Posts tagged with "school administration"

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, the 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.

Denying a Child School Accommodations

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.

Appealing the Board’s Residency Decision 

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.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

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.

 


[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).

Student Speech Rights in the Information Age

For nearly twenty years, the First Amendment framework chiseled out by the Tinker[1]-Fraser[2]-Hazelwood[3] trilogy worked wonders in establishing whether student speech could be regulated. Though students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate,”[4] school administrators have the authority to curtail or prohibit various forms of speech: that which would materially and substantially disrupt a classroom, is plainly offensive or promotes illegal drug use. Educators may also exert editorial control over school-sponsored expressive activities, such as a school newspaper written by students.

As my colleague Bob, succinctly wrote, these cases were “once thought to provide parents and teachers with a viable and stable framework for reconciling student rights of free speech with educators’ rights to maintain good order and discipline.”[5] Technology, which we insist makes life easier, instead simply made things more clouded and ushered in a new battleground for student speech litigation.

The Impact of the Information Age

Today, students are connected to each other through email, instant messaging, blogs, social networking sites, and text messages. An email can be sent to dozens or hundreds of other students by hitting ‘send.’ A blog entry posted on a site such as livejournal.com can be instantaneously viewed by students, teachers, and administrators alike. Off-campus speech can become on-campus speech with the click of a mouse.[6]

Thus, what happens when a student, who is neither on school grounds nor at a school-sponsored event, engages in speech critical of school administration? Does the school have authority to punish the student? The Second Circuit held the in the affirmative: quoting a decision rendered only two years earlier, the Court condoned discipline for speech or expressive conduct made off school grounds if the conduct “would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment”[7] should the expression reach school grounds.[8]

Off-Campus Student Speech

Findings in other cases, however, are setting up the issue of disciplining off-campus student speech for a day in the U.S. Supreme Court, in large part due to conflicting decisions in the Appellate Courts.[9] Most recently on September 6, 2012, the United States District Court of the District of Minnesota, located in 8th Circuit, denied a defendant school district (and the defendant administrators) its motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a student who was punished for her off-campus speech.

In that case, using her personal computer at home, the student wrote on her own Facebook wall that she hated a school monitor because she “was mean to me.” For this, school administrators gave a warning. When the student thereafter posted a message that stated, “I want to know who the f%$# [sic] told on me,” again using her personal computer at home, she received a one-day suspension and was prohibited from attending a school-sponsored ski trip. Characterizing these posts as “a far cry from the statements made by the students in cases in which courts have approved of school intervention,” the District Court found that these statements “were not likely to cause a substantial disruption to the school environment.”[10]

Regulating Student Speech Online

While the foundations of student speech regulations are not yet set, it is important for students to realize that any electronic communication they send could potentially be viewed by anyone. All it takes is the recipient hitting the “Forward” button to send to unknown parties or “tattletaling” to a teacher or school administrator. As such, “[a]ny off-campus electronic communication relating or referring to students, teachers, administrators, or school activities has the potential to result in school discipline” and exclusion from participation in school activities.[11]

As a parent, controlling or monitoring your child’s electronic communications has become a highly difficult, if not impossible, task to fully accomplish. This is why it is imperative that you speak to your child about the ramifications of sending out messages they have no way to capture back and which may inadvertently come to the attention of school officials. Nonetheless, if your child is facing disciplinary action for off-campus conduct or speech, it is important that you are aware of your rights and consult an experienced school law practitioner.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions about school discipline or other education law matters, 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.

 


[1] Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

[2] Bethel School District v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986).

[3] Hazelwood School District et al. v. Kuhlmeier et al., 484 U.S. 260 (1988).

[4] Tinker, supra at 506.

[5] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., Esq, at 83.

[6] Doninger v. Niehoff, 594 F.Supp. 2d 211, 223 (D. Conn. 2009), aff’d in part and rev’d in part 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 8441 (2d Cir. Apr. 25, 2011).

[7] Wisniewski v. Board of Education, 494 F.3d 34, 40 (2d Cir. 2007).

[8] Doninger, supra at 217.

[9] Compare Doninger, supra, with J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 11947 (3d Cir. June 13, 2011) and Layshock v. Hermitage School District, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 11994 (3d Cir. June 13, 2011).

[10] R.S. et al v. Minnewaska Area School District No. 2149 et al, Civ. No. 12-588 (MJD/LIB). Accessed October 3, 2012: http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/minnesota/mndce/0:2012cv00588/124914/28/

[11] Maya and Bob, supra at 92.

Suspensions as Disciplinary Tools for Student Misbehavior

Punishing Student Misbehavior 

Under Connecticut law, school administration may punish student misbehavior by issuing suspensions, or excluding a student from school privileges and transportation for up to ten (10) days.[1] This punishment is permitted only when the student’s behavior:

  • Violates a publicized school policy;
  • Seriously disrupts the educational process; or
  • Endangers persons or property.[2]

A showing of only one of these three elements is required if the behavior occurred on school grounds or at a school-sponsored activity. If, however, the conduct occurred off school grounds, suspension is allowed “only if the misbehavior violates publicized policy and seriously disrupts the educational process.”[3] (Emphasis added.)

In-School vs. Out-of-School Suspensions

The Connecticut legislature has shown a preference for in-school suspensions as a disciplinary tool, noting “data showing that out-of-school suspensions actually perpetuated misbehavior and increased the likelihood that students would end up in the juvenile justice system.”[4] Thus, all suspensions must be in-school unless one of two situations arises:

  • The student should not be in school because he or she poses a danger to persons or property or a serious disruption to the educational process.
  • School administrators previously attempted to address the student’s past disciplinary problems and behavior by alternative methods (other than suspensions and expulsions).[5]
Pursuing an Out-of-School Suspension

In addition, the State Department of Education has emphasized mitigating factors that school administrators should take into account before electing to pursue an out-of-school suspension. These include:

  • The age, grade, and developmental stage of the student;
  • The student’s reason(s) for engaging in the misbehavior;
  • The student’s past disciplinary problems and/or likelihood of recurrence;
  • The risk of loss of instruction;
  • Cultural considerations;
  • Extent of support from parents and/or guardians in addressing the misbehavior.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Because of the potentially adverse and significant impact a suspension or expulsion can have on a student’s future, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced school law practitioner. The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. Should you have any questions regarding school discipline or other education law matters, 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.

 


[1] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233a(a).

[2] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233c.

[3] Id.

[4] “Advocating on Your Child’s Behalf: A Parent’s Guide to Connecticut School Law,” by Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at pp.44.

[5] Connecticut General Statutes § 10-233e.