Friday, July 15, 2011

Baron: Lawmakers Also Act On Other Education Legislation [TOPEd, 7/15/11]: And they’re off! Bills flew through the senate and assembly chambers as lawmakers wrapped up as much business as possible before leaving for summer recess on Thursday afternoon. When they return on August 15th, the docket will still be full, but the fate of some key education bills is coming into sharper focus. Here’s where they stand.

New State Law Requires LGBT History In Textbooks [San Francisco Chronicle / New York Times, 7/15/11]: Public schools in California will be required to teach students about the contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans starting Jan. 1 after Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a controversial bill to add the topic to the social sciences curriculum.

District finds possible embezzlement by coaches [Orange County Register, 7/14/11]: Capistrano Unified acknowledged Wednesday that some of its high school athletic coaches may have embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars of district and parent money in an elaborate kickback scheme involving a local athletic supply company, giving credence to an Irvine couple's long-standing allegations that the kickbacks were pervasive in school districts across Orange County.

Education Issues Take Spotlight in High Court [Education Week, 7/13/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court term that ended in June produced rulings significant for the rights of children, school employees, and those who would challenge government aid to religious schools. The decisions were among roughly 10 during the 2010-11 term that involved issues of interest to school administrators, parents, or education advocates.

Fifth Circuit finds name calling and teasing did not constitute peer sexual harassment under Title IX  7/13/11: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (LA, TX, MS) has affirmed a Texas federal district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a school district on a student’s claims of Title IX peer sexual harassment and retaliation, and violation of her equal protection rights based on peer sexual harassment.  “Reduced to its essentials, this is nothing more than a dispute, fueled by a disgruntled cheerleader mom, over whether her daughter should have made the squad." The case is Sanches v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District from the 5th Circuit. Read the NSBA’s Legal Clips summary of the case.

Ninth Circuit: Teacher Not Liable in Sex Between Special Education Students [School Law Blog, 7/13/11]: A Washington state teacher did not violate the due-process rights of a student with developmental disabilities who had sexual encounters in a bathroom with another special education student, a federal appeals court has ruled. The case is Patel v. Kent School District.

California law updated to include cyberbullying by students through social networking sites [San Jose Mercury News / California Watch 7/12/11]: An existing California law that gives school officials the right to suspend or expel a student for bullying another student over the Internet or by other electronic means has been updated to include bullying others through social networking websites. The law is from AB 746. Read the NSBA Legal Clip.

Investigation: Tehachapi district's response to bullying inadequate [California Watch, 7/13/11]: The mother of a deceased 13-year-old middle school student has filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Tehachapi Unified School District after federal authorities concluded school officials didn't adequately respond to the gay teen's complaints of attacks and harassment. The Bakersfield Californian also has a story

Bill leaves educators feeling violated [Chico Enterprise-Record, 7/12/11]: A hastily delivered and approved education bill and the new state budget contain details that not only continued local school districts' financial uncertainty, but also infringe on local authority, according to some officials.

 9th Circuit overturns court decision in favor of school district regarding employee speech (9th Circuit, 6/24/11:  This case tests the bounds of a public employer’s right to discharge or demote an employee for taking action on a matter of public concern. “An employer may not interfere with an employee’s First Amendment rights unless there is evidence that the employee’s actions have actually disrupted the workplace or are reasonably likely to do so in the future. Simply saying that there has been or will be disruption, without supporting evidence, is not enough.” In this case, the Washoe County (Nevada) School District “produced no evidence that Nichols’s (who was an assistant to the District’s general counsel) association with her boss actually disrupted the office or her performance, or reasonably threatened to cause future disruption, the District has failed to show that its interests in workplace efficiency outweigh Nichols’s First Amendment interests. The case is Nichols v. Dancer and is from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Union: Student achievement should be part of teacher evaluations [New York Times, 7/4/11]: The National Education Association has endorsed the use of student-achievement data in evaluating teachers, but its members believe current standardized tests are ineffective and should not be factors in assessing teachers. Under the policy adopted at the union's assembly Monday, evaluations would be based on teacher practice, teacher collaboration and student learning. "N.E.A. is and always will be opposed to high-stakes, test-driven evaluations," said Becky Pringle, secretary-treasurer of the union.

Battle Erupts Over the Future of Special Education [Bay Citizen, 6/19/11]: A plan to close a small school for children with severe behavioral problems is mushrooming into a larger battle over how the San Francisco Unified School District treats special-education students.

The Prop 98 disappearing act [Thoughts on Public Education, 6/17/11]: When Gov. Brown vetoed the budget yesterday, he also halted one of the “legally questionable maneuvers” referred to in his veto message, in which legislators attempted to ignore the constitutional funding requirements of Proposition 98.
Supreme Court Unlikely to Tackle Pledge Anytime Soon [School Law Blog, 6/15/11]: This interesting post to the School Law Blog website reviews recent court action and concludes that “recitations are likely to continue throughout much of the country for the foreseeable future.”

Justices Decline to Hear Pledge of Allegiance Challenge [School Law Blog, 6/13/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to take up another challenge to school-led recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance. The justices declined without comment to consider a federal appeals court decision that upheld a New Hampshire law requiring schools to set aside time daily for students to voluntarily recite the Pledge.

Appeals Court Backs Students in Internet Parodies of Principals [School Law Blog, 6/13/11]: In a major pair of decisions on the free speech rights of students in the Internet era, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday that students who ridiculed their principals online could not be punished by school authorities because the speech was created off campus and did not substantially disrupt schools.

Fensterwald: Big changes for better teachers [Educated Guess, 6/7/11]: The report commissioned by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and civil rights groups is recommending sweeping changes in the way Los Angeles Unified recruits, hires, evaluates, and pays teachers, as well as substantial changes in state laws in areas such as tenure and seniority rights that obstruct teacher effectiveness.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

California school funding analysis finds disparity [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/5/11]: State lawmakers have struggled for decades to bring equality to how school districts are funded, yet some districts receive thousands more per student than others, a California Watch analysis has found. And the data show spending more provides no assurance of academic success. Read the California Watch study. Analyze the data.

Study shows some East Bay districts get bigger bang for their bucks than others [Contra Costa Times 6/5/11]: In the East Bay, school spending and academic achievement vary widely, with some districts appearing to get more bang for their bucks than others. The reasons for the disparities are complex, district officials say. Yet most agree that spending more doesn't necessarily guarantee higher Academic Performance Index, or API, scores, while spending less doesn't always mean students will fare poorly.

Door opens for major reform of school finance [California Watch, 6/3/11]: In a notable display of bipartisan support, the state Assembly approved potentially landmark school financing legislation by a 74-2 vote this week. The vote reflected an overwhelming consensus on the need to reform the way schools are funded,

Assembly: Yes, fix school funding [Educated Guess, 6/3/11]: A bill that would become the foundation for restructuring the state’s K-12 funding system passed the Assembly this week with near unanimity (a vote of 74-2) – a sign that legislators agree with the concept and are willing to let important details be worked out in coming months.

N.Y. Court Upholds Rule Against Use of Schools for Sunday Worship [School Law Blog, 6/2/11]: A New York City school system rule barring the use of public schools for weekend religious worship services does not violate the First Amendment rights of a Christian church, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday. The decision is The Bronx Household of Faith v. Board of Education of the City of New York.

Fensterwald: Experiments in evaluating teachers [Educated Guess, 6/1/11]: Teachers of Lucia Mar Unified, near Pismo Beach, are a crack in the wall of resistance to overhauling how teachers are evaluated and rewarded for their performance.

Teacher and District Sued [Courthouse News, 6/1/11]: Parents say their 12-year-old daughter was sexually assaulted by her 7th-grade math teacher, Steven Sande, 61, who awaits sentencing, and that Pajaro Valley Unified School District ignored previous complaints about his predations. Read the legal complaint.

Baron: The suspense is over: Local taxing authority bill heads to senate floor [Thoughts on Public Education, 5/27/11]: The wild budget rumpus is about to begin in earnest. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s bill to give counties and school districts broader power to push for new taxes is headed to the Senate floor for a vote. SB 653 was among dozens of bills taken off the suspense file and passed Thursday by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses School Questioning Case [School Law Blog, 5/26/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday sidestepped an important test of whether in-school interviews of students by the police and other authorities require a warrant, ruling that the case—involving the questioning of an Oregon girl by authorities who believed she was a victim of sexual abuse at home—was moot. However, without deciding the merits of the issue, the court set aside part of a federal appeals court ruling that the Fourth Amendment required investigators to have a warrant or parental consent before interviewing students in school. The decision is Camreta v. Greene.

Scholar: Courts Ill-Equipped for School Reform [School Law Blog, 5/25/11]: Efforts to use the courts to reform public education have largely been a failure, says a political scientist who has closely studied school litigation. You can read the draft report.

Arizona judge narrows scope of FERPA “education records” in Tucson shooter Loughner’s case [Student Press Law Center, 5/20/11]: If we are not already at the point where it is an act of legal malpractice for an attorney to advise a college to defy a public-records request for anything other than academic-related records, then we are awfully close. The weight of legal authority that FERPA does not say what most school and college attorneys believe it says (or would like it to say) has become overwhelming. In just the past six months, court after court has rejected the view advanced by some in the Department of Education that any cocktail napkin scrawled with the name of a student qualifies as a FERPA education record. Read the decision by the Superior Court judge in Arizona in Phoenix Newspapers v. Pima Community College.

Court Backs Censorship of High School Paper's Sex Cartoon [School Law Blog, 5/18/11]: A New York State school district was on solid legal ground when it barred a high school student newspaper from publishing a sexually explicit cartoon, a federal appeals court (the 2nd Circuit) has ruled. The case is R.O. v. Ithaca City School District. On page 18 of the exhibits, courtesy of the “How Appealing” blog (, you can find the cartoon in question. The Student Press Law Center has a press release about this decision.

“If you can’t beat the school board, join it.” Teenage editor is about to be his principal’s boss [Student Press Law Center, 5/18/11]: Memo to America’s high school principals: Be very, very careful whose First Amendment rights you step on. One day, you may wake up and find that student editor is your boss. And that day may come sooner than you think. Aaron Brant, editor-in-chief of The Oracle at Pennsylvania’s Rochester Area High School, emerged victorious in Tuesday’s primary for one of five seats on the board of the Rochester Area School District. Winning the primary equates to winning a term on the board, since only five candidates will be on the November ballot.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Revised California budget softens blow for schools [Sacramento Bee, 5/18/11]: Largely because of rosier revenue projections for the coming year, budget experts at the Capitol say schools gained a cushion against cuts – even if Brown fails in his effort to extend 2009 increases to income taxes.

Teacher: ‘My employer has become my enemy’ [Washington Post, 5/18/11]: A library media educator in Los Angeles who blogs under the name Mizz Murphy wrote a powerful, first-person account of hearings being held by the Los Angeles Unified School District for teachers and others who who have received a Reduction in Force notice and are trying to keep their jobs.

Fensterwald: Big (invisible) boost in K-12 spending [Educated Guess, 5/17/11]: Gov. Jerry Brown gave K-12 school districts significantly more money, tempered by conflicting messages and sober warnings in the May Revision budget he presented on Monday.

Federal plan would expand school year – as California's shrinks [California Watch, 5/17/11]: Even as school districts around California are shrinking their school year, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in Washington is trying to push states to move in the opposite direction.

Fensterwald: Big (invisible) boost in K-12 spending [Educated Guess, 5/17/11]: Gov. Jerry Brown gave K-12 school districts significantly more money, tempered by conflicting messages and sober warnings in the May Revision budget he presented on Monday.

Baron: It’s not business, it’s personal [Thoughts on Public Education, 5/16/11]: It’s a measure of how worried and angry people are that nearly a hundred parents, students, educators, and policy makers gave up their Saturday to learn just how badly schools will be hit under Gov. Brown’s all-cuts budget, due out today, and to discuss some of the not-so popular solutions.

Oakland Unified becomes a cautionary tale for state takeovers in California [Oakland Tribune, 5/13/11]: Eight years after the Oakland school district's financial meltdown and state takeover, the local school board can't seem to shake past mistakes -- including some made by the state agency tasked with restoring its fiscal health. The story of the Richmond (now West Contra Costa County) school district is here.
Teacher layoffs out of sync with budget impasse [California Watch, 5/13/11]: Thousands of California teachers will receive final layoff notices by a state-imposed deadline of May 15, even though school districts are still in the dark about their financial status in the coming school year.

Opinion: Tobar: The disgraceful interrogation of L.A. school librarians [Los Angeles Times, 5/13/11]: If state education cuts are drastic, the librarians' only chance of keeping a paycheck is to prove they're qualified to be switched to classroom teaching. So LAUSD attorneys grill them. I've seen a lot of strange things in two decades as a reporter, but nothing quite as disgraceful and weird as this inquisition the LAUSD is inflicting upon more than 80 school librarians.

Family Claims H.S. Principal Went Ballistic [Courthouse News, 5/10/11]: A Clovis West High School student says high school officials had police arrest and interrogate him, then suspended him for 15 days for logging onto a Facebook page that parodied the school's principal. He says he didn't create the parody, and never logged onto the Facebook page with school computers, or during school hours or on school property.

Performance-based teacher layoff bill dies in committee [Los Angeles Times, 5/12/11]: California legislation calling for creation of teacher ratings for use in layoff decisions instead of seniority fails to win enough votes to move forward.

Shorter school year? [Inland County Bulletin, 5/10/11]: California's ongoing budget crisis could result in 20 days being cut from public schools' academic year. No legislative proposal exists, but Gov. Jerry Brown and school officials recently warned that shutting down school one month early - 20 instructional days - is a real possibility next year without an extension of higher taxes.

U.S. schools chief backs off on publication of teacher ratings [California Watch, 5/10/11]: U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has tempered his initial enthusiasm for publishing teacher effectiveness ratings based on test scores.

Times updates and expands value-added ratings for Long Angeles elementary school teachers [Los Angeles Times, 5/8/11]: New data include ratings for about 11,500 teachers, nearly double the number covered last August. School and civic leaders had sought to halt release of the data. The Daily News has a story also.

High bar for firing kept Sacramento teacher on paid leave for 14 months [Sacramento Bee, 5/8/11]: Each letter arrived differently over the course of four years: by mail, by hand and a third by email.

Teachers Union Objects To L.A. School District's New Evaluation Plan [Los Angeles Times, 5/7/11]: The union representing Los Angeles teachers is pursuing a legal challenge to a key early step in creating a new teacher evaluation system that includes the use of student scores on standardized tests, union officials said Friday.

Pension Study: Teachers' Benefits Are Modest [Ventura Star, 5/7/11]: An economic research firm hired to produce data that could justify an expected initiative campaign to scale back public-employee pensions uncovered what its authors called a surprising finding in its report issued this week: Teachers receive relatively modest pensions and contribute a sizable chunk of their earnings to fund their retirement benefits.

Court Upholds Teacher Firing Over Computer Porn [School Law Blog, 5/5/11]: A federal appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a Wisconsin high school teacher for accessing pornographic images on his school computer, rejecting his claims that his school district retaliated against him for teachers' union activism. The case, from the 7th Circuit, is Zellner v. Herrick.
You can read a blurb about the case from's "Threat Level" blog (5/5/11).

Friday, May 6, 2011

School free speech fight [Stockton Record, 5/5/11]: A Bear Creek High teacher is fighting for her students' freedom of speech after the school's principal requested to preview the monthly Bruin Voice newspaper prior to publication.

California weighs shorter school year as budgets wane [Sacramento Bee, 5/4/11]: Children in frigid areas have "snow day" school closures. Could students across sunny California face "budget days" in bad fiscal times?

Fensterwald: Most of 13 parcel taxes passed [Thoughts on Public Education, 5/4/11]: If the threshold for passing a parcel tax were 55 percent, as Sen. Joe Simitian and fellow Democrats in the Legislature favor, a baker’s dozen parcel taxes would have passed on Tuesday. Instead, four fell short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage, including two that came within 1 percent of winning.

Court of Appeal overturns Commission on Professional Competence: Soliciting Sex on CraigsList evidences unfitness to teach [School Law Blog, 5/5/11].
San Diego Unif. School Dist. v. Com. on Prof. Competence (4th District, 5/3/11): Frank Lampedusa was terminated by San Diego Unified School District which alleged that he showed evident unfitness for service and immoral conduct. Specifically, the charges were based upon Lampedusa's posting on Craigslist of an ad soliciting sex that contained graphic photos of his genitalia and anus, as well as obscene written text, that was discovered by a parent and reported to the District. The Commission on Professional Competence reinstated Lamedusa, determining that cause for the dismissal did not exist and reinstating Lampedusa's employment. The Court of Appeal overturned the Commission finding there is no substantial evidence to support the Commission's decision as the evidence shows both evident unfitness to serve as a teacher and that Lampedusa engaged in immoral conduct, either of which constituted grounds for termination.

Educating students in remote areas can be costly [California Watch, 5/3/11]: In some very small schools in remote parts of California, the state is paying about $200,000 per student to educate them.

School Districts Call in Cavalry of Consultants to Push Parcel Taxes [Bay Citizen, 4/29/11]: Bay Area school districts, facing increasingly severe budget problems, are turning en masse to one of the few revenue-raising tools at their disposal: the parcel tax.

Walnut Creek man says school ignored son's bullying [Contra Costa Times, 4/26/11]: A Walnut Creek man says bullies on a school football field injured his son -- and that the school has done little about it. Walter Yuhre's formal complaint against the Acalanes Union High School District says administrators did nothing to prevent or stop the bullying and became indifferent after it occurred.

Teach For America seeks critical mass [Thoughts On Public Education, 4/26/11]: There was a point last week during Wendy Kopp’s appearance at the Commonwealth Club of California in Silicon Valley that smacked of the sort of smugness that, I suspect, makes some veteran teachers cringe when Teach For America (TFA) is mentioned.

Districts Consider Even Shorter School Year [California Watch, 4/26/11]: The likelihood is growing that many school districts will have to cut the number of days students spend in class in response to the state's deepening budget crisis, according to state education leaders and experts.

Court Backs Discipline of Student Over Internet Speech [School Law Blog, 4/25/11]: In a case raising novel issues about student speech rights in the Internet era, a federal appeals court has upheld the discipline of a Connecticut student who had harshly criticized school officials in her Web journal.
Ken Paulson of the First Amendment Center comments. The case is Doninger v. Niehoff.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Agency fails to crack down on teacher misconduct, California audit says [Sacramento Bee, 4/22/11]: California lawmakers are demanding change after a state audit of the commission charged with cracking down on teacher misconduct found numerous flaws that could pose risks to children.

Over the Line Even in Berkeley, Family Says [California Watch / Courthouse News Service, 4/20/11]: A high school student says a school counselor sexually pawed and harassed her, spanking her, hugging her, asking to meet outside of school, asking "Oh, you don't sleep naked?" - harassing her so persistently that her parents had to seek a restraining order against him - but the Berkeley Unified School District told her "that the conduct was not in fact sexual harassment, as it was neither 'severe' nor 'pervasive.'" The case is reported in California Watch [4/22/11]. The NSBA “Legal Clips” has an article regarding the case.

Young: Lawmakers push schools to show what an all-cuts budget looks like [Capitol Weekly, 4/20/11]: Without new revenues, public schools can expect to shoulder at least 40 percent of the cuts needed to close the state’s $12 billion deficit, lawmakers have warned school superintendents

Justices Seek U.S. Views on Special Education Case [School Law Blog, 4/18/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the Obama administration for its views on whether a parent may bring a negligence claim against a school district that allegedly failed to identify a high school student's disabilities. Read the 2-1 decision from the Court of Appeals in Compton Unified School District v. Addison.

Budget Deal Fuels Revival of School Vouchers [New York Times, 4/15/11]: In the 11th-hour compromise to avoid a government shutdown last week, one concession that President Obama made to Republicans drew scant attention: he agreed to finance vouchers for Washington students to attend private schools. Are vouchers coming back?

Parents of teen who died by suicide after sexting incident and bullying sue School Board [St. Petersburg Times, 4/13/11]: The parents of a girl who died by suicide in 2009 have filed a federal lawsuit against the Hillsborough School Board, claiming school officials failed to take proper steps after learning their daughter showed signs of being suicidal.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fensterwald: NCLB’s escape hatch for schools [Educated Guess, 4/14/11]: An escape hatch – the “Safe Harbor” provision under the federal law – could spare a majority of schools from the law’s penalties and the failure label.
Colorado committee to unveil complex definition of "effective educator" [Denver Post, 4/13/11]: After 13 months of meetings, a council tasked with narrowing the definition of an effective educator to one for the entire state is presenting the definition to the State Board of Education today. It is not a simple definition, though. It consists of six quality standards, including showing knowledge of the content they teach, demonstrating leadership and taking responsibility for student growth.

U.S. judge sides with middle schoolers suspended for wearing 'I (heart) Boobies' bracelets [Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/13/11]: A federal judge in Philadelphia ruled Tuesday that, when it comes to breast-cancer awareness, it's OK for middle school students to say they love "boobies." The free-speech decision was a victory for two girls who got in trouble for defying a ban at Easton Area Middle School on wearing bracelets that said "I (heart) Boobies! (Keep A Breast)." Read the ruling in H. v. Easton School District.  The School Law Blog post is here. Read the story from “The Legal Intelligencer.”

Hopkins: Teach For America at 20: Add a year of training to the model [Thoughts on Public Education, 4/13/11]: This year marks Teach For America’s 20th anniversary. The nonprofit serves as one of the most prominent educational innovations in the last two decades, recruiting graduates from top universities and placing them for two years in classrooms across urban and rural communities in the United States.

Probes into teacher misconduct delayed; calm urged [Orange County Register, 4/12/11]: Orange County's schools superintendent is urging parents not to become alarmed by a new audit that suggests teachers accused of lewd and sexual acts against minors aren't being investigated in a timely manner by the state agency responsible for revoking education credentials.

U.S. Proposes New Education Privacy Rules [School Law Blog, 4/8/11]: The U.S. Department of Education has proposed new regulations on the privacy of educational records, meant to safeguard student data but also to guarantee that states may share data to help judge the effectiveness of school improvement efforts. The proposed regulations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 were published April 8 in the Federal Register. Read the PDF file of the proposed FERPA regs. Read Sarah Spark’s discussion of the proposed rules [Inside School Research, 4/7/11].

Friday, April 8, 2011

Audit finds years-long backlog of investigations into accused teachers [Los Angeles Times, 4/8/11]: The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing took years to begin investigations into a teacher accused of showing pornography to children and another one who allegedly kissed a student, according to a new audit.

Teacher who evades March 15 notice loses appeal [4/7/11]: Michael Sullivan, a second year probationary teacher at Hawthorne High School knew he was about to receive a March 15 non-reelection notice and avoided receiving the written notice by March as required. He was absent from school andwas not at home to receive the certified letter. The Second District Court of Appeal ruled against Sullivan and upheld his non-reelection, even though the school district was one day late in personal delivery of the notice. Read the decision in Sullivan v. Centinela Valley H.S. Dist. (4/7/11).

Incentives or grade-selling? Line blurred in Sacramento-area cases, critics say [Sacramento Bee, 4/7/11]: Schools eager to show their smarts or raise money often give students incentives to do well on tests or participate in fundraisers. Many students can earn T-shirts or toys by raising money.

McRae: New tests for students with disabilities have wider implications [Thoughts on Public Education, 4/6/11]: For the past dozen years, California has been acknowledged as having some of the highest K-12 academic standards in the nation. However, recent changes in our assessment and accountability systems suggest that these standards have been eroded for at least one subgroup of kids in California schools.

OCR "Dear Colleague" Letter Addresses Sexual Harassment in Schools [Title IX blogspot, 4/6/11]: The Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights today released a new guidance document geared to help schools, colleges, and universities understand and implement their responsibilities under Title IX to prevent and correct sexual harassment. The “Dear Colleague” letter put particular focus to sexual violence like rape and sexual assault, which are forms of sexual harassment and thus actionable under Title IX. With regards to all manners of sexual harassment, an institution's responsibility under Title IX is to take immediate action to address harassment that it knows or should know about. Read the “Dear Colleague” letter from the OCR:

Singled-out L.A. Unified teacher shares skills with colleagues [Los Angeles Times, 4/3/11]: Miguel Aguilar was cited as among L.A. Unified's most effective in an L.A. Times article on the 'value-added' evaluation method. Since then, many at his Pacoima school have adopted his methods. But budget cuts threaten his job.

California lawmakers fight over bill to teach students about gay people's contributions [Los Angeles Times, 4/2/11]: A measure proposed by state Sen. Mark D. Leno of San Francisco would require new social science textbooks to include 'a study of the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.'

No Breakdown on Teacher Layoffs [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/31/11]: Parents in Oakland who want to know how many teachers received layoff warnings this month, by school, can find this information in rich detail. Most districts don’t publicize this information, for fear that parents will find out that a system of layoffs based on seniority creates vast disparities, with schools staffed largely by new teachers, which are often in low-income neighborhoods, getting slammed.

Court upholds ruling on improperly fired Chicago teachers [Chicago Tribune, 3/30/11]: A federal judge's ruling that Chicago Public Schools improperly fired nearly 750 tenured teachers last summer was upheld Tuesday by the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The appellate court agreed that the teachers are entitled to a recall procedure and that they should be given a "meaningful opportunity" to show they're qualified for new vacancies. But CPS and the Chicago Teachers Union, which had filed the suit in protest over the termination of teachers protected by union contract, had different interpretations of the ruling. You can also read the School Law Blog posting on this case. Read the 7th Circuit decision.

Baron: California schools move closer to doomsday [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/30/11]: Gov. Jerry Brown called off negotiations Tuesday with Republican lawmakers, aimed at putting the tax extension up for a statewide vote in June, in a move that pretty much crushes any chances of sparing public schools from even deeper cuts for the next school year.

Weingarten for the Union Defense [Wall Street Journal, 3/26/11]: Teachers unions are on the defensive these days. The Obama administration is pushing various measures long opposed by the unions: charter school expansion, pay-for-performance, teacher evaluations and more. States and localities are looking to change collective-bargaining rules and scale back costly, bloated education work forces that have grown even when student enrollment was flat or declining. And Hollywood, in recent documentary films like "Waiting for 'Superman,'" "The Lottery" and "The Cartel," has highlighted how teachers unions block or stifle education reforms to the detriment of the low-income minority kids who populate the nation's worst schools. Read this interview with AFT President Randi Weingarten. Read a Contra Costa Times account of a recent Weingarten speech [Contra Costa Times, 3/29/11]:

'Value-added' teacher evaluations: L.A. Unified tackles a tough formula [Los Angeles Times, 3/28/11]: Los Angeles school district leaders are poised to plunge ahead with their own confidential 'value-added' ratings this spring, saying the approach is far more objective and accurate than any other evaluation tool available, despite its complexity.

High Court to Weigh Bias Exemption for Religious Teachers [School Law Blog, 3/28/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether a private school teacher involved in secular and religious instruction falls under a widely recognized exception to employment-discrimination laws for ministers and other church leaders. The case is Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Lutheran Church and School v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the 6th Circuit ruling is here.

National debate continues over Bible education in public schools [Inland County Bulletin, 3/26/11]: The debate over the Bible-centered curriculum at Chino Valley Unified School District mirrors a national debate that has divided those who believe a secular study of the influential holy book is constitutional and those who think the offering of such curriculum is religiously motivated.

U.S. education secretary calls for overhaul of No Child Left Behind [Los Angeles Times, 3/23/11]: Arne Duncan, speaking in Los Angeles, urges Congress to rewrite the law to measure how much students improve on standardized tests. He also says L.A. school management and teachers union leaders should negotiate a new contract that bolsters teacher evaluations.

Report: More than 10 percent of California school districts are in financial trouble [Contra Costa Times, 3/22/11]: Nearly 2 million California students attend school in financially troubled districts, according to a report released Monday by state schools Chief Tom Torlakson.

Baron: Worser and worser [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/22/11]: In case anyone needed more evidence that California public schools are in decline, this year’s annual report on learning conditions at California high schools is aptly entitled Free Fall: Educational Opportunities in 2011. Read the report. The LA Times [3/22/11] reports also.

Note pinned to kindergartner's shirt prompts review [California Watch, 3/22/11]: The first time John Sinnott Elementary School sent the note home for the kindergartner's parents to sign, it was not returned. The second time, the note – printed on an 8.5-by-11-inch sheet of pink paper – was pinned to the student's shirt.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Not Exactly a Cut But Delayed School Payments Have a Cost [Capitol Notes, 3/18/11]: Among the budget-related bills approved by the Legislature March 16 was one that postpones $5.2 billion in state payments to public schools.

Baron: Hidden costs of deferrals [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/18/11]: I’m still in the hole to my teenage son for a little over $100. I promised him $25 for every A on his report card, with a $50 bonus for straight As. Oh sure, I gave him some of it; I‘m not a complete deadbeat. But I deferred the rest.

School district’s refusal to provide allergic student with a nut free environment did not constitute an actionable threat of violence or harm under California law [National School Boards Association, 3/17/11]: A federal district court in California has dismissed a claim brought by the parents of a student with a nut allergy alleging that the school district's refusal to provide the student with a nut free environment at school was an actionable threat of violence or harm under the state's civil code. Read the NSBA’s Legal Clips summary: Read the Memorandum Decision in McCue v. South Fork Union Elementary School (2/7/11, E.D. California)

Fensterwald: Robles-Wong lawyers reframe case [Educated Guess, 3/17/11]: Having had their complaints rejected the first time, two groups of plaintiffs are hoping an Alameda County Superior Court judge will look more kindly on revised arguments to have the state’s method and levels of public school funding ruled unconstitutional.

U.S. Is Urged to Raise Teachers’ Status [New York Times, 3/16/11]: To improve its public schools, the United States should raise the status of the teaching profession by recruiting more qualified candidates, training them better and paying them more, according to a new report on comparative educational systems. Read the report.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Appeals court reinstates case by Muslim over scarf [The Recorder / School Law Blog, 3/16/11]: A federal appeals court unanimously reinstated a lawsuit Tuesday filed by a Muslim woman who accused Southern California jailers of violating her religious freedom when they ordered her to take off her head scarf in a courthouse holding cell. The School Law Blog also posted on this case.

Calif. Court of Appeal Clarifies Classified Employee Reemployment Status [CSEA v. Governing Bd. East Side Union School Dist. (CA6 H034866 3/15/11), 3/15/11]: A permanent classified employee contends that upon being laid off and thereafter reemployed by the district in a different, lower position, she retains her permanent status and may not be required to serve a probationary period in the new position. The Court of Appeal ruled that the statutory scheme does not support her contention. It held that such an employee’s permanent status is restricted to the position or class in which it was attained and is not retained when the employee is reemployed in a different, lower position.

As pink slip deadline arrives, more than 20,000 teachers laid off [California Watch, 3/15/11]: March 15 has become an annual ritual marked by pain and distress for thousands of California teachers who will receive pink slips by the end of the day today, or will be waiting to receive them in the mail.

Deadline for pink slips for thousands of teachers arrives today [California Watch, 3/15/11]: March 15 has become an annual ritual marked by pain and distress for thousands of California teachers who will receive pink slips by the end of the day today, or will be waiting to receive them in the mail.

Ramanathan: Districts will lay off some of their best and brightest today; that must change [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/15/11]: Kaitlin Donovan, Nicholas Melvoin, Emilie Smith, and Tyler Hester didn’t expect to get a layoff notice. They were the kind of teachers typically romanticized in Hollywood movies.

Fensterwald: Educators get schooled in politics [Educated Guess, 3/15/11]: Many offices were visited; many words were spoken; few, if any, minds were changed Monday, the Association of California School Administrators’ annual Legislative Action Day.

Union blasts state bill for teachers [Inland Daily Bulletin, 3/15/11]: Some union leaders are blasting an education reform bill introduced in Sacramento that would base teacher layoffs on performance rather than seniority. State Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, proposed the bill to give school districts more flexibility to retain top educators. The San Bernardino Sun also has the story (3/13/11].

Last-in, first-out layoff policies hit some schools harder than others [Oakland Tribune, 3/15/11]: The Oakland school district has sent layoff warnings to more than one-fifth of its teaching staff. It was an extreme step, and school officials say they took it to prepare for an extreme budget scenario: the loss of as much as $900 in state funding per student, or $30 million.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Court: Cross-Unit Bumping is Negotiable; No Pre-Layoff Hearing Required for Economic Layoffs [Alameda County Management Employees Association v. Superior Court (Case No. A128697 (Issued 3/7/11) [PERB Blog, 3/11/11]: In response to a budget deficit for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, the Superior Court of Alameda County (Court) laid off 28 members in the bargaining unit represented by the Alameda County Management Employees Association (ACMEA). Under the Court’s personnel rules, an employee who is laid off has the right to “bump” into a position he or she previously held.  However, the Court negotiated a MOU with SEIU providing that an employee loses any “seniority” for calculating bumping rights if the employee leaves his or her position for more than six months. The SEIU MOU had the effect of preventing management employees from “bumping” into the SEIU unit because the management employees lost seniority per the SEIU MOU provision.
This is the first published decision discussing pre-layoff due process hearings since the Levine v. City of Alameda (9th Cir. 2008) 525 F. 3d 903, decision in 2008. That decision created a stir because it suggested that pre-layoff due process hearings are required. However, this decision makes clear that if there is no evidence that employees are being specifically "targeted" for layoff in lieu of discipline or as a form of reprisal, then no pre-layoff due process hearing is required. Read this decision.
Kerchner: Why the politics we’ve got won’t produce the schools we need [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/11/11]: Why, one might ask, should California, the headwaters of the digital revolution, be stuck in the eddies of an early 20th Century school design? The answer lies partly in culture and partly in politics. Almost all the politics of education concerns rearranging adult power and privilege. Relatively little political energy is spent consciously designing a contemporary system of public education that addresses the needs of today’s students. That should change.

5th Circuit Backs Student-Hacker Suspect's Discipline, Mother's Firing [School Law Blog, 3/10/11]: A federal appeals court has upheld the discipline of a Mississippi student who was accused of hacking into the computer system of his middle school and initiating a brief "denial of service" attack. The panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, in New Orleans, also ruled against the boy's mother, who was fired from her job as a school secretary after protesting the action taken against her son and threatening to sue the school district. Read the decision in Harris v. Ponotoc County School District.

Teachers union wants Supreme Court to overturn layoff ban [California Watch, 3/10/11]: The biggest teachers union in Los Angeles will likely ask the state Supreme Court to overturn a recent appellate court decision blocking teacher layoffs at 45 struggling schools. Read the ACLU press release on the legal settlement.

Isolated Reference to Union Activity During Termination Not Enough To Establish Retaliation (Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (2011) 2171-E) [PERB Blog, 3/8/11]: This case involved an allegation that the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District (District) decided not to reemploy a teacher because of her activities as a union site representative. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found in favor of the teacher. However, on exceptions by the District the Board (PERB) rejected the ALJ’s proposed decision and dismissed the charge. The Board’s decision focused on whether the union had established the required “nexus” between the adverse action and the protected activity. The Board acknowledged that it could indicate anti-union animus if coupled with other facts. But here, the Board found no other facts supporting anti-union animus. Accordingly, the Board rejected the ALJ’s proposed decision and dismissed the complaint. There was a dissent in this interesting case. Read the Fallbrook decision at:

Appellate court allows teacher layoffs to go forward under new rules [Los Angeles Times, 3/8/11]: A state appellate court refused Monday to delay a settlement that would alter traditional seniority protections in Los Angeles schools, opting instead to let stand a new process that would protect 45 “vulnerable” campuses entirely from layoffs. Read Festerwald’s post at Educated Guess [3/8/11]:

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sen. Huff wants legislature to tackle teacher evaluation [San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 3/6/11]: A bill by San Gabriel Valley state Sen. Bob Huff would do away with the first-in, first-out layoff policies at California school districts, a change long sought by education reform groups. Senate Bill 355 calls for districts to evaluate teachers and to use the data to lay off the worst teachers. Right now, teacher layoffs are based almost solely on seniority.

N.J. Task Force Makes Recommendations on Grading Teachers [Wall Street Journal, 3/4/11]: The administration of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie released a proposed rubric developed by a task force for evaluating teachers and awarding tenure and pay. The panel is suggesting that 50% of teacher ratings be based on student performance, 40% on measures of "effective practice" and 10% on other factors. However, critics of the proposed system, including teachers unions and some education experts, argue that student-testing data is unreliable and should not be used to make "high-stakes personnel decisions."

Gates challenges assumptions on teacher pay, seniority [ABC News, 3/3/11]: Microsoft founder Bill Gates challenged traditional assumptions about teacher pay, seniority and effectiveness in a speech Thursday at the 2011 TED (Technology, Education, Design) Conference. Gates questioned the $50 billion he said is spent each year on seniority-based pay increases for teachers, arguing that teacher longevity has not been shown to improve student achievement. He promoted the concept of extra pay for top teachers who agree to take on additional students.

Fourth Hacienda La Puente school district employee faces workers comp fraud charges [San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 3/4/11]: For the fourth time since January, a Hacienda La Puente Unified School District employee was arrested Wednesday night on charges of workers compensation fraud, authorities said. Warner said the cases are not related but said the high volume was due to the district's increased vigilance fighting insurance fraud. School district officials didn't return phone calls seeking comment.

Rio School District in limbo for now [Ventura County Star, 3/4/11]: Rio School District officials have not yet settled on who will lead the district after Superintendent Sherianne Cotterell goes on paid leave Friday, saying they expect to have more information next week. In a split decision Wednesday, the Rio school board announced it would terminate Cotterell's contract without cause and place her on paid leave as The story from the previous day is here.

Baron: Duncan criticizes last-hired, first-fired [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/4/11]: U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan called on state and local officials to be flexible and creative with federal education funds to protect students from the harshest cuts during this budget crisis.

Teachers face unprecedented challenges to their profession [New York Times, 3/2/11]: Many teachers across the country view warnings about layoffs -- along with ongoing attempts to reduce their rights, income and benefits -- as negative commentary on their value to society. The efforts, under way in numerous states, are being driven ostensibly by deep budget deficits and a broad school accountability movement. However, some say the initiatives will deter high-quality recruits from entering the profession and will drive effective teachers from the neediest schools.

School officials blast watchdog group for audit [Chico Enterprise-Record, 3/2/11]: Two school superintendents Tuesday accused the watchdog group Californians Aware (CalAware) of trying to make the public schools look bad with its Public Records Act audit.

Camp: 10 essential blogs on Cal education—no, make that 11 [Thoughts on Public Education, 3/2/11]: Many education-related organizations in California have developed blogs or email lists to keep their followers informed.

Facebook song gets Miss. student suspended, school sued [Student Press Law Center, 3/1/11]: A high school student is suing his school board, superintendent and principal after he was suspended for recording a rap song off campus that referenced allegations of inappropriate behavior by coaches with female students.

Justices Weigh School Interviews on Sex Abuse [School Law Blog, 3/1/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court today took up, in Camreta v. Greene, what potentially could be a major test involving the rights of children when interacting with the police and other government investigators in schools. But in the case over whether school interviews of children by investigators constitute unreasonable "seizures" under the Fourth Amendment, the arguments today quickly stumbled over procedural issues. On March 23, the court will take up another case involving the police and schools. In J.D.B. v. North Carolina the justices will consider whether a student interviewed at school about suspected neighborhood thefts should have been given a Miranda warning. Read Tony Mauro on the Camreta case [National Law Journal, 3/2/11].

Office for Civil Rights Posts Agreements From Investigations [Education Week, 3/1/11]: The U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights is posting agreements online that are forged between the office and school districts resulting from compliance reviews or investigations of complaints. Russlynn H. Ali, the assistant secretary for the OCR, made a point of telling me about the new method of distribution in a phone interview last Friday.

High Court Declines Student Speech Case [School Law Blog, 2/28/11]: The U.S. Supreme Court today declined to hear the appeal of a high school student who claimed that his free speech rights were infringed when administrators refused to let him return to school to address allegations that he had made a racially insensitive comment about another student. Read the 2nd Circuit opinion in DeFabio v. East Hampton Union Free School District:

Ex-Grant administrators sue Twin Rivers school district for jobs and back pay [Sacramento Bee, 2/28/11]: Twin Rivers Unified School District is fighting a new wave of lawsuits by six former administrators of the Grant Joint Union High School District. The two latest lawsuits were filed in January by two groups of former high-ranking Grant administrators who are demanding that they be given jobs with back pay.

Sweetwater wins lawsuit with former administrator [San Diego Union Tribune, 2/25/11]: A former Sweetwater Union High School District administrator is not entitled to additional severance pay, a San Diego Superior Court judge has determined.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Weingarten proposes plan to overhaul teacher-dismissal process [New York Times, 2/25/11]: American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten announced a proposal to revamp methods for evaluating and dismissing teachers. The new plan would give tenured teachers with unsatisfactory ratings one year to improve or be fired within 100 days. However, some were critical of the proposal, saying that administrators would not have enough input and that it does not address the role of seniority in teacher layoffs.

Teacher Drug-Testing Policy Struck Down [School Law Blog, 2/24/11]: A Tennessee school district's program of random drug testing of its teachers was constitutionally flawed, a federal district court has ruled.

Patriotic T-shirt legal battle marches on [Morgan Hill Times / Gilroy Post-Dispatch, 2/21/11]: The First Amendment lawsuit over the Cinco de Mayo incident last year at Live Oak High School advanced after federal Judge James Ware refused to dismiss the case as requested by defendants the Morgan Hill Unified School District, former LOHS principal Nick Boden and former assistant principal Miguel Rodriguez.

Gender-equality lawsuit costly for Sweetwater District [San Diego Union Tribune, 2/23/11]: Superintendent Jesus Gandara asked trustees of the Sweetwater Union High School District approve an $800,000 increase to its legal services budget at the same time the South County school district is looking to close a $24 million shortfall in next year’s budget.

State teachers' pension system headed toward insolvency [San Jose Mercury News, 2/22/11]: As California school districts anticipate possibly the worst budget crisis in a generation, many will try to lighten their burden by enticing older teachers into retirement.

High Court Cases Focus on In-School Questionings [Education Week’s School Law blogger Mark Walsh, 2/22/11]: A pair of cases to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court next month highlight broad questions about interactions between the police and the schools and the implications for school officials when investigators come knocking.

PERB: Poor Personnel Practices Do Not Prove Discrimination [PERB Blogspot, 2/15/11]: This case involved an employee who was rejected during probation. The employee alleged that he was rejected during probation because of protected activities, in violation of the MMBA. Specifically, the employee argued that the City retaliated against him because of comments he made criticizing his supervisor during an employee meeting. Read the City of Alhambra PERB Decision No. 2161-M (Issued 2/8/11).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ravitch: Why teachers across the country are enraged [CNN, 2/21/11]: Attacks on the teaching profession have escalated over the past two years, says author and education historian Diane Ravitch. She writes that the protests in Wisconsin are the result "of a simmering rage among the nation's teachers," brought on by attempts to tie teacher evaluations to test scores, threats to collective bargaining, widespread teacher firings and other issues. She predicts an increasing number of teacher protests, as such attacks and impending teacher layoffs continue.

Labor faces a moment of truth [Politico, 2/21/11]: Some strategists and labor officials watching the protest conflagration from the outside are beginning to fret that a large-scale defeat in Wisconsin will have a devastating ripple effect, weakening labor state by state throughout the rest of the country.

Legislation may bring pay cuts for substitute teachers [San Bernardino Sun, 2/21/11]: Substitute teachers may start to feel the effects of dwindling school budgets if legislation recently proposed by state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, becomes law. Under the law, S.B. 266, school districts could pay all substitutes the same wage, regardless of tenure, thus saving school districts millions of dollars per year, according to Dutton. Read SB 266.

Want to fix the Oakland schools? Ask a teacher [Oakland Tribune, 2/20/11]: The Oakland teachers union and the school district administration do not have an easy relationship. And yet, in the midst of budget cuts, an unsettled contract and threat of a strike, an unlikely -- though delicate -- partnership has arisen.

9th Circuit probes anti-Christian ruling against teacher [Orange County Register, 2/12/11]: A panel of three federal appellate judges Friday probed whether a Mission Viejo high school teacher who violated his student's First Amendment rights should be held financially liable for his actions, even as the judges reconsidered the merits of the case itself. During a 45-minute morning hearing, judges from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Pasadena grilled the two parties about whether Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett should be forced to pay attorney fees and damages, and whether he could have reasonably known he was being hostile toward religion in the classroom, as alleged. [See other posts on this case, in particular the one dated 2/17/11 below entitled "Student a 'whiny little boy,' teacher in anti-Christian case says."

Friday, February 18, 2011

Court Rejects Reimbursement Over Unfunded School Mandates [School Law Blog, 2/18/11]: Times are tough, a California appellate court says, and the judiciary cannot compel state lawmakers to come up with nearly $1 billion to reimburse unfunded education mandates imposed on school districts. But in a partial victory for school districts, a panel of the California Court of Appeal said they could seek to temporarily get out of mandates not fully funded by the state. Read the decision in CSBA v. State of California.

Student a 'whiny little boy,' teacher in anti-Christian case says [Orange County Register, 2/17/11]: Capistrano Valley High School history teacher James Corbett is firing back against the student who sued him three years ago for disparaging Creationism in class, posting a series of recent comments on the Register's website in which he refers to Chad Farnan as "a whiny little boy" who didn't do his homework and whose "helicopter parents" intervened frequently in their son's affairs.

The politics of education upended [Politico, 2/17/11]: In Wisconsin, about 1,000 teachers called in sick Wednesday to protest Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to strip their union bargaining rights. In Washington, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recounted his battle with his state’s teachers unions Wednesday, calling their leaders “greedy” and “selfish.”

Unions, officials in 150 districts attend collaboration summit [Wall Street Journal / New York Times, 2/16/11]: Education Secretary Arne Duncan urged union leaders and administrators in 150 districts to collaborate during a summit in Denver this week organized by Duncan and two national unions. The event is intended to ease conflict over teachers' contracts and other contentious education-reform issues such as tenure, layoffs and teacher evaluations. Those who attended were selected by lottery and had to agree to work together on the "hiring, retention, compensation, development and evaluation of a highly effective work force."

Report: reform 'deeply flawed state education funding system [Orange County Register, 2/15/11]: California's schools have survived billions in state cuts by relying heavily one-time federal aid, but will find themselves in serious trouble next year as the aid runs out, according to a new report from the Legislative Analyst's Office.

Obama's 'Disparate Impact' Policy Draws Criticism [Education Week, 2/15/11]: Critics are challenging the U.S. Department of Education's new focus on curbing school discipline policies that disproportionately affect some student groups.

Fensterwald: LAO: Change pensions for new teachers [Thoughts on Public Education, 2/14/11]: New teachers would be among public employees whose state-financed retirement benefits would shrink under a proposal that the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office outlined last week to limit taxpayers’ future liability. Read the proposal.

2nd Circuit rejects whistleblowing custodian's appeal [First Amendment Center, 2/14/11]: High court's Garcetti ruling continues to punish public employees for speaking up, even about safety. A former custodian who warned school officials about possible asbestos in a gymnasium lost his appeal before the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Read Morey v. Somers Central School District.

Obama's 'Disparate Impact' Policy Draws Criticism [Education Week, 2/15/11]: Critics are challenging the U.S. Department of Education's new focus on curbing school discipline policies that disproportionately affect some student groups.

Fensterwald: LAO: Change pensions for new teachers [Thoughts on Public Education, 2/14/11]: New teachers would be among public employees whose state-financed retirement benefits would shrink under a proposal that the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office outlined last week to limit taxpayers’ future liability. Read the proposal:

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Schools craft budgets in the dark -- and prepare for deep cuts [San Jose Mercury News, 2/13/11]: In what has become a fantasy-like world of school finance, school districts are scurrying to build their 2011-12 budgets, preparing for bad and worst cases

LAUSD announces potential layoff plans [Los Angeles Times, 2/12/11]: Los Angeles school officials unveiled a plan Friday to send preliminary layoff notices to more than 5,000 teachers and other staff members to help close a projected budget gap. This is the first time that the nation's second-largest district will protect some campuses that previously had been hit hard by layoffs.

An Oakland school cut its last AP course, but teachers are teaching it anyway [Oakland Tribune, 2/11/11]: The sacrifice made by these teachers and students for an opportunity that's a given in other schools illustrates their commitment to education. It also highlights the system's inequities and the shortcomings of the Oakland school district's attempts at high school reform.

Court Upholds Federal Teacher-Protection Law [School Law Blog, 2/10/11]: A federal statute meant to give teachers and school administrators protection from legal liability over their efforts to maintain safe and orderly schools has been upheld against a constitutional challenge. The case is Dydell v. Taylor.

Kerchner: Analysis of LA Times series shows pitfalls of using test scores to evaluate teachers [Thoughts on Public Education, 2/10/11]: Nearly half the rankings handed out to L.A. Unified teachers by the Los Angeles Times may be wrong. This is one of the conclusions reached by Derek Briggs and Ben Domingue of the University of Colorado at Boulder, who conducted a reanalysis of the data used by the Times in their value-added analysis of teacher performance.

Fewer young people becoming teachers; schools could be short-staffed in years ahead [Lodi News-Sentinel, 2/8/11]: Baby Boomers are retiring, and college students appear hesitant to step into those roles due to decreasing salaries, increasing layoffs and a less-than-welcoming teaching atmosphere.

On Evolution, Biology Teachers Stray From Lesson Plan [New York Times, 2/8/11]: Teaching creationism in public schools has consistently been ruled unconstitutional in federal courts, but according to a national survey more than 900 public high school biology teachers, it continues to flourish in the nation’s classrooms.

U.S. Plan to Replace Principals Hits Snag: Who Will Step In? [New York Times, 2/8/11]: The aggressive $4 billion program begun by the Obama administration in 2009 to radically transform the country’s worst schools included, as its centerpiece, a plan to install new principals to overhaul most of the failing schools. That policy decision, though, ran into a difficult reality: there simply were not enough qualified principals-in-waiting to take over.

High schools walk a tightrope in seeking funding from sports participants [Sacramento Bee, 2/8/11]: The website was clear: Inderkum High School students had to pay $75 to participate in sports. Problem was, since 1984, forcing public school students to pay to play has been against state law.

More districts shorten school year [Capitol Alert / California Watch, 2/8/11]: In the face of ongoing state budget problems, nearly three times as many K-12 districts have shortened the current school year than did so last year, according to a new survey released by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

First-of-Its-Kind Lawsuit Seeks to Improve Los Angeles School [The National Law Journal, 2/8/11]: Two firm partners have sued the Compton school district under an act giving parents the legal means to make changes to underperforming public schools. Other states are weighing similar "parent trigger acts."

Separate study confirms many Times findings on teacher effectiveness [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/11]: A study to be released Monday confirms the broad conclusions of a Times' analysis of teacher effectiveness in the Los Angeles Unified School District while raising concerns about the precision of the ratings.

Schrag: Pepperdine’s Soggy Waffle [California Progress Report, 2/7/11]: Education research, someone famously said many years ago, “is a soggy waffle.” Nothing demonstrates that better than the latest version of a Pepperdine University report purporting to show that, as one headline summarized it, since 2003 “California schools spent less in the classroom as budgets increased.” You can read the Davenport Institute Pepperdine reports.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Calif. parents sue school district over charter effort [AP / First Amendment Center, 2/4/11]: Six parents and their children sued the Compton Unified School District yesterday, alleging officials are trying to thwart their push to convert a failing elementary school to a charter school. The parents immediately won a temporary injunction from Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien, who blocked the district from using a complex process to verify signatures on a petition for the charter school.

Schools Tackle Legal Twists and Turns of Cyberbullying [Education Week, 2/4/11]: High-profile incidents put legal, policy issues in the spotlight but lack of clarity remains. School leaders across the country are dealing with routine cases daily and often feel they have little legal advice or precedent to guide them in their decision making.

Autism rate triples among K-12 students [California Watch, 2/4/11]: Special education students with autism in California have more than tripled in number since 2002, even as overall special education enrollment has remained relatively flat, according to an analysis of state education data released yesterday.

L.A. boy can use religious song at school talent show [AP, 2/3/11]: School district, lawyers for fifth-grader reach agreement allowing him to perform; mother had filed suit after principal said performance would violate church-state separation. Read the legal complaint.

Searches of Students Who Leave and Return to School Upheld [School Law Blog, 2/2/11]: A high school's policy of searching students who leave the campus and return during the school day does not violate the Fourth Amendment, a California state appellate court has ruled. Read the decision in In re Sean A.