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Ohio Supreme Court rules that a buy-back provision in a contract between a charter school operator and the schools regarding certain personal property purchased by the operator is enforceable

Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Management, L.L.C., No. 2015 Ohio-3716 (Ohio Sept. 15, 2015)

Abstract: A five justice majority of the Ohio Supreme Court held that the buy-back provision in the contract between the management company hired to operate a number of community schools (charter schools) and the governing authority of the school was enforceable. That majority concluded that the operator could title property in its own name and later require the schools to buy back the personal property they wanted to keep when the contract ended.

Two of the five justice majority concurred in part and dissented in part with the plurality opinion. The two justices determined the management company, i.e.., operator, had not received public dollars “under color of office” and, therefore, the state funds were no longer public once paid to the operator. They concluded the management company hired to operate schools was not an agent of the governing boards. They disagreed with the plurality’s view that a fiduciary relationship existed between the management company and the schools.

One dissent argued the contract was unenforceable because it was unconscionable. It contended the “contract term is so one-sided that we should refuse to enforce it.”

The other justice concurred with the plurality opinion’s syllabus in regard to its three statements of law:

  1. An entity that manages the daily operations of a community school pursuant to contract with the school’s governing authority is an operator within the meaning of R.C. 3314.02(A)(8)(a).
  2. A management company that undertakes the daily operation of a community school has a fiduciary relationship with the community school that it operates.
  3. The fiduciary relationship between an operator and its community school is implicated when the company uses public funds to purchase personal property for use in the school that it operates.

However, the justice dissented from the plurality’s opinion and the majority’s judgment in the case, concluding “the contracts are not enforceable under contract law or public policy because they “permit an operator who is providing a substandard education to squander public money and then, upon termination for poor performance, reap a bonus, paid for by public money.”

Facts/Issues: In Ohio charter schools are known as community schools. In 1997, the state enacted legislation creating community schools as an education alternative. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the community-school legislation is constitutional and that community schools are part of the state’s public school system.

In November 2005, the governing board of each of the 10 Cleveland community schools signed a contract with one of 10 education-management organizations, owned by for-profit companies White Hat Management and WHLS of Ohio, to operate and manage the schools. The initial contracts ended in June 30, 2007, but automatically renewed for one year until 2010 unless cancelled.

The state provided per-student funding to the schools, which paid either 95 or 96 percent of those public dollars to the White Hat organizations. White Hat also collected all local, state, and federal grant money awarded to the schools. With these funds, White Hat ran the schools’ day-to-day operations, including locating buildings, hiring staff, and buying furniture, computers, and other equipment and supplies.

As of the 2010-2011 school year, two of the 10 community schools had been closed by the state education department for academic failure, four were on “academic watch,” and one was listed in “academic emergency.” Given the poor performance, the governing authorities of the now-closed schools filed suit against White Hat in May 2010.

White Hat claimed it owned all of the personal property it purchased for the schools with the public funds. Part of the schools’ legal complaint challenged whether White Hat was entitled to that property. Specifically, the school challenged the operation of Section 8.a.i of the contracts ( the buy-back provision),which stated that the schools could retain the personal property owned by White Hat after termination of the contracts only by ” paying to [White Hat] an amount equal to the ‘remaining cost’ basis of the personal property on the date of termination.”

Following decisions in the trial and appeals courts, the schools asked the Ohio Supreme Court to review the case.

Ruling/Rationale: Five of the Ohio Supreme Court’s seven justices held that the buy-back provision in the contract between White Hat and the governing authority of the schools was enforceable. However of those five justices two dissented from the plurality’s syllabus in regard to its statements of law on a management company’s fiduciary relationship with the community school that it operates and the conclusion that the fiduciary relationship between an operator and its community school is implicated when the company uses public funds to purchase personal property for use in the school that it operates.

The plurality opinion focused on three issues:

(1) Whether public funds paid to a private entity exercising a governmental function, such as the operation of a community school, retain their character as public funds even after they are in the possession and control of the private entity;

(2) When a private entity operating a community school uses funds designated by the Ohio Department of Education for the education of public- school students to purchase furniture, computers, software, equipment, and other personal property for the school, the private entity is acting as a purchasing agent and the property must be titled in the name of the community school;

(3) Whether a private entity that agrees to operate all functions of a community school has a fiduciary relationship with the community school.

The supreme court’s majority affirmed the Ohio Court of Appeals ruling that the buy-back provision is enforceable against the schools, however, it reversed the intermediate appellate court’s judgment on the issue of the existence of a fiduciary relationship between the parties. It held that an entity that manages the daily operations of a community school pursuant to a contract with the school’s governing authority is an “operator” within the meaning of state law. It also held that a management company that undertakes daily operation of a community school has a fiduciary relationship with the community school it operates.

After reviewing the contract terms between White Hat and the community schools, the plurality said:

While it appears that a fiduciary relationship was created by the conduct of the parties, we cannot say whether a fiduciary duty was breached based on the record before us. The issue of unconscionability also invites further exploration in this case, but we may not consider issues not properly raised before us. The legislature has enacted statutes that take a laissez-faire attitude toward operators of community schools. We leave it to the General Assembly to determine whether public policy requires stiffening of the regulatory scheme governing these matters.

Hope Academy Broadway Campus v. White Hat Management, L.L.C., No. 2015 Ohio-3716 (Ohio Sept. 15, 2015)

[Editor’s Note: Court News Ohio has also provided a summary of the decision in Hope Academy v. White Hat. It states:

The court split on various aspects of the decision. Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor and visiting Judge John W. Wise, from the Fifth District Court of Appeals, agreed with the court’s judgment, or the outcome of the ruling for the parties. They also concurred, along with Justice William M. O’Neill, with the three statements of law made in Justice Lanzinger’s case syllabus. (Judge Wise replaced Justice Terrence O’Donnell, who recused himself in the case.)

Justices Sharon L. Kennedy and Judith L. French agreed with the court’s decision upholding the contract’s buy-back conditions and with one part of the syllabus related to the definition of “operator,” but dissented on the other issues.

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer fully dissented from the court’s opinion. Justice O’Neill dissented from upholding the contract between White Hat and the schools, concluding the contract defies public policy and is not enforceable.]

 

 

Teachers union’s suit alleges that Chicago district’s massive school closure plan is racially motivated

The Courthouse News Service reports that a class action suit, filed by The Chicago Teachers Union’s (CTU), contends that the city’s massive school closings over the past decade and a half targeted African-American schools, resulting in the disproportionate layoffs of African-American teachers. CTU’s legal complaint alleges that 86 Chicago schools were closed from 2001 to 2009, and another 49 schools closed in 2013. Of this total, it says, 89% were schools whose populations were overwhelming black.

The suit indicates that Chicago Public Schools (CPS) subjects underperforming schools to “turnaround,” a process which dismisses all faculty and staff and replaces them. In 2013, 73% of the tenured teachers fired in turnarounds were black, despite the fact that black teachers make up only 24% of all tenured teachers.

According to the complaint: “Defendant’s pattern and practice of intentionally targeting schools with high African American teaching and staff populations for turnaround constitutes disparate treatment and also has a disparate impact on African American staff.” It argues that while the minority student population of CPS is 90%, with 39% being black, for the past 15 years, the percentage of black teachers has steadily fallen.

The suit says that “[t]he drastic decline in African American teachers corresponds directly with Defendant’s intentional actions, policies and practices that have phased out, closed, combined or reconstituted purportedly poor performing schools and in the African-American community.” It alleges that, “Defendant’s actions constitute a policy and practice of discrimination on the basis of race.”

The lawsuit was filed shortly after CTU and CPS agreed to enlist a mediator in their efforts to agree on a new contract. CPS faces a budget gap of more than $1 billion, and seeks to reduce its pension obligations.  In order to make its last $634 million pension payment on June 30, CPS had to borrow $200 million, and announced that 1,400 employees would be laid off.

Source: Courthouse News Service, 9/13/15, By Jack Bouboushian

[Editor’s Note: CTU has peppered CPS with suits over school closings. In June 2013, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Chicago Sun-Times reporting that a week after the Chicago Board of Education voted to shut down almost 50 public schools, CTU requested an injunction to stop the Board from closing ten of the listed schools. The CTU’s lawsuit argued that CPS did not follow proper procedure in the 10 closures.]

Nebraska’s high school athletic association likely to adopt policy soon on participation of transgender athletes in sports

According to the Norfolk Daily News, the Nebraska School Activities Association (NSAA) is moving forward with drafting a policy that governs participation by transgender athletes. NSAA’s action was prompted by at least two transgender students having expressed interest in participating in winter sports this year, according to NSAA Executive Director Jim Tenopir.

The complicated, controversial and litigation-laden issue has prompted at least 38 states, including Iowa, to adopt policies to determine who can participate in which sports. Some states, such as North Carolina and Georgia, are very restrictive, allowing students to participate only in sports that match up with the gender on their birth certificate.

Two states, Idaho and Georgia, require either hormone therapy for a period of time or an operation before a transgender student is allowed to participate in a sport for a gender other than the student’s birth gender. Several states, including Iowa, are more permissive, allowing transgender students to participate if they can show that they “consistently” identify as a gender different from the one they were born as.

Iowa, unlike Nebraska, had some guidance on how to proceed: A state law in Iowa prohibits discriminatory practices in education, including extracurricular activities and athletics. It’s too early to determine where Nebraska’s rules might fall, according to Jay Bellar, chairman of the governing board of the NSAA.

Currently, transgender students in Nebraska would only be allowed to participate in sports based on the gender on their birth certificates, with the exception of sports that aren’t offered for both genders, such as football and wrestling. Those sports, offered for boys, allow girls to compete, as well. Statewide, the issue is likely to be controversial, judging from a confusing attempt two years ago by the NSAA to adopt a policy.

In 2013, according to Rhonda Blanford-Green, who was then the NSAA executive director, the board had adopted a policy that allowed male students who identified as female to participate on a girls team (or vice versa), if they could show through statements by family members and a note from a doctor that they truly identified as female. Later, however, NSAA officials said the policy hadn’t been voted on. And when a vote came up in August 2013, the board postponed a decision to seek more input from member high schools.

However, the NSAA board recently directed Tenopir to begin the task of drafting a proposed set of guidelines for schools involving transgender students wishing to play sports. Tenopir said he plans to begin the process by talking to the groups and officials who have expressed interest in the issue. It could take a couple of months or longer before a policy is presented to the board for discussion, he said. “We understand that not everyone is going to be in agreement on what the board needs to do,” Tenopir said. “The last time, it was a real lightning rod.”

Such a policy raises issues such as which locker rooms and restrooms a transgender student should use, what kind of clothing would be required of players and how to respect transgender students’ choices, including what name and pronoun they prefer. It also raises issues of competitive imbalance. For instance, would a student born male have an advantage over students born female? Tenopir said he has a lot of questions, but not addressing the issue, he said, risks expensive litigation.

Two groups that expressed concerns about the 2013 policy discussion already have their radar up about the new discussion. A representative of the Nebraska Family Alliance attended NSAA’s recent board meeting. A representative of the Nebraska Catholic Conference said he was aware of the meeting and was monitoring the situation. Officials from both groups said it was premature to comment on a policy that hasn’t been drafted.

Al Riskowski of the Family Alliance issued a statement that indicated that all students need to be treated with kindness, dignity and respect. “Schools should craft policies that are both respectful of the privacy concerns of all children and sensitive to the diverse needs of individual children,” Riskowski said. “Schools can accommodate a small number of students with different needs without compromising the rights of other children and their parents.”

Amy Miller, legal director for the ACLU of Nebraska, said that all students — including transgender students — should have the opportunity to participate in sports in public schools. “Participation in extracurricular activities, including athletics, is often an important part of a student’s existence,” Miller said in a statement. “It is clear that a school which does not allow transgender students to participate in athletics is in violation of Title IX.” Miller said the ACLU recently provided a guidebook on meeting the needs of transgender students to schools across the country.

Source: Norfolk Daily News, 9/20/15, By Paul Hammel

[Editor’s Note: In June 2015, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in the Casper Star Tribune reporting that the South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) was planning to discuss revisions to its transgender student-athlete policy at its board of directors meeting. The new policy contains many of the same provisions as the old rules, which were adopted in June 2015, but offers some changes in response to legislative concerns. Some Republican lawmakers pushed legislation during the 2015 session to void the policy, but the proposals ultimately languished in the Senate after overwhelmingly passing through the House of Representatives.] 

Colorado Supreme Court rejects suit brought by parents and districts challenging state legislature’s use of “negative factor” in setting annual school funding

The Denver Post reports that the Colorado Supreme Court in a 4-3 decision ruled that the state’s funding cuts to education of nearly $1 billion per year since 2010 do not violate the state constitution. The court ordered the dismissal of a suit filed by a group of parents and school officials in June 2014 claiming the state is unconstitutionally cutting school districts’ funding by going against Amendment 23. Colorado voters in 2000 approved the amendment, which requires an annual increase of “statewide base per-pupil funding for public education.” The supreme court held the cuts the state is making are not affecting the base funding per student and that the language voters approved in the amendment does not prevent cuts from total education funding.

The negative factor in the school funding formula allows the state to pay school districts less than the formula calculates they should get, based on a cap the legislature sets each year. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the negative factor allowed the state to cut about 13% from almost every district’s  calculated budget. In the current school year, the cuts total $855 million.

The state argued that the base funding has been increased each year for inflation, following state law, and said that cuts to other adjustments still didn’t drop districts’ allocations below that established base. The plaintiffs had argued that in either case, school districts were not seeing expected budget increases, making the amendment meaningless.

The majority of Supreme Court justices disagreed. “The origin of the funding reduction is irrelevant. The result of the reduction — that is, whether the State has reduced any district’s per pupil funding below the base level set by Amendment 23 — is all that matters,” the ruling states. “The State has not done so.”

Roger Hudson, a spokesman for the Colorado attorney general’s office, which defended the state in court, said lawsuits are not the way to address education funding issues. “It should be our elected representatives, state legislators and state board representatives who decide these difficult questions,” Hudson said.

Educators have been trying for several years now to change school funding in Colorado — in the courts, in the legislature and at the ballot — all unsuccessfully. In 2013, the state Supreme Court ruled in another lawsuit against the state, the Lobato case, that the state’s funding process was equitable for the state’s 178 school districts.

Source: The Denver Post, 9/21/15, By Yesenia Robles and John Frank

[Editor’s Note: The Colorado Supreme Court’s  majority in Dwyer v. State held:

Plaintiffs allege that the State has improperly reduced statewide base per pupil funding in violation of Amendment 23. In so doing, they confuse “base” with “total.” Interpreting the term “statewide base per pupil funding” according to its plain and statutorily defined meaning, we hold that the negative factor has not reduced the base below its constitutional minimum and thus does not violate Amendment 23. Therefore, Plaintiffs have failed to state a claim for relief. Accordingly, we make our rule absolute, and we remand this case to the trial court with instructions to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint.]

Parent group sues California district alleging it failed to inform parents of right to opt their children out of standardized testing

Concerned Parents of California (CPC) have filed suit against Walnut Valley Unified School District (WVUSD), reports EdSource, alleging that the school district failed to notify parents of their right to opt their children out of Common Core-aligned tests. The suit contends that parent letters excluded information on opting out of Smarter Balanced assessments.

Although WVUSD assistant superintendent for educational services Matt Witmer declined to specifically comment on the suit, he said the school district “complied fully with the law” and followed the California Department of Education’s guidance when notifying parents about the Smarter Balanced assessments before they were given. CPC’s attorney Brad Dacus said he has heard complaints statewide about districts failing to follow state law in telling parents about their opt-out rights, but WVUSD was chosen for the lawsuit because he knew parents in that district who received notices that excluded information about opting out.

Dacus insists that what happened in WVUSD is not an isolated instance. He said, “This is a statewide problem and it needs to be corrected in school districts across the state of California. We’re hopeful this case will open the eyes of school districts across the state to correct their policies to ensure adequate notice.”

Out of 3.2 million students statewide, about 19,000 had parental exemptions from the tests, according to preliminary estimates. Final opt-out numbers are expected to be released next month.

While less than 1% of students opted out of the tests in California, other states have had far more objections. In Washington, about half of the high school juniors refused to take the test. About 20% of New York state students opted out of the tests.

The lawsuit asks that the district comply with the law and award attorney’s fees to the parent group.

Source: EdSource, 9/17/15, By Sarah Tully

[Editor’s Note: In June 2015, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporting that the U.S. Department of Education (ED) has warned Oregon that it could lose $140 million a year or more in federal funding if the state legislature votes to enable parents to opt out of standardized testing more easily.]

 

Federal court suit against Wyoming district claims school officials and coaches ignored harassment and bullying of student-athlete because of his athletic prowess

An Associated Press (AP) story in the Casper Star Tribune reports that a suit has been filed in federal district court against Lincoln County School District 2 (LCSD2) alleging that school officials and coaches failed to timely discipline “one of the better” student athletes who was harassing and bullying other teammates. The suit contends that coaches and officials failed to protect the school district’s students and that an unnamed student, who was a victim of the particular student athlete in the fall of 2012, had his civil rights violated because of the failure to act promptly.

According to the suit, coaches of the Star Valley High School football and track teams failed to immediately act against the inappropriate behavior of a student athlete even though they were aware of the behavior. The behavior included inappropriate sexual comments to other students, homophobic slurs directed at other students, unwelcome physical touching and exposing himself to other students. The legal complaint states: Coaches “looked the other way and permitted him to continue participating in athletics, in part because he was one of the better athletes in the athletic program in the LCSD schools.”

The suit indicates that the offending student was not suspended because of his behavior until 2013. It alleges that as a result of officials’ and coaches’ failure to act promptly, there were multiple victims, including the one cited in the lawsuit. The suit is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Source: Casper Star Tribune,  9/17/15, By Bob Moen (AP)

[Editor’s Note: In September 2015, Legal Clips summarized a story from WSMV4 reporting that Dickson County Schools (DCS) is facing a pair of suits stemming from a series of alleged bullying incidents on the Dickson Middle School (DMS) football team. Attorney Roland Mumford, who is planning to file the suits, said, “This is up there in terms of the degree and pervasiveness of the bullying, not only with this set of facts but within this school district.” ]

 

Officials at Virginia high school suspend 23 students for displaying Confederate battle flag symbol at school

According to The Washington Post, 23 students at Christiansburg High School (CHS) were suspended for wearing clothing emblazoned with the Confederate battle flag, which violates the school’s dress code. The students wore the controversial Confederate symbols to protest a school policy that prohibits them, which they view as a violation of their free speech.

The policy prohibits students from wearing any clothing that could “reflect adversely on persons due to race” and specifies that “clothing with Confederate flag symbols” falls in that category. About 8% percent of CHS’s 1,100 students are African-American and more than 80% are white. CHS, which is part of the Montgomery County (VA) school system, has banned Confederate flag symbols since 2002 after the campus was roiled by racially motivated fights between students, some of which were linked back to students wearing Confederate symbols.

Brenda Drake, spokeswoman for the school system, said,  “I think certainly we value First Amendment rights, but we have to maintain an orderly and safe environment for all students.” The Confederate battle flag has long been controversial, with some arguing that it is a proud symbol of Southern heritage and others protesting it as a symbol of hatred that glorifies slavery and bigotry.

Source: The Washington Post, 9/17/15, By T. Rees Shapiro and Moriah Balingit

[Editor’s Note: In September 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in The Washington Post reporting that Howard County Public Schools (HCPS) disciplined a student who unfurled a Confederate flag during a high school football game. Rebecca Amani-Dove, an HCPS spokeswoman, confirmed that disciplinary action was taken against the student. She would not confirm what type of action was taken against the Glenelg student who displayed the flag while standing at the top of the bleachers during a season opener between Glenelg and River Hill high schools. The student was told to take down the flag.]

 

State court blocks Colorado district’s board from stripping teachers union of status as sole negotiating unit for teachers

According to the Coloradoan, Larimer County’s Eighth Judicial District Court Judge Julie Kunce Field has blocked Thompson School District’s Board of Education (TBOE) from changing policies that could strip the Thompson Education Association (TEA) of its status as the sole negotiating representative of the district’s teachers. TEA’s breach of contract suit alleges that the “reform” board majority negotiated in bad faith while twice failing to ratify a contract for district teachers this year. The agenda for a special board meeting scheduled for this week included discussion of eliminating district recognition of the union’s exclusive representation of its teachers.

In Judge Field’s order granting a temporary injunction, she pointed out that the teachers’ union’s request met the six factors for a temporary injunction. They include “a reasonable probability of success on the merits (of the lawsuit),” and a “danger of real, immediate and irreparable injury which may be prevented by injunctive relief.” The judge also noted that an arbitrator’s report, which was rejected by the board earlier this month, called the board’s negotiations with the union, “a sham,” because the board failed to designate any specific issues or critical questions to discuss.

TBOE twice rejected a memorandum of understanding negotiated by district and union representatives. Though specific points of the contract proposal were not questioned, board members who voted against its ratification previously voiced displeasure with it, saying it wasn’t in the best interests of the district. “A refusal to ratify an agreement because of an issue never discussed is the antithesis of a good-faith attempt,” Judge Field said, citing the arbitration report.

The judge connected the arbitration report to the lawsuit’s reasonable probability of success. She also noted the agenda for Wednesday’s board meeting in finding that there was also a danger of real, immediate and irreparable injury which may be prevented by injunctive relief. TBOE’s position is that, since it didn’t ratify the teacher contract, it has cut ties with the union and needs to update its policies to reflect as much.

TEA said reversing district policies retroactively would be difficult should the board vote to strip district recognition of its bargaining power before that decision.

Source: Coloradoan, 9/2/15, By Rob White

[Editor’s Note: In June 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in the Wisconsin Reporter reporting that the Kenosha School Board (KSB) voted to rescind its teacher collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the Kenosha Education Association (KEA) as part of a settlement of a suit brought by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRWLDF). The WILL/NRWLDF suit alleged that KSB had violated Wisconsin’s Act 10 by entering into collective bargaining with the teachers’ union. Act 10, passed by the Wisconsin legislature in 2011, significantly restricts the collective bargaining rights of teachers and most public employees.] 

Schools nationwide increasingly stocking heroin overdose antidote

The National Association of School Nurses (NASN) believes the United States is experiencing a heroin epidemic that has reached the nation’s schools, reports the Associated Press (AP) in the Naples Herald, and NASN  is calling on schools to keep a fast-acting overdose antidote within reach of every nurse and teacher. Although overdoses at school are rare, nurses are increasingly thinking of the drug naloxone as an essential part of their first-aid kits.

At least five states this year adopted laws on the use of naloxone in schools, including Rhode Island, which now requires it to be available in all middle, junior high and high schools. Some states allow or encourage schools to buy it. And many schools already have the drug in stock. Also known by the brand name Narcan, the antidote was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1971. Advocates say it could save a child, parent or school employee who overdoses on heroin or prescription painkillers.

Heroin overdose deaths in the United States nearly quintupled from 2001 to 2013. More than 70 percent of overdose deaths relating to prescription drugs in 2013 involved opioid painkillers — a class of drugs that includes heroin, oxycodone, codeine, fentanyl and morphine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overdoses at school are uncommon but not unheard of. A survey of 81 Rhode Island school nurses who participated in a naloxone training program last year found that 43% of high school nurses who responded reported that students in their schools were abusing opioids, according to statistics released by the state health department. Fifteen said they had to call 911 at least once in the past three years for suspected student substance use or overdose.

From July 2014 to August 2015, 29 children ages 17 and younger received the drug in Rhode Island, according to the health department. During that time, naloxone was administered once at a school, although it was later determined that the person had not overdosed.

Some districts have struggled with whether to add the antidote to their medical supplies. School officials in Hartford, Vermont, last year decided not to stock Narcan because of liability concerns and worries that people who receive the drug could become combative when awakened. But they changed their minds last month, with school board members citing the drug’s low cost and the region’s drug-abuse problems.

To allay concerns that school employees could be sued for giving a life-saving drug, the Rhode Island law says no one can be held liable for using it or be disciplined for refusing training. Laws in Kentucky and New York explicitly allow school employees to obtain and administer naloxone and excuse them from liability for using it in an emergency. Illinois does not require schools to carry it, but allows nurses to administer it.

Delaware passed a resolution this year endorsing expanded access to naloxone in schools. Since then, its 40 high schools have received donated auto-injector kits that normally cost $500 or more each. Some lawmakers have raised questions about whether manufacturers raised the drug’s price just as more cities began using it to reduce overdose deaths. But the school districts do not expect to spend much.

In Massachusetts, nurses in more than 200 school districts have been trained to use the antidote. The Boston suburb of Easton paid less than $100 to equip the middle school and high school with naloxone in the nurse’s office.

Source: Naples Herald, 9/16/15, By AP

[Editor’s Note: In January 2014, Legal Clips summarized an AP article story on CBS Detroit reporting that on December 18, 2013 Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed laws requiring every public school in Michigan to have epinephrine injectors to treat allergic reactions. The legislation also requires schools to have two epinephrine devices starting next academic year and ensure that at least two staff members are trained to use them.] 

Texas high school student suspended for bringing homemade clock to school receives invitation to White House

According to  a WFAA-TV report in USA Today, Ahmed Mohamed, a freshman at  MacArthur High School (MHS) in Irving, Texas, was questioned by local police and suspended for three days after authorities mistook his clock invention for a fake bomb. MHS officials suspended freshman Ahmed Mohamed for three days and called police after determining that his invention looked like a bomb.

Police officers said the clock and wires inside his Vaultz pencil case looked like a hoax bomb to them. Ahmed, an engineering student who has won awards for his inventions, said he created the clock over the weekend, and brought it to school to show an engineering teacher.

According to Irving police, Ahmed’s case contained a digital clock that the student had taken apart and rearranged. Police said the student had the briefcase in his English class, where he plugged it into an electrical outlet and it started to make noise. Ahmed said his English teacher confiscated his case. A few hours later, the student said the school’s principal and resource officer pulled him out of class to question him.

Officers said Ahmed was being “passive aggressive” in his answers to their questions, and didn’t have a “reasonable answer” as to what he was doing with the case. Investigators said he told them that it was just a clock that he was messing around with. Police confiscated the case along with Ahmed’s tablet computer. No charges were filed, and Ahmed was released to his parents.

President Obama invited him to bring his invention to the White House. “Cool clock, Ahmed. Want to bring it to the White House?,” @POTUS tweeted. “We should inspire more kids like you to like science. It’s what makes America great.”

Source: USA Today, 9/16/15, By Jason Whitely (WFAA-TV)

[Editor’s Note: In January 2014, Legal Clips summarized an article in  Courthouse News Service reporting that the parents of a New Jersey high school student, who has Asperger’s syndrome and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, had filed suit against the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District Board of Education, a number of school officials, the county prosecutor’s office, and the local police department after New Jersey high school officials and police sent a bomb squad to the student’s home and arrested him upon seeing his doodles of a superhero glove with a flame coming out of it. The events began when the student’s geometry teacher noticed him working on the sketch in class.  The sketch was “an updated version of a drawing” he had been doodling with for two years at home, according to the complaint.]

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