dakota School of Law, where he was a member of the North Dakota Law Review editorial staff and Order of the Coif.

Since earning his law degree, Thune has represented almost all of the public school districts in North Dakota. He is a partner at Pearce & Durick in Bismarck, N.D., where he leads the firm’s school law practice. Thune serves as legal counsel for the North Dakota High School Activities Association and the government self-insurance pool, which covers all but one public school district in North Dakota. Gary served as legal counsel for the North Dakota School Boards Association for 32 years.

Thune has shown extraordinary dedication to the Council of School Attorneys, both at the national and state levels, for more than 30 years. He co-founded the North Dakota Council of School Attorneys, served for 11 years on COSA’s Board of Directors, and was chair of the Council from 1997-1998.

“I have been honored to work with dedicated educators and attorneys supporting the work of public schools in North Dakota,” said Thune.

Eynon-Kokrda noted, “Gary Thune is the model school board legal advocate. He knows the law, and he knows the practical realities of its every-day application in public schools. Plus, he’s a really nice guy, a thoughtful mentor to new school attorneys.”

Alexis Rice|April 12th, 2013|Categories: NSBA Annual Conference 2013, School Law|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA offers webinars on emerging legal issues for school districts

The National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) has planned a series of webinars this spring on emerging legal issues for school districts and their attorneys.

COSA will host a webinar on Feb. 7 on the Affordable Health Care Act that will discuss some of the major components of the ACA. The webinar will address: State Health Insurance Exchanges, some Group Health Plan Requirements (Summary of Benefits, W-2 reporting, FSA contributions, “full time employee” determinations, and more), the Individual Mandate, Medicaid, and requirements due to kick in next year.

On Feb. 26, the NSBA legal team will present a boot camp on major U.S. Supreme Court cases impacting public education.

And beginning on March 19, COSA will offer a three-part series of webinars on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and recent changes in guidance to school districts. COSA notes that school districts all over the country have experienced a new level of vigor in the investigations of discrimination complaints filed with multiple federal agencies. The webinars will show how a proactive hands-on approach to handling OCR complaints will benefit school districts in their current and future dealings with OCR and will provide suggested best practices. The series includes:

  • Before OCR Arrives: Preventative Steps (March 19)
  • Types of OCR Investigations and Their Outcomes (May 7)
  • Nuts and Bolts of an OCR Investigation: From Initial Notice to Closure Letter (June 11)

More details about the costs and registration are available on COSA’s webpage. State associations have free access to these sessions.

In addition, COSA’s 2011 and 2012 webinars  are now available for purchase and download. If you paid to attend a session and want to listen again, contact COSA for a code to replay for free.

 

Joetta Sack-Min|February 6th, 2013|Categories: School Law|Tags: , , , |
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