The Long Arm of the …er, uh…Principal?
In Act 191 (H.B. 131), which has an effective date of May 6, 2015, the Georgia General Assembly revised the definition of bullying in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-751.4. https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/en-US/Display/20152016/HB/131 Local school systems should review their existing policies for compliance with the amendment.
The previous law defined bullying to mean those acts that fit the definition of bullying if those acts: 1) occurred on school property; 2) occurred on school vehicles; 3) occurred at designated school bus stops; 4) occurred at school related functions or activities; or 5) occurred though use of data or software accessed through computer, network or other technology of the local school system.
Act 191 adds the following to the above list of five conditions: “The term also applies to acts of cyberbullying which occur through the use of electronic communications, whether or not such electronic act originated on school property or with school equipment, if the electronic communication (1) is directed specifically at students or school personnel, (2) is maliciously intended for the purpose of threatening the safety of those specified or substantially disrupting the orderly operation of the school, and (3) creates a reasonable fear of harm to the students’ or school personnel’s person or property or has a high likelihood of succeeding in that purpose.”
Principals are limited in their ability to discipline students for off-campus misconduct except in limited circumstances. This amendment lengthens the reach of the Principal in regard to bullying offenses committed at home or other off campus locations. Just how this legislation will be interpreted under Ticker v. Des Moines Indep. Cmy. Sch. Dist., 393 U.S. 503 (1969) and under recent off-campus speech/misconduct cases remains to be seen. Such cases are usually controlled by their specific facts. In the meantime, perhaps the best course of action is to ascertain whether the local school system’s policy is up to date and to provide training to those administrators who are charged with implementing the bullying policy.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information. It is neither legal advice nor is it an advertisement for legal services. Please consult legal counsel for legal advice regarding Georgia’s bullying laws.
Thanks for reading! – Debra
SINGLE-SEX CLASSES IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS? CAN IT BE?
Would it surprise you to learn that Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not prohibit single-sex classes in public schools? Well, it doesn’t! On December 1, 2014, the U.S. DOE’s Office for Civil Rights issued FAQs on Title IX and single-sex classes. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/publications.html#TitleIX-Pubs As a graduate of a single sex middle school and high school I find the idea of the use of single-sex classrooms to achieve higher educational performance fascinating.
The salient points that I took away from my review of the FAQs are as follows:
1) The regulations regarding single-sex classes apply to every coeducational, non-vocational public elementary and secondary school, including traditional, charter, and magnet schools and also apply to coeducational private schools that receive federal financial assistance for the DOE (unless the private school is controlled by a religious organization and Title IX’s requirements conflict with the organization’s religious tenets).
2) Vocational schools that receive federal financial assistance may never limit classes to one sex.
3) The circumstances under with public coeducational, non-vocational schools can offer single sex classes are generally restricted to: a) contact sports in physical education classes; b) classes or portions of classes that deal with human sexuality; and c) classes and extracurriculars that meet the criteria discussed below.
4) The criteria that must be met to offer single sex classes are that the single-sex class is based on the school’s important objective to either improve it student’s educational achievement through diverse educational opportunities (the diversity objective), or to meet the particular identified educational needs of its students (the needs objective). Additionally, the single-sex class must be substantially related to achieving the important objection.
5) The four other requirements that schools must meet in order to comply with Title IX are that it must implement its educational objective in an evenhanded manner; it must ensure that student enrollment in single-sex classes is completely voluntary; it must provide a substantially equal coeducational class in the same subject; and it must conduct periodic evaluations of the single-sex class not less than every two years to determine its compliance with Title IX.
6) OCR warns that schools should adopt their written justification for the diversity objective or the needs objective prior to offering a single-sex class because if schools fail to do so, OCR will assume that the school did not go through its due diligence and establish the justification for the single-sex class before it actually offered the class. And yes, that strikes me as a “guilty until proven innocent approach.”
7) OCR mentions two primary means by which schools can prove that a single-sex class is substantially related to its important educational objective: 1) comparator schools, and 2) research evidence.
8) Although the use of single-sex classes is highly circumscribed, it is a tool that educators should not discount if they believe that the evidence supports the application of such classes.
The FAQs is full of examples and a more in depth discussion of the regulations if you are curious and want to learn more.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information. It is neither legal advice nor is it an advertisement for legal services. Please consult legal counsel for legal advice regarding single-sex classes or Title IX.
Thanks for reading! – Debra
Charter Schools and Federal Civil Rights Law
Charter schools are subject to the same federal civil rights laws that apply to traditional public schools. The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) published a Dear Colleague Letter dated May 14, 2014 as a reminder to charter schools of their obligations under federal law. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/whatsnew.html. Some of the highlights of the Dear Colleague Letter are mentioned below.
- Charter schools may not discriminate in admissions on the basis of race, color, national origin or disability.
- Charter school parents who are not proficient in English must receive meaningful access to the same admissions information provided to English-proficient parents. Eligibility criteria for admissions must be nondiscriminatory. Charter schools in a district subject to a desegregation plan must be operated consistent with the desegregation plan.
- Charter schools may not discriminate on the basis of disability.
- If a charter school wishes to promote racial diversity, it may pursue a variety of approaches in admissions, recruiting, school location, attendance boundaries. See further guidance from OCR in the Dear Colleague Letter to avoid running afoul of the law.
- Every student in a charter school with a disability must be provided a free appropriate public education and both Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act must be adhered to.
- Charter schools must take affirmative steps to help English-language learners to overcome language barriers by offering timely identification and providing effective language instruction.
- Charter schools, like all public schools, are obligated to avoid and redress discrimination in the administration of school discipline on the basis of race, color, national origin, disability and sex.
The list above is not an exhaustive list of legal requirements that apply to charter schools, but is a summary of important points contained in the Dear Colleague Letter. OCR offers technical assistance to schools that seek help in adhering to federal civil rights laws. The purpose of this blog is to provide information. It is neither legal advice nor is it an advertisement for legal services. Please consult legal counsel for legal advice regarding charter schools. Thanks for reading! – Debra