Posts tagged with "Board of Education"

How to File a Personal Injury Claim Against a School in Connecticut

If you have a personal injury claim against a school, a school employee, or a similar
government entity or employee, you probably already know that it’s more complicated
than just suing a private homeowner for a slip-and-fall. But what makes it so
complicated, and what is the process?

Schools and their employees are often immune from liability for actions they undertake
within the course and scope of their duties. That immunity is not unlimited, however,
and particularly where a child’s injury is caused by gross negligence, malice, or
wantonness, you can be compensated with monetary damages. CGS § 4-141, et seq.
But, before you take your case to court, your case must be reviewed by the
Commissioner of Claims. Depending on the value of your case, the Commissioner of
Claims will review your case, and may conduct a fact finding investigation, including
witness interviews, document inspections, and other types of inquiries. The parties may
engage in discovery in some cases, and the Attorney General may also be permitted to
file a dispositive motion that asks the Commissioner to decide the issues in the case
just on the known facts and law, but without a full hearing or trial. Once the
Commissioner of Claims’ investigation (if applicable) is complete, s/he may issue a
decision, or if there are unresolved legal issues, they may authorize you to file suit in
court.

Navigating an administrative process with an administrative authority requires expert
guidance. Small mistakes such as misunderstanding a statute or missing a deadline
can impact or even eliminate your ability to seek relief. If you have a personal injury
claim against a school, school employee, or a similar government entity, the attorneys
at Maya Murphy, P.C. can assist you. Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya may be
reached directly by telephone at (203) 221-3100, ext. 110 or by email
at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

The above is not intended to constitute legal advice, and you should consult with an
attorney as soon as possible if you believe you have this, or any other type of claim.

What are the Duties of the Board of Education in Connecticut?

Each Board of Education is required to maintain good public elementary and secondary schools, carry out the educational interests of the state, and provide such other educational activities as in its judgment to best serve the interests of the school district.  The Board is also required to provide an appropriate learning environment for its students.  This includes providing adequate instructional books, supplies, materials, equipment, staffing, and facilities.  The Board is also responsible for the equitable allocation of resources among its schools, maintaining school facilities, and providing a safe school setting for students.  Importantly, the Board is also tasked to maintain records of allegations, investigations and reports that a child has been abused or neglected by a school employee.

Each year the board of education of each local school district shall prepare a statement of educational goals for the district.  Further, the board of education shall submit to the Commissioner of Education a strategic school profile report for each student under its jurisdiction and for the school district as a whole.  The profile report shall provide information on measures of: student needs; school resources; student and school performance; the number of students enrolled in an adult high school credit diploma program; equitable allocation of resources among its schools; reduction of racial isolation; and special education.

If you have any questions related to education law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

“Sniff Away Fido!” Assessing the Extent of Allowing Canine Searches of Students in Our Schools

The past few articles I’ve composed have highlighted various contexts in the realm of school searches of students and their possessions. Connecticut has codified the landmark decision of New Jersey v. T.L.O., incorporating the parameters of permissible school searches into § 54-33n: “justified at its inception” and “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the interference in the first place.”[1] Though it provides important definitions of terms in the applicable two-part reasonableness test, it does not specifically limit who or what may be searched and the manner of the search itself (thus the test).

Woof!

Switching gears without the clutch, in the United States, households nationwide own approximately 78.2 million pet dogs.[2] They have been near and dear to our hearts as “Man’s Best Friend,” and became increasingly loved every time Lassie saved Timmy – yet again – from that well. However… fast-forward to the twenty-first century, and they’ve become a vital tool utilized by local and federal law enforcement at shipping facilities, airports, security checkpoints, and… well, basically everywhere.

The use of dog-sniffing tactics is on the rise as schools attempt to combat drug abuse within its student body. “The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University completed a 2005 study concluding that [at that time] 2.4 million, or 28% of middle school students, and 10.6 million, or 62% of high school students, will attend schools where drugs are used, kept, or sold.”[3] These students are “three times likelier to have tried marijuana, three times likelier to get drunk in a typical month, and twice as likely to have tried alcohol, compared to teens who attend drug-free schools.”[4]

The Supreme Court in New Jersey v. T.L.O. clarified that teachers are subject to constitutional restrictions on their searches of students, though not as stringent as those applied to law enforcement (see above, as codified in § 54-33n). Thus, the use of canines in conducting drug searches hinges on the reasonableness of the search. In practice, however, federal jurisdictions are producing conflicting (and irreconcilable) results about whether dog-sniffing constitutes a search at all[5] – a conflict which inevitably will find its way once more in front of the Supreme Court.

Nonetheless, school districts are choosing to retain dogs in their arsenal of search weaponry to combat drug use and abuse – not without controversy amongst residents, either. Earlier this year, canine sweeps became routine at Simsbury High School: “the dogs will be brought through the hallways, bathrooms, common areas, lockers, locker rooms and parking lots while students remain in their classrooms,” according to Principal Neil Sullivan and Superintendent Diane Ullman.[6] This is but the latest measure employed by the school district as it faced increases in arrest rates related to marijuana possession and sales. However, it has received its seal of approval from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education (CABE): “It’s a policy available because a prime mission of a school is to provide safety to its students. This is just one of a number of ways to [do so],” says CABE senior staff associate Vincent Mustaro.[7]

The Amity Regional Board of Education, however, has decided to up the ante. As of early summer, it was “considering approving a policy that would allow police canines to sniff an individual student in cases where there is reasonable suspicion that individual is in violation of the law or school rules.”[8] If passed, Amity would become the first school district to implement such measures, though it has already become the target of sharp criticism from parents, the ACLU of Connecticut, and even CABE itself. “CABE’s position is not to sniff the person. I would not have a dog go up to a youngster. Our position is to use dogs to sniff inanimate objects, not persons,” explained Mustaro.[9] However, the State Department of Education declined to comment on the matter, noting it was a local issue. Some parents have supported the proposed action, with one notably writing on his Facebook wall, “Metal Detectors or Dogs. If they’re bringing in drugs into a school, it could be just as dangerous as a gun or a knife. Sniff away Fido!”[10]

Because the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to address the extent to which dog searches in schools are permissible, it is imperative, as a parent, that you understand your child’s rights by consulting an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding school searches or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 54-33n.

[2] “Pet Statistics,” by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.aspca.org/about-us/faq/pet-statistics.aspx

[3] “Suspicionless Canine Sniffs: Does the Fourth Amendment Prohibit Public Schools From Using Dogs to Search Without Individualized Suspicion?” by Todd Feinberg, UC Davis Journal of Juvenile Law & Policy, Vol. 11:2, pp.273. Summer 2007. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://jjlp.law.ucdavis.edu/archives/vol-11-no-2/08%20Feinberg%2011.2.pdf

[4] The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse X: Teens and Parents (2005). Accessed October 4, 2012: http://www.casacolumbia.org/Absolutenm/articlefiles/Teen_Survey_Report_2005.pdf

[5] Compare Doe v. Renfrow, 631 F.2d 91, 92 (7th Cir. 1980) (per curiam) (holding that canine sniffing ordered by school officials does not constitute a search) with B.C. v. Plumas Unified School District, No. 97-17287, 1999 U.S. App. LEXIS 38863 (9th Cir. Sept. 20, 1999) and Horton v. Goose Creek Independent School District, 690 F.2d 470 (5th Cir. 1982) (holding that canine sniffing constitutes a search, thus implicating the Fourth Amendment).

[6] “Drug-Sniffing Dogs To Be Used In Drug Sweeps At Simsbury High School,” by Hillary Federico. Published February 16, 2012. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://articles.courant.com/2012-02-16/community/hc-simsbury-drug-dogs-20120214_1_dog-searches-drugs-on-school-grounds-illegal-drug

[7] Id.

[8] “Amity considers allowing drug-sniffing dogs to check students,” by Bridget Albert. Published June 2, 2012. Accessed October 4, 2012: http://nhregister.com/articles/2012/06/02/news/metro/doc4fcadb8e5d32f364581634.txt

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

NEW LAWS IMPACTING CONNECTICUT EMPLOYERS – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

SEPTEMBER 20 @ 1:00 PM – 2:30 PM

Lauren A. Jacobson, Esq. and Robert G. Brody, Esq. will be presenting “New Laws Impacting Connecticut Employers – What you Need to Know” for the Fairfield County Bar Association.

About the Program 

The Connecticut General Assembly recently enacted a number of significant employment laws at the end of its recent regular and special sessions that will dramatically affect our state. This program will highlight the most prominent legislation passed, and provide important updates on what employers need to know. Topics will include, among others:

  • Mandatory Salary Range Disclosure for Applicants and Employees
  • New Sex Wage Discrimination Standard: Moving from “Equal” to “Comparable” Work
  • Covid Recall-by-Seniority Law for Certain Employees Laid Off in the Hotel, Food Service and Building Service Industries
  • New Workplace Rules for Regulating Recreational Marijuana
  • New Breastfeeding Guidelines
  • The CROWN ACT- “Creating A Respectful And Open World For Natural Hair” – Protection Again Discrimination Based on Race-Based Hair Styles

Click here to register. 

Secretary Sues Board of Ed for Racial Discrimination

A Bronx school employee is suing the Board of Education for $100 million for employment discrimination – saying she was denied a transfer, even though officials knew she was being harassed by her boss. Continue Reading

Dennis Coleman’s Bad Behavior Costs Board of ED $100G

The city’s Board of Education settled a discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a former Bronx School Board employee last week for $100,000. Continue Reading

What Happens If Your Child is Denied Free School Accommodations Due to Residency Issues?

Under Connecticut law, school districts must provide free school accommodations, including transportation, to every child from age three to twenty-one (who has not yet graduated from high school) within the district so as to facilitate public school attendance.[1] Typically, school administration will determine your child’s residency status before he or she first enrolls; this does not always happen, however, because it is not statutorily required. As a result, it is not uncommon for residency issues to arise after your child has already been attending classes at a particular school, and the school district has the right to exclude if it determines that your child really resides in another district.

If your child is denied school accommodations due to residency issues, the board of education must notify you of your statutory right to a formal hearing, as well as the reasons for concluding ineligibility.[2] If you submit a written request for this hearing, the school board must hold it within ten (10) days after receipt.[3] At this hearing, you will have the opportunity to present any evidence (including that which establishes your child’s residency), cross-examine any witnesses, and present arguments – however, you bear the burden of establishing residency by a preponderance of the evidence.[4] A stenographic record or audio recording must be made of this hearing, and the school board must produce its findings within ten (10) days after the hearing takes place. Have the right to request a copy, which must be provided within thirty (30) days.[5] During the duration of the hearing process, your child may still attend school in the district.

As a parent, you have the right to appeal to the Connecticut State Board of Education (SBE) the school board’s decision regarding your child’s residency. However, you must do so within twenty (20) days after the school board mails out their finding – failure to do so will make the decision of the initial hearing final.[6] If the SBE elects to consider your appeal, it must return a decision within forty-five (45) days. However, if the SBE determines that your child was not a resident and thus not entitled to free school accommodations your school district may assess and see tuition reimbursement from you.[7] After this avenue of recourse has been exhausted regardless of the outcome, either party may then appeal to the local Superior Court.

Ensuring free school accommodations for your child is important, but even more critical is making sure you do not run afoul of residency requirements. The situations in which confusion may occur are rather commonplace, and will be discussed in an upcoming article. However, should you find your child being denied free school accommodations due to residency issues, it is imperative that you seek the counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding eligibility and residency or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-186(a).

[2] Id.

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-186(b)(1).

[4] Id.

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-186(b)(2).

[6] Id.

[7] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-186(b)(4).

In Negligence Suit, Superior Court Finds in Favor of Defendant School District, Citing Qualified Immunity

In a recent negligence action, the Superior Court of Connecticut in Litchfield granted a motion to strike filed by school officials and a town board of education (collectively the defendants) because no exception to qualified immunity for discretionary acts applied to the case.

One day during recess, a parent’s daughter was kicked and injured by a classmate (defendant student). The defendants were aware that the daughter was frequently bullied and harassed by the defendant student. Therefore, the parent filed suit, alleging that the defendants “failed in its duty to protect [his daughter] against any future bullying.”  However, the defendants asserted that they were not subject to liability because of governmental immunity.

Generally, municipal employees enjoy “qualified immunity in the performance of a governmental duty,”[1] which involves the exercise of discretion. However, even this immunity may be surmounted by a plaintiff if he or she can establish the applicability of one of three exceptions. One of these exceptions is the “identifiable person-imminent harm” exception, which requires: “(1) an identifiable victim; (2) an imminent harm; and (3) a public official to whom it is apparent that his or her conduct is likely to subject that victim to that harm.”[2] This is a narrowly applied exception, however, because the harm itself must be “limited both in duration and in geography to make it apparent to the defendants that schoolchildren were subject to imminent harm.”[3] In other words:

Imminent harm excludes risks which might occur, if at all, at some unspecified time in the future. In order to meet the imminent harm prong of this exception… the risk must be temporary and of short duration.[4]

In this case, the Court found that although the plaintiff satisfied the first prong, he failed to do so with the second two. He failed to “allege a temporary condition which placed [his daughter] in imminent harm;” rather, it could have happened anytime, anywhere during the school day.[5] The defendants’ knowledge of the previous bullying and harassment, without more, was insufficient to satisfy the remainder of the test. Therefore, the Court ruled that the defendants were entitled to qualified immunity and granted the motion to strike.

If you are the parent of a child who has been bullied or harassed at school, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioner. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding school liability or any other education law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Burns v. Board of Education, 228 Conn. 640, 645 (1994).

[2] Violano v. Fernandez, 280 Conn. 310, 319-20 (2006).

[3] Doe v. Board of Education, 76 Conn. App. 296, 302-03 (2003).

[4] Cady v. Tolland, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3526.

[5] Antalik et al. v. Thomaston Board of Education, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2082.

School District Was Not on Notice of Inappropriate Teacher Conduct with Student; Negligence Action Dismissed

Seven years ago yesterday, the Superior Court of Connecticut in the Judicial District of Middletown handed down its decision in a lawsuit filed by a former student (plaintiff) against the Town of Clinton as well as the board of education. In this case, the plaintiff “brought a direct claim against the defendants, alleging failure to supervise and negligent supervision” in violation of state law,[1] leading to his sexual abuse by a teacher while he was in fifth, sixth, and seventh grades.

A municipality’s liability for negligent acts or omissions depends on whether they “require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the authority expressly or impliedly granted by law.”[2] In other words, acts that must be performed by the dictates of State law, thus prohibiting discretion, may result in liability if negligently performed; if discretion is permitted, liability will not attach unless one of three exceptions applies. Historically, Connecticut courts have held that “the duty of the defendant [school district] to supervise students is a discretionary, governmental duty.”[3] In addition, employer conduct with respect to failure to screen, hire, train, supervise, control, and discipline constitutes “discretionary acts as a matter of law.”[4]

In this case, the plaintiff contended that under Connecticut law,[5] the defendants “had no discretion not to conduct a continuous teacher evaluation.”[6] Though the defendants agreed with the statutory mandate, it asserted that “the manner in which such an evaluation is conducted is discretionary.”[7] The duty to act claimed by the plaintiff surrounded the use of the phrase “might have crossed the line,” stated by the teacher to a colleague in regards to her relationship with the plaintiff. However, the Court found that “[t]here was absolutely no other evidence presented… to suggest any other way in which the defendants would be in any way on notice of any inappropriate conduct between [the teacher] and the plaintiff.”[8] After further concluding that no exception to governmental immunity for discretionary acts applied, the Court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

Should you have any questions regarding school liability or any other education law matter, the attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable school law practitioners and assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions or need more information, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 52-557n.

[2] Id. at (a)(2)(B).

[3] Jane Doe v. Board of Education of the City of New Haven, 76 Conn. App. 296, 300 (2003).

[4] Hughes v. City of Hartford, 96 F. Supp. 2d 114, 119 (D.Conn. 2000).

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-151(b).

[6] Lingos v. Town of Clinton et al., 2005 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2746 at 7.

[7] Id.

[8] Id. at 8.

The Boundaries of a Child’s Constitutional Right to Education in Connecticut

Under the Constitution of Connecticut, “There shall always be free public elementary and secondary schools in the state.”[1] However, to satisfy free appropriate public education, or FAPE, requirements of federal law, this doesn’t mean parents may engage in a sort of free-for-all in dictating the five W’s of their child’s educational opportunities at public expense. Rather, case precedent has established limitations that take into account the interests of the child balanced against governmental concerns of the school district.

While the Supreme Court of Connecticut has stated that “the right to education is so basic and fundamental that any infringement of that right must be strictly scrutinized,” they did not intend this to extend to any specific sort of education.[2] In other words, just because a student is eligible to participate in specific courses or extracurricular activities does not automatically grant him or her the right to do so.[3] More specifically: “Absent a legislative mandate such as that in Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-76a that requires a special education curriculum for children with disabilities, a student has no constitutional right to any particular program of instruction.”[4]

By way of examples, children who are classified as “gifted and talented” are not entitled to special classes.[5] Rather, a school district has the choice to provide special services, but is not required to do so. In a fairly recent case, the Superior Court ruled against plaintiffs who asserted they were denied their constitutional right to FAPE when the Milford Board of Education elected to change their primary vocational agriculture (VOAG) program due to financial considerations. The Court explained that the school district was complying with State mandates surrounding VOAG educational opportunities for its students, and that “plaintiffs have no constitutional right to the education of their choice; they merely have a right to a ‘free public secondary’ education.”[6]

Should you have any questions about any education law matter, it may prove beneficial to seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.


[1] Constitution of Connecticut, Article Eighth, Section 1.

[2] Horton v. Meskill, 172 Conn. 615, 646 (1977).

[3] Wajnowski v. Connecticut Association of Schools, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Haven, Docket No. CT 00 0432727, 1999 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3448 (December 17, 1999, Pittman, J.)

[4] Id.

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-76d(c). See, e.g., Broadley v. Board of Education, 229 Conn. 1, 9 (1994).

[6] Tomasco PPA et al. v. Milford Board of Education, 2007 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2413 at 13.