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Articles tagged with student discipline

NSBA to Court: School officials must be given flexibility in handling student harassment

The National School Boards Association (NSBA) is urging the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit to rule that school districts should not be held financially liable for harassment related to a student’s disability if school officials took appropriate steps to stop it.

NSBA, along with the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA), the Alabama School Boards Association, and the Georgia School Superintendents Association, has filed an amicus brief in Long v. Murray County School District asking the court to uphold the standard set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court case Davis v. Monroe when determining whether school officials are liable under federal civil rights laws for peer harassment. The Davis precedent allows victims to collect monetary compensation when school officials are deliberately indifferent to known harassment based on a protected category that is so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive harassment that it denies the victim access to the educational program.

“It is important that the court recognize that local school officials, who work closely with students and parents on a regular basis, are knowledgeable about community resources, and understand their students’ educational and emotional needs, know best how to prevent and respond to harassment in their own schools,” said NSBA’s General Counsel Francisco M. Negrón Jr.

The parents’ legal arguments rely on informal guidance given by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) through a October 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter that stated school district officials could be held responsible for claims of unreported harassment. In a December 2010 response to that letter, NSBA warned that the guidance overstepped the Supreme Court standard set by Davis and that it vastly expanded the definition of discrimination and harassment, circumventing precedent established by the courts. In a March 2011 letter to NSBA, OCR officials dismissed concerns that the guidance would lead to numerous and costly lawsuits against school districts; however, this case has proven otherwise.

“The federal government wants a one-size fits-all approach, but such a rule would require school districts to implement strategy after strategy even when the misconduct was isolated or minimal,” said Negrón. “The federal government’s approach creates an illusion of safety that would subject thousands of school districts to costly and unnecessary lawsuits diverting vital resources away from the classroom.”

Among other claims, the case will determine whether the Murray County school district in Georgia should be held liable under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act for money damages as a result of the suicide of a student with Asperger’s Syndrome. After the student reported incidents of peer bullying during his freshman and sophomore years, school officials responded effectively to all known occurrences at school. The student committed suicide at home during his junior year.

A date for oral argument date in the case has not been set yet. Phil Hartley and Martha Pearson, members of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys, and partners in Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, LLP, are representing the Murray County school district. Hartley also serves as General Counsel for the Georgia School Boards Association.

Joetta Sack-Min|November 30th, 2012|Categories: School Law, Bullying, Crisis Management, School Security, Policy Formation, Discipline, Council of School Attorneys|Tags: , , |

Corporal punishment still, inexplicably, being meted out some school districts

SpankingIn many cases, a wide sweeping federal mandate is not the best solution for setting policies in schools.  Individual school boards are much better able to evaluate and work with their schools on a personal, local level that national programs just can’t match.

But what about schools that refuse to mandate a change that seems so pressing, and so obviously necessary, that it is a wonder they didn’t do it decades ago? A Washington Post report tells the story of Temple—a city in central Texas that still uses corporal punishment on misbehaving students.

New York Congress member Carolyn McCarthy plans to unveil legislation to put a federal ban on paddling students. One would hope a national ruling against educators striking kids would be unnecessary in modern times (even prisons have outlawed physical forms of punishment), but apparently not. Twenty states still allow corporal punishment and, in Temple, that means paddling.

 John Hancock, the assistant superintendent of administration for Temple schools told the Washington Post, “the school system had banned corporal punishment about six years ago because a state law change made what was permissible uncertain. Follow-up made clear that schools could paddle.”

Naomi Dillon|April 20th, 2010|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |

Could student misdeeds be turned into district proceeds?

How can school officials bolster their troubled budgets in difficult economic times?

The answer is found in a recent United Press International (UPI) story about the arrest of a 14-year-old girl at a Wisconsin high school. After she was caught text messaging on her cell phone in class, police were called in. They cited her with disorderly conduct, a charge that carries a $298 fine.

That’s not a lot of money. But then I started thinking about the number of disciplinary issues that arise in the typical high school each year. And then I multiplied that figure by $300.

And it hit me. Don’t call parents to the principal’s office when a kid misbehaves. And forget about suspending students or sending them to a counselor when they have problems. The solution is to fine the little buggers every time they misbehave.

This could become the next big revenue stream for public education.

How big? Think about it: If text messaging in class is worthy of a $300 fine, how much could schools charge (er . . . levy a fine) for talking back to a teacher? Or throwing a spit wad?

Now, there are some practical obstacles to overcome. Currently, the policy and local courts have a monopoly on arresting people and levying fines. So some revenue-sharing deal would have to be negotiated.

But with millions of new dollars at stake, I can’t believe these fine institutions wouldn’t be open to a little quid pro quo.

Naomi Dillon|February 19th, 2009|Categories: Governance, American School Board Journal|Tags: , , |
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