Posts tagged with "school"

School Learning Environment

Connecticut Public Act No. 08-160, An Act Concerning School Learning Environment, is of interest to parents of school age children and, in particlular, parents of children with special needs.

Two of the major changes that are enacted are (1) all suspensions starting July 1, 2009 are in school suspensions unless it is determined that the student is dangerous or disruptive to the educational process; and (2) all schools must “develop and implement a policy to address the existence of bullying in its schools.”  Also of note is a new provision that provides for in-service training for school personnel and pupils on a variety of issues they face daily.  A few examples are: (a) drug and alcohol awareness; (b) “health and mental health risk reduction;” (c) working with special needs children in regular classrooms; (d) cpr and emergency life saving procedures…..

Deliberate Indifference Required for School to be Liable under Title IX for Student-Student Harassment

In a New York District decision earlier this year, a student’s cause of action under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act against the Monroe-Woodbury School District was denied because it did not show deliberate indifference in response to the student’s claim of student-to-student sexual harassment.[1]

Parents on behalf of their fifteen year old daughter brought suit against Monroe–Woodbury Central School District pursuant to Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, alleging that she was deprived of an educational environment free from sexual harassment as required by federal law.

Beginning in January 2010, when she was in the eighth grade, the student was subjected to teasing, taunting, and physical bullying by other students, which she reported to her guidance counselor.  She was sexually assaulted by a male classmate who requested a handjob and subsequently ran her  hands over the genital area of his pants and attempted to shove her hands down his pants.[2] As a result of the incident, the student alleges that she was subjected to more taunting and name-calling by other students and in response began to engage in self- injurious behavior by cutting herself. When she began attending Monroe–Woodbury High School in September, another student and friend of the first continued to harass her and in November sexually assaulted her by pinning her against a locker and pushing his hands down her pants and blouse, touching her genital area and breast.[3]  The student began missing school frequently to avoid continued harassment.  At some point she confided in her guidance counselor that her absenteeism and self-injurious behavior was the result of the persistent teasing and the two incidents of sexual assault by her classmates.[4]

The School District recommended that she attend the GO Program, an out-of-district academic program, to which her parents agreed. After her first day there, CF reported to her parents that she was uncomfortable with this placement because the students there were “in many cases, not attending their regular high schools due to serious disciplinary records and incidents.”[5] When her parents again met with the principal, they requested that their daughter be transferred to another public school to continue her high school education.  The principal refused saying there were no other options besides the GO program.[6]

The parent brought suit alleging the school failed to: (1) initiate an investigation upon the parents’ verbal complaint; (2) conduct a prompt, equitable, and thorough investigation of the charges; (3) ensure that immediate corrective action be taken, including subjecting the offending individuals to appropriate disciplinary measures; and (4) inform CF of her right to pursue legal remedies.

Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “[n]o person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)[7]. Title IX contains an implied private right of action for plaintiffs who bring suit against educational institutions that receive federal funding, and liability may be imposed upon a school district if it is found to be in violation of this law.

Title IX funding recipients may be held liable for student-on-student harassment if the plaintiff can establish damages only where the school district: (1) was deliberately indifferent; (2) to sexual harassment; (3) of which it had actual knowledge; (4) that was so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive that it deprived the victim of access to the educational opportunities or benefits provided by the school.[8] A showing of deliberate indifference requires that the school had actual knowledge of the sexual harassment and either responded in a “clearly unreasonable manner in light of the known circumstances,”[9] or responded with remedial action only after a “lengthy and unjustified delay.”[10]

The Court rejected the plaintiff’s assertions that the GO Program was an “inappropriate” placement for her because it did not provide her with a “regular high school environment.” Saying even if it was inappropriate, “Title IX simply does not require recipient school districts to provide students with a ‘regular high school environment.’ Title IX does not prescribe any particular educational experience at all. Rather, Title IX merely prohibits schools from excluding anyone, on the basis of sex, from participating in an educational program that receives federal assistance; or denying the benefits of such programs on the basis of sex; or subjecting anyone in such programs to discrimination on the basis of sex.”[11]  Finding that the school did not cause the discrimination and the School District took some remedial action (not clearly unreasonable under the circumstances) in response to the student’s complaints, the Court dismissed the action.

Bullying and harassment in school should never be tolerated.  The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable education law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about bullying, student harassment, school liability or any other 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, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.


[1] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist., 12 CIV. 2200 ER, 2013 WL 177911 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 16, 2013)

[2] Compl.¶¶ 10-11

[3] Compl.¶¶ 12-13

[4] Id.

[5] Compl.¶¶ 14

[6] Id.

[7] Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 20 U.S.C. § 1681(a)

[8] Williams v. Bd. of Regents of the Univ. Sys. of Georgia, 477 F.3d 1282, 1293 (11th Cir.2007)

[10] Hayut v. State Univ. of N.Y., 352 F.3d 733, 751 (2d Cir.2003)

[11] KF ex rel. CF v. Monroe Woodbury Cent. Sch. Dist.

 

New Connecticut Special Education Law

Connecticut Public Act No. 08-160, An Act Concerning School Learning Environment, is of interest to parents of school age children and, in particlular, parents of children with special needs.

Two of the major changes that are enacted are (1) all suspensions starting July 1, 2009 are in school suspensions unless it is determined that the student is dangerous or disruptive to the educational process; and (2) all schools must “develop and implement a policy to address the existence of bullying in its schools.”  Also of note is a new provision that provides for in-service training for school personnel and pupils on a variety of issues they face daily.  A few examples are: (a) drug and alcohol awareness; (b) “health and mental health risk reduction;” (c) working with special needs children in regular classrooms; (d) cpr and emergency life saving procedures…..

Fairfield High School Racial Bias Charged

Alleging racial discrimination, three minority students at Fairfield High School — arrested in February after a fight broke out in the school parking lot — plan to sue the town, claiming they were singled out base upon their “ethnicity and national origin.” Continue Reading

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

On The Authority of School Districts to Expel Students

It’s that time of year: Summer vacation is over. Labor Day has come and gone. Children now find themselves back into the daily routine of waking up early, getting ready for school, and attending classes. Each year, Boards of Education provide its students with booklets covering their code of conduct, and of notable interest is understanding how one’s conduct off school grounds can adversely impact in-school opportunities. That is, what authority does a school district have to expel students for out-of-school behavior?

Connecticut’s statutory scheme governing children (both generally and in the context of education) is particularly comprehensive, and an important section in the context of school discipline concerns expulsion. The General Statutes require expulsion for conduct not committed during school hours or on school grounds in two situations:

  1. The student carried (without a permit) a statutorily-enumerated weapon, or used one to commit a crime. Weapons covered include firearms, deadly weapons, dangerous instruments, and martial arts weapons.
  2. The student sold or distributed illegal drugs or attempted to do so.

Connecticut General Statutes § 10-223d(2).

State law permits expulsion of students if the out-of-school conduct violates school policy and is seriously disruptive of the educational process. This standard was discussed in the Connecticut Supreme Court’s decision in Packer v. Board of Education of the Town of Thompson, 256 Conn. 89 (1998), which involved a student in possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in his car while not at school. When a school board needs to determine whether this threshold has been met, it considers numerous factors:

  1. Whether the incident occurred within close proximity of a school
  2. Whether other students from the school were involved or whether there was any gang involvement
  3. Whether the conduct involved violence, threats of violence or the unlawful use of a weapon, … and whether any injuries occurred
  4. Whether the conduct involved the use of alcohol

Connecticut General Statutes § 10-223d(1).

Depending on the nature of the conduct, the punishment imposed can be severe and particularly detrimental to a child’s educational and recreational opportunities. If your child is facing suspension or expulsion for conduct committed on or off of school grounds, it is imperative that you seek counsel from an experienced education law practitioner. If you have any questions regarding education legal matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya at the Maya Murphy, P.C. Westport location in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Connecticut’s Anti-Bullying Law

In July 2011, Governor Dannel Malloy signed Public Act 11-232 into law, marking Connecticut’s first anti-bullying legislation. The Act, known as “An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws,” defines bullying as “the repeated use by one or more students of a written, oral or electronic communication, such as cyberbullying, directed at or referring to another student attending school in the same district.” The law defines cyberbullying as “any act of bullying through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies, cellular mobile telephone or other mobile electronic devices or any electronic communications.” The law requires that each local and regional board of education develop and implement a specific bullying policy addressing the existence of bullying within its schools. Specifically, the law requires the school policy to:

• Enable students to anonymously report acts of bullying to school administrators;

• Appoint a safe school climate coordinator to facilitate the school’s plan;

• Enable the parents or guardians of students to file written reports of suspected bullying;

• Require school administrators (including teachers and staff) who witness bullying or receive reports of bullying to notify a school administrator no more than one day after the employee witnesses or receives the report of bullying; and to file a written report no more than two school days after making such oral report;

• Provide for the inclusion of language in student codes of conduct concerning bullying;

• Require each school to notify the parents or guardians of students who commit bullying and the parents or guardians of students who are the victims of bullying, and invite them to attend at least one meeting.

The law was enacted in response to alarmingly high reports of bullying in Connecticut, with studies showing that 25 percent of Connecticut high school students report having been bullied in the past year. Bullying and cyberbullying, an extension of bullying, have far-reaching and damaging consequences. Students may become withdrawn, flounder in their academics, suffer depression, and in the worst-case scenarios, attempt or commit suicide.

If you, your child, or a loved one is the victim of bullying in school, there are legal avenues. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. have experience in education law.

If you have any questions regarding Connecticut’s anti-bullying law, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Court Gives Plaintiff in Bullying Case Green Light to Proceed to Trial

In August 2006 Robert and Louise Dornfried filed suit against the Berlin Board of Education, its former and current superintendents,  the principal, the athletic director and the coach of Berlin High School football team on behalf of their minor son, Robby.  Robby’s parents alleged on their son’s behalf that, while a student at the high school and a place-kicker on the varsity football team, he was subjected to “incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation and was the victim of threats and/or acts of violence” by his teammates.

The parents further alleged that they complained of the misconduct to various school administrators, who, despite their knowledge of the behavior, did nothing to stop it.  As a result, Robby was allegedly forced to seek “medical care and treatment” and, halfway through his sophomore year, transferred to Northwest Catholic High School. Robby’s parents brought suit alleging negligence against the various defendants, claiming they knew or should have known that Robby was subjected to incessant bullying, harassment, intimidation, threats and/or acts of violence, but failed to take any action to prohibit, prevent, or even deter such conduct.

In a separate count, the parents claimed the principal, the athletic director and the football coach were reckless in their failure to stop the inappropriate behavior of Robby’s teammates, claiming they exhibited “a blatant and utter disregard for [Robby’s] safety and wellbeing.”  Notably, as permitted by Connecticut law, the plaintiff sought punitive damages under this count. The defendants initially attacked the plaintiff’s suit filing a motion to strike the negligence claims.

Granting the defendants’ motion, the Court held that the principal of governmental immunity barred the negligence claims because, as a general rule, a municipal employee has qualified immunity in the performance of acts that are discretionary in nature.  Although there is an exception when the injured party is an “identifiable person subject to imminent harm,” the Court held that Robby did not fall within that exception, explaining the only identifiable class of foreseeable victims the courts have recognized is that of school children attending public schools during school hours.  The Court ultimately held that, although participation in school sponsored athletic programs is most likely encouraged, participation is on a purely voluntary basis and, therefore, any resulting liability is barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity.  Significantly, although Robby was foreclosed from pursuing his negligence claims, his claim under a theory of recklessness, allowing for the recovery of punitive damages, was left intact. More recently, however, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment attempting to eliminate that cause of action as well.  The defendants essentially claimed that, with respect to the plaintiff’s recklessness count, there are no factual issues in dispute and that as a matter of law, they are entitled to a judgment in their favor.

The court denied the defendants’ motion, however, preserving the plaintiff’s case, as well as the potential for punitive damages.  Explaining its decision, the Court first noted that Robby’s parents alleged the defendants had actual knowledge of the bullying yet failed to act, resulting in further escalation of the bullying, and that the defendants knew their failure to act would result in further harm to Robby.  Significantly, the Court then explained that summary judgment should not be used in cases that concern important public issues or questions of inference as to motive or intent, or ones that involve subjective feelings and reactions.

Citing various factual disputes in this particular case, the Court ultimately held that it is “suffused with subjective impressions, intent, motive and pubic issues which do not easily conform to the standards of summary judgment.” This ruling is significant, in part, because, as mentioned, the plaintiffs alleged that the school system, as well as various administrators, were not just negligent, but were actually reckless in their failure to respond to the bullying in question, thus exposing the school system not only to actual or compensatory damages, but punitive damages as well.  This decision is also significant because, although there is always a potential that such rulings will be appealed, the Court effectively gave the plaintiffs a green light to proceed to trial.

By:       Michael DeMeola, Esq.

If you have any questions regarding a school bullying case, or any education law matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.