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Articles tagged with school law

NSBA mourns the passing of school law leader Ann Little Majestic

Ann Majestic, former National School Boards Association (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA) Chair and COSA Lifetime Achievement Award winner, died on August 16, 2014.

Ann dedicated her life to improving education – and special education in particular – in North Carolina where she represented several school boards, including the Wake, Durham, Orange, Alamance-Burlington, and Moore school systems. She also served as counsel to the North Carolina School Boards Association and the North Carolina Psychologists’ Association.

Ann was elected to the COSA Board of Directors in 1991, and served as the Chair from spring of 1998 to spring of 1999. In 2012, Ann was awarded COSA’s Lifetime Achievement Award for her outstanding service to the school law community and her leadership in legal advocacy on behalf of public schools.

“Ann was a respected leader in the school law community and a powerful advocate for public schools,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “We will miss her leadership, her intellect, her grace, and her kindness.”

To view Ann’s memorial page visit this link.

Staff|August 19th, 2014|Categories: Announcements|Tags: , , , |

New school law webinars examine the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

The National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Council of School Attorneys (COSA)  is hosting a two-part webinar series on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FEPRA). Register today to learn more about this important topic.

Here are details on the sessions:

September 11, 2013 – FERPA Session 1: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act Inside and Out

Veteran in-house counsel Margaret-Ann Howies presents an engaging look at FERPA through the lens of a very real and traumatic school shooting. Here’s your chance to learn – or brush up on – the ins and outs of the federal law that permeates school district operations, FERPA. We’ll start with the basics: What is an education record covered by FERPA? When can personally identifiable information about a student be released and to whom? Are emails education records? Then, we’ll move into recent questions: May a school district store student records in “the cloud?” When does an “emergency” cease, thereby triggering the consent requirement? What if the student is deceased? What if the student has changed names? Become FERPA conversant in just over an hour.

1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EDT)

Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys

Presenter: Margaret-Ann Howie, General Counsel, Baltimore County Public Schools

January 15, 2014 – FERPA Session 2: School Videos and Student Privacy – What’s the Final Rule?

Few issues have caused such widespread consternation for school districts and their attorneys than the following: to what extent are school videos education records covered by FERPA? NSBA requested clarification from the U.S. Department of Education years ago. Join a seasoned school lawyer for a distillation of the current state of the law and “unofficial” guidance from the Department’s Family Policy Compliance Office.

Time: 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m. (EST)

Host: Sonja Trainor, Director, NSBA Council of School Attorneys

Presenter: Sarah Craven Clark, Deputy Director of Legal Services, Ohio State Association Counsel

Learn more and register now.



Joetta Sack-Min|September 10th, 2013|Categories: Governance, School Law, Federal Programs, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , , , |

NSBA encourages U.S. Supreme Court to clarify school district responsibility for student’s mental health treatment under IDEA

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) urges the U.S. Supreme Court to make it clear that school districts are not required to pay for a student’s mental health services in a residential care facility if those services are not needed primarily for educational purposes.

In an amicus brief, NSBA and the Colorado Association of School Boards are asking the High Court to review Jefferson County School District R-1 v. Elizabeth E.,  a case from the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, and clarify the limits of the tuition reimbursement provision of the nation’s main special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

“School districts are dedicated to educating children with disabilities, but federal law should recognize that they are not designed or funded to function as medical care providers,” said NSBA Executive Director Thomas J. Gentzel. “Districts should not be required to pay for expensive health services that are needed primarily for medical treatment of mental health issues, not educational needs, because those would be beyond the scope and intent of IDEA.”

The case involves Elizabeth E., a student in Jefferson County, Colo., who was diagnosed with several mental health conditions. Until the eighth grade, she attended a private school, for which the Jefferson County Public Schools agreed to pay half the tuition. When Elizabeth’s behavioral disabilities began escalating, her parents unilaterally placed her in a residential treatment center out of state and sought reimbursement from the school district.

The U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the parents were entitled to reimbursement under IDEA. The appeals court reached its decision by creating an entirely new standard that added more turmoil to an area of law in which other courts have already devised several conflicting standards, leaving no clear guidance for school districts.

“We urge the High Court to reverse the Tenth Circuit’s ruling which would require public schools to bear mental health care costs under the IDEA in a manner unintended by Congress,” said Francisco M. Negrón, Jr., NSBA’s General Counsel. “The high costs associated with such an interpretation of the IDEA could ultimately undermine the ability of public schools to provide educational services for all children.”

Learn more about the case in NSBA’s Legal Clips.

Alexis Rice|May 8th, 2013|Categories: School Law, Special Education|Tags: , , , |

Video: NSBA discusses school safety on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal”

Francisco M. Negrón Jr., General Counsel of the National School Boards Association, was featured on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Dec. 19 discussing school safety and  how school boards across the U.S. develop and implement emergency plans.

Alexis Rice|December 19th, 2012|Categories: School Boards, School Law, Teachers, School Security, NSBA Opinions and Analysis|Tags: , , , , , , |

NSBA speaks out on school safety

Francisco M. Negrón Jr., General Counsel of the National School Boards Association, was featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered” as schools re-examine safety and security following the Newtown, Conn. school shooting. Negrón noted that “schools are going to try to understand whether or not they need to change their policies accordingly.”

Negrón is also scheduled to be on C-SPAN’s “Washington Journal” on Wednesday morning, Dec. 19 from 8:45-9:15 am EST discussing school safety. You can watch it live online or on C-SPAN and C-SPAN Radio. It will also recorded and will be available in the C-SPAN archive. If you watch the “Washington Journal” live, we encourage you to call-in, tweet, or email Negrón a question.

Call-In Numbers:
Democrats:  202-585-3880
Republicans: 202-585-3881
Independents: 202-585-3882
Outside U.S.:  202-585-3883



Alexis Rice|December 18th, 2012|Categories: School Law, Teachers, School Security|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

School safety, discipline are top issues at national school law conference

The Council of School Attorneys’ (COSA) School Law Practice Seminar, held Oct. 11 to 13 in Santa Fe, N.M., will examine issues related to bullying and harassment, discipline, special education, and employee relations. The annual conference hosts school attorneys from across the country, who may earn education (CLE) credits. COSA is part of the National School Boards Association  (NSBA).

COSA Director Sonja Trainor said, “More than 30 experienced school law faculty will lead attendees through complex and challenging areas of their daily school law practice.”

The conference is focusing several sessions on school safety, from extreme threats to verbal harassment and bullying. Trainor will lead a session showing schools how to reduce the risks of violence, explaining how to decifer threat assessments, manage law enforcement in schools, communication and liability concerns.

Such topics also call into question students’ First Amendment rights to free speech. This year’s opening general session will include a panel of national speakers addressing “Can Schools Be Both Safe and Free?  New National Guidelines on Harassment, Bullying and Freedom of Expression.”   In May 2012 NSBA, as part of a coalition of 17 education, religious, and civil liberties groups, released “Harassment, Bullying and Free Expression: Guidelines for Free and Safe Public Schools” aimed at helping public schools uphold the First Amendment while combating harassment and bullying.

The COSA program also includes sessions on school safety, student discipline, immigration, employment issues, attorney/board member relationships, internet filtering in schools, intellectual property and confidentiality issues, and technology in the classroom.

The Twitter hashtag for the conference is: #COSASantaFe.

Joetta Sack-Min|October 10th, 2012|Categories: School Law, Diversity, Discipline, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , |

Federal court overrules ID checks on immigrant students

A three-judge panel of 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a portion of Alabama’s strict immigration law that required public schools to check the legal status of students.

In a friend-of-the-court brief late last year, NSBA, the National Education Association, and the Alabama Education Association said the law was trying to use “fear and intimidation to drive undocumented immigrants from the state.”

The law had put public schools in a difficult position –on one hand, required by federal law to serve all children in the state regardless of their immigration status; on the other, being thrust to the front lines of a highly partisan battle over illegal immigration.

NSBA released a guide for educators last year, “Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children,” that discusses legal questions related to undocumented students that are commonly asked by school officials.

The main federal law is 1982 U.S. Supreme Court case Plyler v. Doe held that undocumented students have a constitutional right to attend public elementary and secondary school for free, although there are other conflicted lower court rulings and many issues that the Plyler decision did not address, according to the guide.

Nevertheless, “The law of the land still requires that schools provide an education for undocumented students,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr.

Numerous states have debated the fates of undocumented students in recent years, and the issue has reemerged with the Obama administration’s recent announcement that they will defer the deportations of thousands of young adults who came to the United States as children.

Read a legal analysis of the decision in Legal Clips.








Lawrence Hardy|August 22nd, 2012|Categories: School Law, Diversity, Immigrants, Board governance, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , , , , , , , |

High Court declines to hear two Internet cases

The U.S. Supreme Court missed an opportunity to clarify what school districts can do to monitor harmful and potentially disruptive off-campus Internet speech when it declined this week to hear a pair of Pennsylvania cases involving students posting fake Internet profiles, said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

In one of the cases, J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, a middle school girl who was upset about being reprimanded for dress code violations posted a fake MySpace profile of her principal That profile, according to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, “contained crude content and vulgar language, ranging from nonsense and juvenile humor to profanity and shameful personal attacks aimed at the principal and his family.” Nonetheless, the court, in an 8-6 decision, ruled that the school district had violated the girl’s First Amendment right to free speech when it suspended her for 10 days.

The Supreme Court also declined to hear an appeal of another Pennsylvania case, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, concerning a high school senior who was suspended after created a fake webpage mocking his principal. That suspension was overturned by a district judge in a ruling that was confirmed by a three-judge panel and the entire Third Circuit Court.

NSBA and several other national education organizations appealed the rulings to the Supreme Court in the hope that it would provide more definitive guidance to school districts at a time when technology has blurred the line between campus and off-campus speech.

“We’ve missed an opportunity to really clarify for school districts what their responsibility and authority is at a time when kids are using electronic medial instantaneously, and especially when those messages are so impactful and immediate on the school setting,” Negrón told the Associated Press. “This is one of those cases where the law is simply lagging behind the times.”

Negrón was also quoted on the websites of CNN, ABC News, and other media outlets.

Lawrence Hardy|January 18th, 2012|Categories: Governance, School Law, Social Networking|Tags: , |

NSBA seeks high court input on Internet speech

Can a school district discipline a student who posts lewd or vicious material online about another student or a school employee — or is that posting protected as “off-campus” speech?

That’s a question the National School Boards Association (NSBA), the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), and six other organizations are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to answer following a pair of appellate court decisions in favor of two Pennsylvania students.

In a brief filed recently, NSBA and the other groups say that, in order to further their educational mission, “schools need authority to regulate student speech that originates off campus.”

In one of the cases, J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, a middle school girl who was upset about being reprimanded for dress code violations posted a fake MySpace profile of her principal that, according to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, “contained crude content and vulgar language, ranging from nonsense and juvenile humor to profanity and shameful personal attacks aimed at the principal and his family.” Nonetheless, the court, in an 8-6 decision, ruled in June that the school district had violated the girl’s First Amendment right to free speech when it suspended her for 10 days.

The other case, Layshock v. Hermitage School District, involved a Pennsylvania high school senior who also created a fake MySpace profile mocking his principal. In that case, the Third Circuit ruled unanimously for the student.

NSBA and the other groups argued that the expanding use of social networking and other forms of online communication have led to “a stunning increase in harmful student expression that school administrators are forced to address with no clear guiding jurisprudence.”

“Now is the time for the Supreme Court to resolve the question of whether and to what extent school district have the authority to discipline students for off-campus speech,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr. “As technology blurs the lines between on-campus and off-campus speech, school districts need clear guidance to be able to effectively address extreme off-campus speech that interferes with a safe and orderly learning environment.”

With more and more communications, as well as classes, conducted online, “grappling with the distinction between off-campus and on-campus speech,” as some courts have done, is arguably “a distinction without a difference,” the brief said.

“Courts that remain committed to the on-campus/ off-campus fiction risk discouraging school boards from using off-campus forums that benefit student learning,” the brief added. “Public school districts have been able to expand educational opportunities for students and to increase communication between school districts and their constituencies with their online presence. But school boards may be less inclined to expand educational opportunities online if their authority does not also expand. Imagine if a court held that a virtual school student who engages in lewd speech during a group online project cannot be disciplined because the conversation did not happen ‘on campus.’”

In addition to AASA, the other groups joining NSBA in the brief include, the American School Counselor Association; Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network; National Association of Elementary School Principals;  National Association of Secondary School Principals;  Pennsylvania School Boards Association; and the School Social Work Association of America.

Lawrence Hardy|November 8th, 2011|Categories: School Law, Bullying, School Security, Discipline|Tags: , , |

NSBA site visit to combine technology, legal issues

To address the ever-changing legal challenges inspired by the latest technological advances, National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Technology Leadership Network (TLN) announces a unique partnership and learning opportunity that draws from two of the most dynamic fields in education: school law and education technology.

Building on the popularity of the TLN’s spring series, a new education technology site visit will take place October  12 to 14 in the St. Charles Parish, La., school district, held concurrently with NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys (COSA) School Law Practice Seminar in New Orleans..

“In a time of increased social networking and communications both among students and faculty, the need for school lawyers and school-based technology coordinators to remain abreast of legal trends in the field is readily apparent,” said NSBA General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón, Jr. “The partnership between COSA and TLN is a natural one that is sure to contribute positively to dialogue.”

School policies and legal guidance often struggle to keep pace with the rapid advancements resulting from the introduction and adoption of new technologies, added Ann Flynn, director of education technology and state association services for NSBA.

“This new meeting is designed to address that intersection and offer attendees the practical guidance they need from COSA’s relevant technology-oriented sessions by integrating a traditional TLN site visit around those legal workshops,” Flynn said.

Located 20 minutes west of the Crescent City, St. Charles Parish Public Schools serves about 10,000 students in 17 schools. The district’s successful integration of technology includes a nearly 2:1 student-computer ratio districtwide and a leadership culture that views its commitment to technology as an essential component within the school board’s Strategic Action Plan. The district’s freestanding Satellite Center where high school students can explore career pathways in engineering, culinary arts, multimedia and broadcasting utilizing cutting-edge technology tools will be showcased along with classroom visits and mini-briefings to other schools across all grade levels.

Technology leaders and school attorneys will get an update on the latest technology cases and how the outcomes could impact district policies. Discussion topics include the “do’s and don’ts” of data mining on job candidates and current employees, what forms of board member communication can be considered public information, and how districts can leverage Web 2.0 tools to improve community engagement and instruction without opening itself up to potentially embarrassing, libelous, and litigious situations.


“This event creates an opportunity for dialogue between attorneys and school practitioners to better understand each others’ positions  around these emerging issues  and  provide both groups with valuable insights,” said Flynn.


A notable panel of legal experts, communication specialists, and district officials will lead a discussion on the inherent conflict between the First Amendment rights of media and the confidentiality rights of families involved in crisis scenarios such as cyberbullying and student suicides.

“The role that technology can play in those incidents, as well as how social media is used to transmit information about a crisis reflect the challenges educators face in striking the right balance with policies,” Flynn said. “New state laws limiting communication via social media between students and teachers is another example of how quickly the tech law landscape is changing.”


School tours and classroom observations will be interspersed throughout the three-day event, providing participants with a chance to watch technology in action, be it a computer electronics class that teaches high school students to rebuild and repair used computers that are then provided to their fellow students or an engaging and effective reading intervention program powered by the latest science and technological advances. District staff will also offer mini-briefings to ensure participants understand how professional development and the use of data contribute to the district’s success.

Registration is open and more information is available at


Naomi Dillon|August 15th, 2011|Categories: School Law, Educational Technology, STEM Education, 21st Century Skills|Tags: , , |
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