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California first to comprehensively limit information compiled about students

According to The New York Times, California is poised to become the first state to comprehensively restrict how data that technology companies are collecting about students is to be used.  Last month California state legislators passed a law prohibiting education sites, apps and cloud services, used by schools, from selling or disclosing personal information about students from kindergarten through high school.  It also prohibits the companies from using the children’s data to market to them and it prevents the companies from compiling dossiers on the students.

The law is a response to growing parental concern that sensitive information about children, such as data about learning disabilities, disciplinary problems or family trauma, might be disseminated or disclosed, potentially hampering college or career prospects.  Although other states have enacted limited restrictions on such data, California’s law is the most wide-ranging.  “It’s a landmark bill in that it’s the first of its kind in the country to put the onus on Internet companies to do the right thing,” said Senator Darrell Steinberg, a Democrat who wrote the bill.

Governor Jerry Brown has not taken a public position on the measure, or on a related student privacy bill regulating school contracts with education technology vendors.  If he does act, the bills will become law at the end of this month.  Steinberg said that the bills had broad bipartisan support and were likely to  be enacted.

The California effort comes at a pivotal time for the technology industry.  Schools nationwide have been rushing to introduce everything from sophisticated online portals, which allow students to see course assignments and send messages to teachers, to reading apps that can record and assess a child’s every click.  The data-driven products are designed to adapt to the abilities and pace of each child holding out the promise of improved academic achievement.

As schools embrace these personalized learning tools, however, parents across the country have started challenging the industry’s information privacy and security practices. “Different websites collect different kinds of information that could be aggregated to create a profile of a student, starting in elementary school,” said Tony Porterfield, a software engineer and father of two pre-teenage sons in Los Altos, California.  “Can you imagine a college-admissions officer being able to access behavioral tracking information about a student, or how they did on a math app, all the way back to grade school?,”  he asked.

Although the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( FERPA) limits the disclosures of student education records by schools that receive public funding, critics have long complained that the 40-year old law, written for the file-cabinet era when student records were kept on paper, has not kept pace with digital data-mining. Furthermore, privacy advocates say that many of the details now collected by education sites and apps are not covered by the law because they do not form part of the institutional student education records maintained by schools.

Over the last year, states have introduced more than 100 bills to regulate the collection or handling of students’ information.  Many are narrow in scope.  Lawmakers in Florida, for instance, passed a measure to prohibit schools from fingerprinting students or collecting scans of their palms or irises, which scuttled the palm-scanning payment system in cafeterias there.

The California measure takes a fuller approach, formally extending privacy protections to a much wider array of information than the official education record covered by FERPA.  Among other things, the California bill prohibits companies from selling, disclosing or using for marketing purposes students’ online searches, text messages, photos, voice recordings, biometric data, location information, food purchases, political or religious information, digital documents, or any kind of student identification code. The idea is to prevent companies from using information about students for any activity not intended for school.

“The California statute is filling the void,” said Joel R. Reidenberg, a professor at Fordham Law school who is an expert in education privacy law.  “They are modernizing the protection of student privacy for the computer era in schools,” he said.

California lawmakers did make some concessions to the industry. An exception in the legislation, for instance, allows companies to use student data for “legitimate research purposes.”

Source:  The New York Times, September 14, 2014, By Natasha Singer

  [Editor's Note: In August of  2014, Legal Clips did an article summarizing new Department of Education guidelines on student records. In the guidance issued by the Department’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC), titled "Transparency Best Practices for Schools and Districts," schools and districts are urged to be proactive in communicating how they use student data.]





South Carolina high school principal justifies removing American flags from students’ trucks based on district policy

According to GoUpstate.comWoodruff High School Principal Aaron Fulmer removed American flags, mounted on the posts of four students’ trucks, on September 11. He said that he was simply enforcing a long standing district policy when  he removed the flags. Although Fulmer personally applauded the students’ patriotism and understands the significance of flying the flags on 9/11, he stressed that he cannot discriminate in enforcement of the policy even in the face of criticism.

Fulmer returned the flags to the students at the end of the school day. He said that the students were not punished or scolded. He said he told them: “I’m not mad at you. We’re not upset at you. I applaud your patriotism.” He told them that rules are rules and explained the policy to the students.

District 4 Superintendent Rallie Liston said the issue is not about the American flag. He said that the students violated a rule against anything that creates a disturbance on campus or draws an “unusual amount of attention to oneself.” He said students can display the American flag on their vehicles, such as in the form of a sticker. Liston emphasized that the students were not disciplined and the principal’s actions were about consistent enforcement of rules.

According to Liston, the policy seeks to avoid discriminating based on judging forms of expression. “We all love America and support our country and our flag. We value our veterans, but we also understand that they fought for the First Amendment, and when we get into the First Amendment, we can’t discriminate,” Liston said.

Source: GoUpstate.com, 9/12/14, By Kim Kimzey

[Editor's Note: Banning the display of the Confederate flag has been upheld by federal appellate courts. In Hardwick v. Heyward, which was summarized by Legal Clips in April 2013, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit three-judge panel held that a school district did not violate a student’s First Amendment free speech rights by prohibiting her from wearing a T-shirt depicting the Confederate flag. Banning displays of the American flag is as hotly contested, if less prevalent, than banning Confederate flag displays.

In March 2014, Legal Clips summarized a decision, by a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit three-judge panel, in Dariano v. Morgan Hill Unified Sch. Dist. The case held that a high school assistant principal did not violate students’ free speech rights when he prohibited them from wearing clothing bearing the image of the American flag on the day that the school was celebrating the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.  It also concluded that the assistant principal’s action did not violate the students’ equal protection or due process rights.] 

Disabled California high school graduate seeks to void diploma and sues to redo senior year

According to the Los Angeles Times, a Newport Harbor High School graduate is asking a court to invalidate her diploma, saying that teachers and administrators cheated her out of a quality education by boosting her grades and waiving assignments after she suffered a traumatic brain injury in her senior year. Crystal Morales claims that instead of developing a plan to deal with her disability, NHHS teachers and administrators rushed her to graduation and pushed her out the door.

Morales, in asking a judge to invalidate her diploma, is attempting to force  Newport-Mesa Unified School District (NMUSD) to provide a redo for the last few months of her education. “It’s all about getting her back to where she left off,” Morales’ mother, Gloria Morales, said.

NMUSD, however,  contends that Morales legitimately completed all her high school work and that it was the former student’s mother who pushed for graduation. Responding to Morales’ legal complaint, the school district stated: “[Morales'] mother was adamant that she wanted [Morales] to graduate with a high school diploma, and did not want [Morales] assessed for special education.”

Morales suffered her brain injury when a drunk driver struck her and left her in a temporary coma.  She returned to school three months later. The suit alleges that at first she was offered one-on-one attention, but that changed when she returned to normal classes where she was not required to complete normal work.

The suit claims that in English class, she was given a book to read, but was never required to turn in the assignment. The suit also alleges that Morales was receiving a “D” in math before the injury, but it was changed to an “A+”  by administrators by the end of the semester. ” She was allowed to just skip on through, and she wasn’t held responsible for any of that,” Gloria Morales said.

In papers filed with the court, NMUSD  contends that her mother never objected when grades were sent home soon after the semester. It also maintains that officials explained Morales’ options and provided information on special education. However, her mother insists that she didn’t understand what her daughter would miss out on by graduating.

“Knowing what I know now, I would have never returned her to campus for the reason that we did,” Gloria Morales said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, 9/11/14, By Jeremiah Dobruck

[Editor's Note: While the basis for this suit is novel, it is not unique. In April 2011, Legal Clips summarized an article in Courthouse News Service detailing a suit brought by a former high school football player claiming his football coach at Highlands High School (HHS) sent him back into a game after suffering a concussion despite teammates’ warnings about his “incoherent condition.”  The federal court suit also alleged that when the player's injuries became so debilitating that they affected his grades, Principal Thomas Shirey said he could fix that with a “shake of his magic wand,” in an “overt” and “unethical” offer to change his grades.] 

Satanic group plans to distribute materials at Florida district’s schools

The Orlando Sentinel reports that the Satanic Temple (ST), which supports social justice causes and believes Satan is the “eternal rebel against the ultimate tyrant,” plans to hand out literature in Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) later this school year. According to ST’s co-founder and spokesman Lucien Greaves, “If a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students, as is the case in Orange County, Florida, we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions.”

OCPS has allowed World Changers of Florida to distribute Bibles twice, and an atheist group was also permitted to distribute materials last year. In both cases, school district counsel Woody Rodriguez said the pamphlets and books were being allowed to avoid a lawsuit.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) and its local affiliate, the Central Florida Freethought Community, sued Orange County schools last year after some of their materials were censored. The case was dismissed earlier this year when the school district agreed to allow all of the materials to be distributed.

“They have no ability to keep out the Satanists and the literature they want to distribute unless they close the forum altogether,” said FFRF attorney Andrew Seidel.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, 9/16/14, By Lauren Roth

[Editor's Note: ST's press release announcing its intention to distribute materials at OCPS schools states: Neither FFRF nor The Satanic Temple agree with the school board’s decision to allow the distribution of religious materials in schools; however, The Satanic Temple seeks to ensure that pluralism is respected whenever the Church/State division is breached.

In July 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in Courthouse News Service reporting that a U.S. District Court in Florida had dismissed a suit, brought by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) against the Orange County School Board (OCSB), alleging that the board barred FFRF from distributing materials, which criticized various religions, in the district's schools. The suit alleged that a group called the World Changers of Florida (WCF) had been allowed to distribute copies of the Bible and that the district's failure to allow them to distribute materials, amounted to a violation of the First and Fourteenth  Amendments. Because OCSB had voluntarily changed its position, on its alleged constitutionally impermissible decision, and allowed the distribution of the materials prior to the court's ruling on the suit, the federal district court concluded that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the dispute and dismissed the claim.]

Federal district court in Virginia rules that school official’s search of cellphone violate student’s Fourth Amendment rights

Gallimore v. Henrico Cnty. Sch. Bd., No. 14-009 (E.D. Va. Aug. 5, 2014)

Abstract: A U.S. District Court, for the Eastern District of Virginia, has ruled that a school official violated a student’s Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable searches when she searched his cellphone after receiving information that a student, fitting his general description, was seen smoking marijuana on a school bus. The court found that school officials’ pat down of the student and the search of his backpack, shoes, and pockets, including his Vaseline jar and sandwich wrapper, were justified under the standard established by the U.S. Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O, 469 U.S. 325, 337 (1985). However, it found that the search of the cell phone exceeded the scope of a reasonable search initiated to find drugs.

The court concluded that the school official, who searched the cellphone, was not entitled to qualified immunity from the suit because the official had no basis for initiating a search of the student’s phone. It also dismissed the student’s Fourth Amendment claim against the school board based on the failure to train. Finally, the court dismissed the assault and battery claims that the student filed against one of the officials and the school board.

Facts/Issues:  Hermitage High School (HHS) Assistant Principal Robert A. Turpin III and HHS Associate Principal Diane R. Saunders were informed by two parents that a longhaired student had smoked marijuana on a school bus. W.S. G., a student at HHS, was escorted by Turpin to Saunders’ office. W.S.G. did  not know why they summoned him to the office. After he emptied his pockets, Turpin, without explanation, began a search. He patted down W.S.G.’s person and searched W.S.G.’s backpack, shoes, and pockets. Saunders searched W.S.G.’s Vaseline jar, a sandwich wrapper, and cell phone. Neither official found marijuana. W.S.G. was sent back to class.

W.S.G. filed suit against the Henrico County School Board (HCSB), Turpin, and Saunders. The suit alleged that Turpin and Saunders conducted unreasonable searches in violation of W.S.G.’s Fourth Amendment rights. It claimed that HCSB was liable for Fourth Amendment violations based upon its failure to properly train school administrators on how to search students. He also filed assault and battery claims, under Virginia Law, against the school board and Turpin.

Turpin and Saunders filed answers asserting that they were entitled to qualified immunity from W.S.G.’s Fourth Amendment claims. The school board, Turpin and Saunders filed motions to dismiss the claims based upon the Fourth Amendment violations. The Board and Turpin also filed motions to dismiss the assault and battery claims.

Ruling/Rationale: The district court held that the searches conducted by Turpin and Saunders, with the exception of Saunders’ search of W.S.G.’s cellphone, passed Fourth Amendment muster. It pointed out that when searches are conducted by school officials they are analyzed in accordance with the T.L.O. standard, which asks: (1) whether the search “was justified at its inception;” and (2) whether the search as actually conducted “was reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.”

The court found that Turpin and Saunders had justification for the search from the inception because W.S.G. generally fit the description that the parents had supplied, i.e. a male student with long hair. With regard to the reasonableness of the searches, it stated: “Turpin’s pat down of W.S.G. and the search of his backpack, shoes, and pockets were all reasonable in scope because W.S.G. could have hidden drugs in these places.” It also found that Saunders’ searches of W.S.G’s Vaseline jar and sandwich wrapper were reasonable because they were potential hiding places for drugs.

However, the court concluded that the search of the cellphone, based on the facts as pleaded by W.S.G., exceeded the scope of a reasonable search conducted to discover drugs. It pointed out that unlike other items, such as a Vaseline jar or sandwich wrapper, the cellphone could not have contained drugs. It said, “The search of the cell phone was, therefore, not ‘reasonably related’ to the objective of the search—finding evidence of drug use on the school bus earlier that day.”

Turning to the question of qualified immunity, the court found that it was unnecessary to determine the question in regard to Turpin’s search of W.S.G. because it did not violate the Fourth Amendment. As to whether Saunders was entitled to qualified immunity, it concluded that she lacked a sufficient basis for searching the cellphone. The court stated: “No reasonable school administrator could believe that searching a student’s cell phone would result in finding marijuana—the purpose for which the administrator initiated the search.”

In addressing the failure to train claim filed against the school board, the court stated that W.S.G. needed to prove three elements to succeed. He needed to prove that the subordinates actually violated his constitutional or statutory rights; that the supervisor (HCSB) failed to properly train the subordinates which illustrated a “deliberate indifference” to the rights of persons with whom the subordinates came into contact; and that this failure to train caused the subordinates to violate the rights of the plaintiff.

After applying this standard, the court found that “W.S.G. simply fails to state sufficient facts as to the deliberate indifference element. W.S.G. does not allege (1) the existence of a pattern of constitutional violations or (2) that the School Board failed to train school administrators in an area where there is an obvious need for training.”  For these reasons, it dismissed the school board as a defendant in the Fourth Amendment claim.

The court found that Turpin’s touching of W.S.G. was legally justified because it was based on a moderate chance of finding illegal drugs, it was permissive in scope and it was not excessively intrusive. Therefore, the court dismissed the assault and battery claims against Turpin and the school board.


Gallimore v. Henrico Cnty. Sch. Bd., No. 14-009 (E.D. Va. Aug. 5, 2014)

[Editor's Note: In April 2013, Legal Clips summarized a case by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (MI, OH, KY, TN) where a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that a school district violated an out-of-district student’s due process rights when it removed him from school without providing him with a pre-expulsion hearing.  Two of the three judges also found that a school official had violated the student’s search and seizure rights when she viewed text messages on his cell phone that had been properly confiscated.]


Suit alleges that New York state’s funding method for charter schools violates state constitution and discriminates against minority students

The Wall Street Journal reports that a group of charter school supporters has filed suit alleging that a chronic funding gap between charter schools and traditional public schools, in the state of New York, violates the state constitution and disproportionately hurts minority students. According to the suit, charter students in Buffalo received around $9,800 less than their district school counterparts in the 2011-12 school year, which it indicated was the largest disparity in the state. In Rochester, charter school students received around $6,600 less. Approximately 79% of New York charter school students are low income and 93% are students of color.

The suit also alleges that charter schools outside  of New York City do not receive funding for facilities, which forces them to cut back on critical amenities like libraries and science labs.

“For years charter schools have had to struggle to get by,” said Kyle Rosenkrans, interim president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network (NCSN), a nonprofit group that represents charter schools in New York and Connecticut.  According to Rosenkrans, “That’s why we see the parents from Buffalo and Rochester really rising up to say we’ve had enough. The state needs to find a solution.” NCSN has also joined the suit.

The suit asks the court to declare that New York’s approach to charter school funding violates the state constitution and to force defendants to remedy the situation. The defendants are the state of New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, the state legislature and the state department of education.

“This lawsuit is simply another deceptive attempt for charter schools to divert even more money away from public schools,” said  Zakiyah Ansari, Advocacy Director for the Alliance for Quality Education, an organization that advocates for public schools. Cuomo’s office did not comment since it had not been served with the lawsuit. The education department did not comment because it does not comment on pending litigation.

Presently, there are 250 charter schools operating in the state. These schools are largely free of union rules and charter opponents contend that they drain resources and top students from traditional public schools.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, 9/15/14, By Sophia Hollander

[Editor's Note: Charter school funding and private school vouchers are hotly contested issues. In August 2014, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in Education Week reporting that the Washington Supreme Court recently announced it would consider whether a voter-approved charter school law violates the state constitution. King County Superior Court Judge Jean Rietschel found in December 2013 that parts of the new law were unconstitutional. The decision focused on whether certain taxpayer dollars can be used to pay for the operation of charter schools. Both sides asked the state Supreme Court to skip the appeals court process and directly review the case.]


Male student drops legal bid to join Pennsylvania school’s varsity girls field hockey team

The Morning Call reports that the Quakertown High School (QHS) boy, who was seeking a court order that would allow him to play varsity field hockey, will withdraw his lawsuit and quit the junior varsity team. Joshua Schwarz  made his decision as his case was set to go to federal court and after the entire field hockey staff resigned without any public explanation.

Schwarz’s attorney, Ed Angelo, declined to provide a reason for why Schwarz decided to withdraw the suit. “We are withdrawing the litigation, unfortunately,” Angelo said.  “I don’t want to say anything beyond that, but obviously things have become real chaotic.”  Quakertown Community School District ( QCSD) would not confirm that Schwarz had left the team.

In June, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) ruled that girls athletic teams with male players are ineligible for postseason play. Under pressure from female players, who didn’t want to miss out on the playoffs, the Quakertown Community School Board (QCSB) voted in August to remove Schwarz and two other boys from the varsity team.

Schwarz and his mother filed suit alleging that the PIAA bylaw is unconstitutional because it uses gender as its sole and exclusive criterion for when and where a boy or girl is permitted to play. The suit also claims that the bylaw was never properly passed because it did not receive a third reading, as required by the PIAA’s policies.

Though Schwarz’s family has decided to withdraw the suit, Angelo said that he still believes that the rule was hastily passed.  He said, “It [the rule] cuts way too broadly and it excludes males who are not the real target of such a rule.”  Angelo went on to say, “The target of this rule is the big, brawny middle linebacker who wants to go in and impress the girls and kind of, like, beat them up. That is not what Joshua is about.”   According to the suit, Schwarz had played field hockey in the Quakertown school system since 2009 and had never received a penalty for aggressive play or for injuring another player.

Mixed gender teams have been allowed under PIAA rules since 1975, when a Commonwealth Court ruling forced the PIAA to allow girls to play on boys teams. The bylaw passed this summer still allows boys on girls teams as long as the boys can prove that the school’s athletic program provides fewer overall opportunities for boys than for girls and boys would not displace girls on a team’s roster, among other factors.

However, it classifies any team as a boys team if it has even one boy player. Because the PIAA does not sanction mixed-gender postseason games, girls teams with boy players become ineligible for the playoffs under the new rule.

According to Alan Boynton, PIAA Legal Counsel, the PIAA decision came as parents of female players were threatening their own legal action against the PIAA, claiming that their daughters were injured by male players. In passing the bylaw, the PIAA said it will expand opportunities for female athletes, protect them from injury and ensure fair competition.

Some girls on QHS’s field hockey team said that boys have a competitive advantage and took away opportunities for girls to play.

Source: The Morning Call, 9/3/14, By Adam Clark

[Editor's Note: In May 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in  the Pittsburgh Post- Gazette  reporting on PIAA's efforts to overturn the 1975 court decision referred to in The morning Call article.]  

Sua Sponte: ED issues new Fact Sheet/Q&As for enrolling new immigrant students

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released “FACT SHEET II:  Additional Questions & Answers Enrolling New Immigrant Students.”  This fact sheet includes information about general enrollment issues for new immigrant students, federal funds available to help educate immigrant students, and where school districts can get additional information and technical assistance on enrollment procedures for immigrant students.

FACT SHEET II” is a supplement to “FACT SHEET: Educational Services for Immigrant Students and Those Recently Arrived to the United States,” that ED issued in August 2014.  ED’s first fact sheet provided “information to help education leaders better understand the responsibilities of States and local educational agencies … in connection with [new immigrant children], and the existing resources available to help educate all  immigrant students – including children who recently arrived in the United States.”  This fact sheet also includes a brief “Frequently Asked Questions” page.

Before the publication of these ED documents, NSBA issued “Legal Issues for School Districts Related to the Education of Undocumented Children” in 2009.  NSBA’s publication had its genesis with a request for resources from one of NSBA’s state school boards associations, given the then-lack of statutes, case law, and other legal authority discussing the legal rights of undocumented students in public schools.

Using a Q&A format, NSBA’s publication discusses 13 legal questions commonly asked by school board members and school administrators related to undocumented students, covering such topics as the rights of undocumented children to receive an education, admitting undocumented students in school, and undocumented students and immigration and customs enforcement investigations.

This was a joint publication of the NSBA, National Education Association, and 16 other participating national educational organizations.  It was authored by John W. Borkowski, Esq., of Hogan Lovells and a member of NSBA’s Council of School Attorneys, and edited by Lisa E. Soronen, Esq., NSBA Senior Staff Attorney.

Currently, NSBA is in the process of updating its publication for re-release, again with the contributions of Mr. Borkowski and NSBA’s Office of General Counsel, and is reviewing the documents recently published by ED discussed in this article, and those of other federal agencies, to incorporate any new information and analyses to assist school districts with enrolling and educating immigrant students.

Michigan’s employment commission rules teachers may exit union at any time

The Associated Press ( AP), in the Lansing State Journal,  reports that a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) administrative law judge (ALJ) has ruled that the Michigan Education Association (MEA) must allow members to resign from the union at any time, rather than enforcing MEA’s annual one-month opt-out window. ALJ Julia Stern relied on the Michigan 2013 right-to-work law in making her decision.

Stern recommends that MERC order MEA to no longer limit school employees to leaving the union in August. She said that the right-to-work law incorporated a federal law interpreted to give public employees the ability to leave their union anytime.

MEA asserts that fewer than 5,000 of 110,000, or 5% of active members, opted out in August 2014. However, union opponents contend that about 50,000 had no incentive to leave because they still have to pay fees for bargaining and other services even if they decide not to belong. They must also pay full dues until their labor contracts lapse.

Stern’s ruling and the union’s decision to make public its latest membership figures followed an intense month of lobbying, by organized labor and pro-business groups, to persuade teachers to leave or stay. This is the first real test of the right- to- work law, which no longer allows forced union fees as a condition of employment.

Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which opposes unions, said “Judge Stern’s ruling goes along with our belief that teachers are professionals and not piggybanks for the MEA.”

MEA’s general counsel, Michael Shoudy, said that the resignation process has been in place for more than 40 years. “We remain hopeful that MERC will find the August window to be consistent with the law,” he said.

A significant number of dropouts over time would deliver a financial blow to the union as members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182.00 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

Michelle Kaminski, an associate  professor at Michigan State University School of Human Resources and Labor Relations, said that the ruling ” definitely goes contrary to established labor law in the private sector.” She said that the opt-out window has been protected by the National Labor Relations Board because unions need to know membership levels to manage their finances.

An appeal is planned.

Source: Lansing State Journal, 9/5/14, By David Eggert (AP)

[Editor's Note: ALJ Stern issued three separate decisions and recommendations finding that MEA's enforcement of its August opt-out window violates section 10(2) "because it restricts the right of employees to resign their memberships at will." Links to the decisions are available immediately below the news article in the Lansing State Journal.]


ACLU files civil rights complaint with U.S. Department of Education over Texas school district’s plan to create gender specific campuses

The Courthouse News Service reports that the ACLU of Texas (ACLU-TX) has filed a civil rights complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights asking the federal agency to investigate the Austin Independent School District’s (AISD) plan to revamp two struggling middle schools and assign boys and girls to separate campuses where they will receive gender-specific teaching methods. More than 94% of the students destined for gender divided classrooms are black and Latino, prompting the ACLU-TX  to ask for an investigation into potential sex and race discrimination.

The ACLU-TX says that ASID’s decision to implement the plan was based “on pseudoscientific claims and overly broad generalizations about sex difference.”  According to the complaint, “The proposal for the two single-sex schools is premised in large part on the discredited notion that boys and girls learn and develop so differently that they should be separated and taught using different methods. The District’s design for the schools thus contemplates the use of different teaching methods, environments, and even curricula in the boys’ and girls’ schools in order to ‘tailor’ them to boys’ and girls’ purportedly different learning styles.”

The complaint goes on to allege that AISD plans to employ a teaching method for girls that will encourage them to work quietly and to discuss their feelings and personal problems. They are expected to be cooperative and noncompetitive. Boys are encouraged to engage in competition and are not encouraged to discuss their feelings. The complaint indicates that these sex stereotypes limit opportunities for both  boys and girls.

Basing its complaint on documents obtained from AISD through public information requests, the ACLU-TX claims to have found evidence that suggests that “race-based stereotypes, particularly about black boys played a role in the district’s planning process.” In addition to addressing the issue in Texas, the ACLU-TX hopes that the investigation will “make clear to schools across the country that sex segregation based on these types of blatant sex stereotypes violates the law.”

Source: Courthouse News Service, 9/5/2014, Erik De La Garza

[Editor's Note: A full copy of the complaint and supporting documents are available on the ACLU-TX website.  Please note that AISD is  not the only school district that the ACLU has challenged on this issue. ACLU-FL has also filed complaints against Volusia, Broward and Hernando County School districts in Florida.]

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