Friday, December 30, 2011

Your Tax Dollars At Work, School Funding Explained In California Supreme Court Case: California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995


Have you ever wondered just HOW our schools are funded?  A great summary is included in California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos, handed down this week (December 29, 2011) by the Supreme Court of California.


Justice Werdegar, writing for the Court, ultimately upholds Assembly Bill 1X26 which authorizes the closing of redevelopment agencies in California.  The case comes to a contrary opinion regarding Assembly Bill 1X27, a bill which gave a way for redevelopment agencies to remain open so long as they made certain payments.  


Here is what Justice Werdegar states (excerpted from the California Redevelopment Association v. Matosantos case directly) in the "Background" section.  I particularly like his wording when he says "a second event of seismic significance...," cute considering we are in California!


"A. Government Finance: The Integration of State, School, and Municipal Financing
For much of the 20th century, state and local governments were financed independently under the "separation of sources" doctrine. In 1910, the Legislature proposed, and the voters approved, a constitutional amendment granting local governments exclusive control over the property tax. (Cal. Const., art. XIII, former § 10, enacted by Sen. Const. Amend. No. 1, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 8, 1910); see Simmons, California Tax Collection: Time for Reform (2008) 48 Santa Clara L.Rev. 279, 285-286; Ehrman & Flavin, Taxing Cal. Property (4th ed. 2011) §§ 1:9-1:10, p. 1-14.) Each jurisdiction (city, county, special district, and school district) could levy its own independent property tax. (See, e.g.,Temescal Water Co. v. Niemann (1913) 22 Cal.App. 174, 176 ["It is conceded . . . that a municipality has the right to assess all real property found within its limits for the purpose of maintaining the municipal revenues, and that the county taxing officials have the right to levy upon the same property for county purposes."].)
This system of finance had significant consequences for education. Under the state Constitution, the Legislature is obligated to provide for a public school system. (Cal. Const., art. IX, § 5; Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation (2006)39 Cal.4th 1164, 1195.) Seeking to promote local involvement, the Legislature established school districts as political subdivisions and delegated to them that duty. (Wells, at p. 1195; Butt v. State of California (1992) 4 Cal.4th 668, 680-681; see also California Teachers Assn. v. Hayes (1992) 5 Cal.App.4th 1513, 1523.) Historically, school districts were largely funded out of local property taxes. (Serrano v. Priest (1971) 5 Cal.3d 584, 592 (Serrano I); Serrano v. Priest (1976) 18 Cal.3d 728, 737-738 (Serrano II); see County of Los Angeles v. Sasaki (1994) 23 Cal.App.4th 1442, 1450.) Under the California system of financing as it {Slip Opn. Page 5} existed until the 1970's, different school districts could levy taxes and generate vastly different revenues; because of the difference in property values, the same property tax rate would yield widely differing sums in, for example, Beverly Hills and Baldwin Park. (Serrano I, at pp. 592-594.)
We invalidated that system of financing in Serrano I and Serrano II, holding that education was a fundamental interest (Serrano I, supra, 5 Cal.3d at pp. 608-609; Serrano II, supra, 18 Cal.3d at pp. 765-766) and that financing heavily dependent on local property tax bases denied students equal protection (Serrano I, at pp. 614-615; Serrano II, at pp. 768-769, 776). The Serrano decisions threw "the division of state and local responsibility for educational funding" into " 'a state of flux.' " (Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. County of Los Angeles (2010) 181 Cal.App.4th 414, 419.) In their aftermath, a "Byzantine" system of financing (California Teachers Assn. v. Hayes, supra, 5 Cal.App.4th at p. 1525) evolved in which the state became the principal financial backstop for local school districts. Funding equalization was achieved by capping individual districts' abilities to raise revenue and enhancing state contributions to ensure minimum funding levels. (Lockard, In the Wake of Williams v. State: The Past, Present, and Future of Education Finance Litigation in California (2005) 57 Hastings L.J. 385, 388-391; see generally Wells v. One2One Learning Foundation, supra,39 Cal.4th at p. 1194 [discussing current funding regime].)
A second event of seismic significance followed shortly after, with the voters' 1978 adoption of Proposition 13. (Cal. Const., art. XIII A, added by Prop. 13, as approved by voters, Primary Elec. (June 6, 1978).) As noted, before 1978 cities and counties had been able to levy their own property taxes. Proposition 13 capped ad valorem real property taxes imposed by all local entities at 1 percent (Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 1, subd. (a)), reducing the amount of revenue available by more than half (Stark,The Right to Vote on Taxes (2001) {Slip Opn. Page 6} 96 Nw.U. L.Rev. 191, 198). In place of multiple property taxes imposed by multiple political subdivisions, it substituted a single tax to be collected by counties and thereafter apportioned. (Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 1, subd. (a).) Significantly, Proposition 13 did not specify how that 1 percent was to be divided, instead leaving the method of allocation to state law. (See Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 1, subd. (a)[real property tax is "to be . . . apportioned according to law to the districts within the counties"]; Amador Valley Joint Union High Sch. Dist. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1978) 22 Cal.3d 208, 225-227; County of Los Angeles v. Sasaki, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1454-1457; City of Rancho Cucamonga v. Mackzum (1991) 228 Cal.App.3d 929, 945.)
Sasaki, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1451-1452; California Teachers Assn. v. Hayes, supra, 5 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1527-1528.) Second, by failing to specify a method of allocation, Proposition 13 largely transferred control over local government finances from the state's many political subdivisions to the state, converting the property tax from a nominally local tax to a de facto state-administered tax subject to a complex system of intergovernmental grants. (See Rev. & Tax. Code, § 95 et seq.; Amador Valley Joint Union High Sch. Dist. v. State Bd. of Equalization, supra, 22 Cal.3d at pp. 226-227; Sasaki, at pp. 1454-1455; Stark, The Right to Vote on Taxes, supra, 96 Nw.U. L.Rev. at p. 198.) fn. 3 Third, by imposing a unified, {Slip Opn. Page 7} shared property tax, Proposition 13 created a zero-sum game in which political subdivisions (cities, counties, special districts, and school districts) would have to compete against each other for their slices of a greatly shrunken pie.
In 1988, the voters added another wrinkle with Proposition 98, which established constitutional minimum funding levels for education and required the state to set aside a designated portion of the General Fund for public schools. (Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 8; see Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 420; California Teachers Assn. v. Hayes, supra, 5 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1517-1518.) Two years later, the voters revised and effectively increased the minimum funding requirements for public schools. (Prop. 111, Primary Elec. (June 5, 1990) amending Cal. Const., art. XVI, § 8; see County of Sonoma v. Commission on State Mandates (2000) 84 Cal.App.4th 1264, 1289.)
In response to these rising educational demands on the state treasury, the Legislature in 1992 created county educational revenue augmentation funds (ERAF's). (Stats. 1992, chs. 699, 700, pp. 3081-3125; Rev. & Tax. Code, §§ 97.2, 97.3; see Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at pp. 420-421; City of El Monte v. Commission on State Mandates (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 266, 272-274; County of Los Angeles v. Sasaki, supra, 23 Cal.App.4th at p. 1447.) It reduced the portion of property taxes allocated to local governments, deposited the difference in the ERAF's, deemed the balances part of the state's General Fund for purposes of satisfying Proposition 98 {Slip Opn. Page 8} obligations, and distributed these amounts to school districts. (County of Sonoma v. Commission on State Mandates, supra, 84 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1275-1276; see Los Angeles Unified School Dist. v. County of Los Angeles, supra, 181 Cal.App.4th at p. 426 [ERAF's are an " 'accounting device' " for reallocating property taxes to school districts from other local government entities].) Periodically thereafter, the Legislature through supplemental legislation required local government entities to further contribute to the ERAF's in order to defray the state's Proposition 98 school funding obligations. (Los Angeles Unified School Dist., at pp. 420-421.) Local governments had no vested right to property taxes (id. at p. 425); accordingly, the Legislature could require ERAF payments as "an exercise of [its] authority to apportion property tax revenues." (City of El Monte, at p. 280; see Cal. Const., art. XIII A, § 1, subd. (a).)"


For more from this case, please see it here.
Where else could one find such a great summary of the complex background regarding school financing?  Thank you your honor!


Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

IDEA Court Case: Berns v. Hamilton Southeastern Schools

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995


The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently upheld the denial of a parents request for reimbursement ($$$) for the cost of a private placement at Lindamood Bell.  This case illustrates how tricky it can be to obtain reimbursement from a school district for the unilateral placement (e.g. by parents alone) of a child in a private school.


In the case of Berns v. Hamilton Southeastern Schools, decided December 22, 2011, Judge Gottschall opined that the student in question had been provided a Free and Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), as the student made adequate progress toward his goals during his public school placement.  According to the case, the student in question suffered from a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) at age 4.  After that time, the school assessed him and placed him in a pre-kindergarten classroom for four weeks.  While in the placement the student met several of his goals and was allegedly making progress toward the others.  He was then recommended to move into kindergarten.


According to Judge Gottschall's opinion, the parents' private assessor had previously recommended that the "optimal" placement (see my blog on using words implying need for the "best" placement here) would be year round with an "all day" kindergarten.  The parents thereafter requested placement in both sessions of kindergarten (morning and afternoon), and were refused based on his progress toward his goals.  The family thereafter became at odds with the district and enrolled their son in Lindamood Bell.  


Although there were several procedural errors by the school alleged, the only question was whether the hearing officer's decision that the student received FAPE was proper.  The Seventh Circuit found that it was and denied the family's request for reimbursement for Lindamood Bell, for attorney fees, and otherwise.


Although this case was not in the California circuit (our court is the Ninth Circuit), it is illustrative of the importance of evidence and support when placing a child in a private school if the parents intend to later seek reimbursement from a school district.  If things are not supported well, or the school can show they DID offer FAPE, parents can be blocked and fail in their reimbursement claim.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Monday, December 12, 2011

California College Suspensions And The Right To A Hearing Within Ten Days

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Pursuant to California Education Code section 66017, a California Community College, California State University (CSU), or University of California (UC) may suspend a student for willful disruption, to protect lives or property, or to ensure the maintenance of order.  [This is not an exhaustive list.]  However, if the suspension by the college is issued immediately (e.g. the student is kicked off campus right then), the student is legally entitled, per this section, to a hearing within 10 days.

If the college suspension is not issued immediately (e.g. the student is still allowed to attend classes) or is merely proposed, 66017 states that the hearing must be "prompt" which may or may not mean "within 10 days."  I would argue the college student is still entitled to a hearing within that amount of time.

Section 66017 also instructs colleges to adopt procedures and appoint personnel to deal with discipline matters on campus.  Other code sections also apply depending on the type of college involved.  Needless to say, I have seen students suspended with no hearing in sight, which is unacceptable.

If you are suspended from college, insist on a prompt hearing within 10 days so you can get back to your studies.  We all know how long ten days can be away from college classes and the impact can be devastating.  When I attended the University of California, ten days was more than one tenth (1/10th) of my whole quarter!  I would certainly have missed a lot of classes, and my grades could have declined significantly, with such an extended period of absence.

Simple knowledge of timelines and assertion of rights can help college students survive the surprise of an unexpected suspension.  Hiring a student attorney can't hurt either.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Did You Hear The One About The Five Year Old Arrested At School And Taken To A Psychiatric Hospital? No, Really- No Joke....

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

As a California Education Attorney, I have heard horror stories for over 16 years since I started helping parents and students.  Sadly, the story of five year old Michael Davis, a student of Stockton Unified School District is nothing unusual.  It is again, a wake up call for parents.

From what I can gather from internet reports (KCRA, Newsone), Michael is a 5 year old student who allegedly gets in fights and is a behavior problem at school.  The first thing here is HE IS 5 YEARS OLD.  There is no legal obligation to put your kids in school until they turn six years old.  A student who can't sit still, who fights, etc. may just be a rambunctious student and not ready for the controlling environment that the public schools have turned out to be.  Also, sometimes five year olds can simply be wild and enthusiastic in a physical or distracting way.  It was not until the public schools came into the picture that this became a disease.

Additionally, the mother states in her KCRA interview that she had asked for special help for some time and was denied behavior support and other services due to money.  Item number 2:  you cannot deny a student with a qualifying handicapping condition (Michael is alleged to have ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) the support services which are needed to provide a Free and Appropriate Public Education (aka FAPE) based on money.  He likely qualified for special education under the category of Other Health Impaired, which opened the door for special education and support services.  Sadly, unless he was designated with a "disability," he could not obtain support services which is an issue in and of itself, but I digress.

Next, the school gets the bright idea to have the school cop talk to Michael to "scare him straight."  Mom apparently knew about this in advance.  Item 3: bad idea to try to make a 5 year old scared straight.  This is not a good idea- they are five.  Jail is a vague concept at best and really, could you lock them up in jail anyway?  No.

When the cop went to touch Michael, Michael allegedly batted his hand away, kicked him, and pushed papers around.  Now, parents of five year olds, is this really that unusual?  What about stranger danger!?  I teach my kids the danger of strangers and would not want them to allow any stranger to put their hands on them.  I would actually have them try to get away.  Of course, the fact this was a "cop" in uniform was supposed to make legitimate feelings of fear irrelevant, but I doubt that eased little Michael's mind much.

Next, the cop allegedly zip tied this kid for approximately 2 hours (according to his mother), and took him to a psychiatric facility to be evaluated.  Hmmmmmmm...... that's one really bad way to get a kid evaluated without parental consent.  Yes, if a student is a danger to self or others, they CAN do this, but was this really reasonable?  Had a behavior plan been in place, or had the cop backed off when his "scared straight" approach obviously failed, Michael could have calmed down and gotten back to work.

Long story short, Michael was cited by a cop (at five years old!) and later retrieved from the psychiatric hospital.  The charge was later dismissed (thank you your honor!).

This sounds like fiction, but is a reminder to parents:  THIS COULD HAPPEN TO YOUR CHILD.  DO NOT BE COMPLACENT ABOUT THE SCHOOLS.  How would you like your kid carted off to a psychiatric ward when a cop touches them and they react in fear?  How would you like your son or daughter to be tied up by the cops because they would not behave in the institution that is our public schools?  I would not, and do not like it.  Parents may want to investigate placements other than the public schools for their kids, such as home school, as the public schools when it really comes down to it, are not safe at all.  Just ask little Michael Davis how safe they are.



Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Suspension or Expulsion For Profanity At School? It's Supposed To Be Habitual

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

California parents can often be shocked when they receive a call stating their child is being sent home for five days for saying a bad word at school.  I have seen a lot of discipline matters centered around language, including swear words. However, unless the profanity is habitual, a suspension or expulsion may not be legal.

Per California Education Code section 48900(i) a student may be suspended or expelled for engaging in "habitual profanity."  Note the code does not say a child may be suspended for "profanity," but rather HABITUAL profanity.  This wording is important, and not always understood by the school imposing the discipline.

Habitual is defined in "thefreedictionary.com" as follows (adjective form):

1.  done or experienced regularly or repeatedly
2.  by habit
3.  customary, usual

In other words, habitual profanity must involve swearing as a regular activity of the student.  One slip up of saying the "F" word or the "S" word is NOT grounds for suspension or expulsion per the California Education Code.  However, easy as it seems to read the statute, I have seen discipline imposed for simply saying a bad word on a single occasion.  Technically, this is not a legal basis for suspension.

As it is often harder to remove a record, or reverse a suspension (suspension appeal), than to prevent a suspension in the first place, all parents should discuss language at school with their children.  Profane speech may result in a student having a permanent black mark which may haunt them beyond high school. Suspensions (and expulsions) must be revealed when inquired about by colleges, or even when seeking to enter various professions (even becoming an attorney).


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

California Sex Education Can Start In Kindergarten - Parents May Opt Out In Writing

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995


There is a lot to know about just WHAT is going on in schools regarding sexual education.  If you are my age (early 40's), you remember the obligatory sex education class in junior high school (mine was in eighth grade and our teacher read us "The Princess Bride" most of the class).  Times have changed, however, and sex education is now being initiated at much younger ages.  How young? Kindergarten, which likely encompasses four, five, and six year olds.

California Education Code section 51933 outlines the parameters for sex education in California public schools, and indicates that starting from kindergarten on up, kids may receive sexual education in the public schools.  This instruction has to be appropriate for all genders, races, and sexual orientations.  In other words, traditional sexual activities and domestic partner type of sexual activities may be instructed.

One may recall the story a while back of a class of San Francisco first graders attending the marriage of their female kindergarten teacher to another female individual.  This would probably fall under "sex education."  I don't recall ever being allowed to attend ANY wedding during school hours when I was growing up.  The story about this at World Net Daily states that two families opted not to send their children and the rest of the students attended.

Education Code 51933 states in part:

(a)  School districts may provide comprehensive sexual health education, consisting of age-appropriate instruction, in any kindergarten to grade 12, inclusive, using instructors trained in the appropriate courses.
(b)  A school district that elects to offer comprehensive sexual health education... shall satisfy all of the following criteria:
1)  Instruction and materials shall be age appropriate
2)  ...medically accurate and objective...
...
4)  [S]hall be appropriate for use with pupils of all races, genders, sexual orientations, ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and pupils with disabilities....

The code goes on, but these are the only sections I want to cover herein.  There are other codes covering AIDS/HIV instruction which I will leave for another day.  Needless to say, all types and forms of sexual activities may be instructed starting when kids enter school.  According to a 2003 survey entitled "Sex Education in California Public Schools," ninety-six percent (96%) of schools surveyed indicated they provide sex education.

Parents have a right, per California Education Code 51938 to excuse their child from sex ed instruction.  Parents must do so in writing.

Some food for thought, especially for parents of young students.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Suicide and Antidepressants- the Candace Downing Story

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Many parents are pressured to medicate their children who may exhibit symptoms of depression, so they can allegedly do "better" at school or in life.  Here is a video which parents should watch before they ever pursue antidepressants for their kids based on their school functioning or otherwise.  Know the side effects before proceeding with any medication.




Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

California Charter School Case: Bullis Charter School vs. Los Altos School District

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Last week, the California Court of Appeals for the Sixth District handed down Bullis Charter School vs. Los Altos School District (October 27, 2011).  This case vindicated the rights of charter schools to facilities reasonably equivalent to other schools in the district.  This is an important decision for California parents and students as it will ensure charter students are not jipped and/or do not get stuck in small, run down facilities, with inadequate space for sports, child care, and students.

In Bullis, which interpreted the Charter Schools Act (California Education Code 47600) and Proposition 39 (Education Code 47614), the Court of Appeals granted Bullis' request for a court order to be issued to the Los Altos School District. Essentially, the court ordered the District to provide a "complete and fair facilities offer to Bullis from which it could be determined that 'reasonably equivalent' facilities were provided" (page 46 of attached decision- for you lawyer's out there, this is not the official citation).

The District had provided an offer of facilities to Bullis which was lacking in the following ways (among others):

1)  It selected the wrong schools to compare,
2)  Did not compare total site size,
3)  Did not consider three categories of space: teaching, non-teaching and specialized space in its calculations,
4)  Contained flawed and/or missing information on size/square footage.

In laymen's terms, the District's proposal basically compared apples to peanuts, and used flawed figures and percentages to make it appear that Bullis was getting an equivalent space, when they were not.  In fact, in the proposal, Bullis was required to share outdoor space, had no classroom for its seventh graders, and did not have child care space allotted, among other things.

This decision is a student victory and will be a boon to charter school students who have sometimes been stuck in facilities which were smaller or in worse condition than local public schools.  This is good for all students in California whose school choice will be even better than before.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Suspension Or Expulsion For Knives, Guns, Explosives Or Dangerous Objects And A Way Students CAN Have Them On Campus?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

What will happen to Johnny if he has a gun, knife, explosive, or dangerous object on campus without permission?  We all know the usual answer, but according to the California legislature, it will depend on whether Johnny has permission to possess the item.

Under California Education Code section 48900(b), students may be suspended or placed up for expulsion if they:

"Possessed, sold, or otherwise furnished a firearm, knife, explosive, or other dangerous object, unless, in the case of possession of an object of this type, the pupil had obtained written permission to possess the item from a certificated school employee, which is concurred in by the principal or the designee 
of the principal."

So, if Johnny has a gun, sells a gun, or provides a gun to someone, he can be suspended or expelled.  Same difference with a knife or explosive, which seems fairly self-explanatory. With the "dangerous object" portion, schools may interpret "dangerous object" as covering practically anything, rightly or wrongly.  For example, a pencil, scissors, stick, book, pillow, spit, urine, chemicals, and on and on, depending on how the object were used.  As such, this code section can sometimes be stretched, properly or improperly, to attempt to meet the situation.  A parent would of course argue a pillow, book, or other common object was never a dangerous object and the intent was to cover obviously dangerous objects (nunchucks, throwing stars, etc.).

Section 48900(b) provides an interesting exception which could avoid a suspension: permission to possess a gun, knife, explosive or dangerous object (this is too good to be true!).  But, how any student would ever get "permission" to possess a firearm, knife, explosive or "dangerous object," is beyond me.  I would suggest that any child who actually had the nerve to seek permission to bring one of these items on campus, would be interrogated and searched by today's school administrators.  This would not be okay, but they would probably take such a request the wrong way and go after Johnny regardless of what the code says.

Obviously when this code was written many years ago, the legislature thought this might be possible.  The only scenario I can think of is for some kind of school play, or an authorized in-class demonstration (show and tell).  If "permission" is sought, make sure it is granted in writing and the principal signs off as well as the teacher granting the permission, or the kid could be toast regardless of the situation.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: 
http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Interdistrict Transfers in California: Can A School Require You To Reapply?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Interdistrict transfers (move of student from one school district to another at parent request) are common events.  A parent does not like where their child attends school,  the district programs available (e.g. no GATE), wants their child closer to work, or otherwise wants to move their child.  They then request a transfer to another school district.  Once that transfer request is granted, can the school require students to reapply year after year for a transfer?  No.

Per California Education Code section 46600, two school districts may enter an agreement to accept students of  the other district.  Once accepted on an interdistrict transfer, however:

"[T]he pupil shall not have to reapply for an interdistrict transfer, and the governing board of the school district of enrollment shall allow the pupil to continue to attend the school in which he or she is enrolled."

This is wonderful as if you are "in," you remain "in."  Previously, I would hear from parents who would have to reapply every year to maintain a transfer- no more.

Section 46601, however, does specify that a district may develop terms of revocation.  I have often seen VERY VERY restrictive interdistrict transfer agreements stating that if a student "does not follow school rules," their transfer will be revoked.  I would certainly argue against revocation for minor events.  However, depending on the terms of revocation at the new district, this statute loses some of its strength.  Still, for most parents, this will be good news.

Additionally, once a student is transferred and will attend the eleventh or twelfth grades in the upcoming year, their transfer can no longer be revoked.  For the school of attendance to kick them out then, they would have to expel them or impose an involuntary transfer.  This should ease some parents' worries on their high schoolers' continued attendance.


Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/


[please like my office on Facebook, subscribe via twitter and email, and check out my videos on Youtube!]

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now Is The Time To Change Schools In Roseville Joint Unified School District As District Identified As "Needs Improvement" Under No Child Left Behind: DEADLINE OCTOBER 17, 2011

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Roseville Joint Unified School District has an important deadline approaching Monday October 17, 2011 that parents must be aware of if they have been wishing to change schools.  As the District was identified as failing in certain areas, under No Child Left Behind, they are now obligated to allow students from Adelante High School, Roseville High School and Antelope High School to transfer to Granite Bay High School, Oakmont High School, or Woodcreek High School. See below for an email sent to me by a parent regarding this issue.  So, act now, if you want to move.  Also, see the District website and their announcement and form.


"For Immediate Release:                                    For Further Information, Please Call:
October 5, 2011                                              Steve Williams (916-782-6565x1057)


Good evening this is Steve Williams, Director of Pupil Services, with an important announcement from the Roseville Joint Union High School District.

Once again, the Roseville District has shown steady improvement on the Statewide Academic Performance scores called API and those scores are posted on the District web page.

However, as part of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, our District has been designated for Program Improvement which requires us to notify every parent and also requires us to accept transfer requests from current Adelante, Antelope, and Roseville HS students to attend Granite Bay, Oakmont, or Woodcreek High School for the start of term two in January.

Students attending Adelante, Antelope, or Roseville High School, who wish to transfer, must apply to Granite Bay, Oakmont, or Woodcreek High School by Monday, October 17.

Student Transfer Enrollment Forms are available in the Main Office of Antelope HS, Roseville HS, the District Office, and online under RJUHSD Student Transfer Choice Program.

Please feel free to call my office if you have any questions at 782-6565x1057.

Thank you and have a good evening.

Steve Williams
Director of Pupil Services"


Best,

Michelle Ball

Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209


Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

What Parents Must Consider Before Giving In To School Pressure To Have Their Children Evaluated For A Mental Disorder

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

When a school pressures a family to have their child evaluated for a mental illness, usually for special education, it can be a very confusing time.  But before parents "give in," they owe it to their child to conduct a thorough and thoughtful evaluation of all possible causes and solutions to the situation.  Labeling a child with a mental illness, such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), ED (Emotional Disturbance), ODD (Oppositional Defiance Disorder), or some other mental disorder, is a life-changing decision which not only alters the child's life forever, but also opens the door to potential mind-altering drugs to "control" the child's classroom issues.

Since 1995 I have been helping parents and students in all types of school matters, and I have represented parents both in and out of the special education system.  I have also assisted a handful of parents who fought against school pressure to label their children with mental health disabilities due to problems in the classroom.  The public schools and their staff often push parents to have their child evaluated by a medical professional, such as a psychologist or psychiatrist. Many parents follow through, as their child is not learning, is a problem in the classroom, or acts bad at school, and they don't know what else to do.  But is a disease really the cause?  Maybe, maybe not.

Consider these other potential causes:

1)  An undiagnosed physical disability.
2)  Nutrition/food issues.

3)  Sleep deprivation.

4)  Energy and interest in life.
5)  Poor teaching.
6)  Poor control of the classroom.
7)  Need to move around rather than sit still for 6 hours a day.
8)  Failure to understand the work in the time given.  Public schools don't stop for any student- they just move on whether the child understands or not.  When a child does not understand, they can get bored, distracted, and disinterested.
9)  Need for additional assistance with the work at school (not because of a disability, but because they just did not GET something).
10)  Teacher conflict with the student and/or a bad fit.
11)  Need for more stimulation in the classroom, such as visuals, music, movement, change.  Not all students learn best by sitting, listening, and reading.  
12)  School is not taught in an interesting way.
13)  Poor parenting- parents not working with them at home, not disciplining enough, not there.
14)  A multitude of other reasons.... other than a mental illness.

Sadly, if a student is pushed into the mental health system for the above reasons, it is not because they have a "DISABILITY," but because of something else. However, they may still be labelled as disabled and carry that crutch the rest of their lives.

Labeling a child with a psychological disorder is a BIG deal, and opens the door for drugs- drugs for behavior, drugs for attention, drugs for...control.  If Johnny sits there and no longer blurts out, the teacher will be happier, but will Johnny actually be better off?  Parents need to first consider what would help their CHILD to survive, learn, and flourish.  The school's needs are secondary.

When considering such avenues, parents should check the following sites (among others) for alternatives and information on labelling and drugging of children for alleged mental disorders:

-  Alternative Mental Health.com
-  The Block Center- alternative ADHD treatment
-  Public Service Announcements and the website of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights
-  The Psychiatric Drug Search Engine


Do it for your child.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Prerequisites to School Suspension- Are Alternatives To Suspension Required?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

School suspensions are issued for almost anything nowadays.  Wearing a costume, talking back, getting a drink of water when not authorized- all items for which I have seen suspensions issued.  Are there ANY prerequisites to issuing a school suspension in California?  Are any alternatives to suspension authorized or mandated?  Yes and no.

Per California Education Code 48900.5, suspension "shall be imposed ONLY when other means of correction fail to bring about proper conduct."  This strong language requires "other means of correction" first right?  Right???  Yes, BUT it will depend on the offense.

First, what does "other means of correction" mean?   A good talking to, detention, Saturday School, sitting in the office, or other punishment which will teach the kid a lesson.

The words "shall be imposed only when..." seem obvious enough, but are they?  Unfortunately, 48900.5 also excludes various offenses including but not limited to fighting, threats, knives, drugs, robbery, and even merely disruptive students  This severely limits the requirement of alternatives to suspension.

Parents CAN still use this section to argue for alternatives to suspension, particularly with a minor offense and a kid with a limited discipline history.  It also can't hurt to have an education attorney make the arguments for the parents.

Now, I am not a school administrator, but I am a student attorney, and have seen many rules and laws ignored by schools until contacted by my office.  Regardless of how good a parent makes an argument, schools tend to ignore any "legal interpretation" until that interpretation comes from an attorney.

When parents are faced with suspension for a minor infraction with no big discipline history, they may want to use Education Code 48900.5 to try to obtain an alternative punishment so their kid does not have to sit home, missing out on his or her education.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/
                                                     
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship..

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Private School Contracts: Do You Have To Keep Paying If Your Child Leaves or is Kicked Out?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

When a student leaves a private school midyear, due to moving, a change of heart, or a discipline exclusion, parents may be surprised to know that depending on their private school contract, they may still be obligated to pay tuition to the school after the student is gone.

Whether the family is obligated or not depends on the contract with the individual private school.  Was it written to obligate the family to cover a whole school year or to cover each month of attendance?  The answer is important.

Some private schools write contracts to cover a whole year of attendance.  In other words, a parent agrees to pay a set amount and it covers that entire school year.  The parent may opt to pay in advance, or monthly, but regardless, the amount is intended to cover a whole year.  Often the private school will win if this is the type of contract in place.  The "logic" applied in these scenarios is that if parents could just leave willy nilly, it would mess up the school planning.  For example, if the school has 500 students attending at a total promised amount of $10,000 each, the school counts on $500,000 to cover their salaries, rent, and other expenses.  If parents can just leave and not pay, the school may see itself in a tight spot, unable to pay their staff or maintain the school.  

Other schools may have parents simply pay monthly to cover the month.  In other words, they know they will owe X amount per month and the contract is not for a whole school year.  Parents may also pay in advance, but the funds would still simply cover each month individually.  These schools may even have in their contract the fact that if a student leaves, any advance would be refunded and/or no amount would be owed.  This is a MUCH better arrangement for families, as if something unexpected happens and a student departs, the private school parent involved should not owe past the month they last attended.

The whole thing is very confusing, but I have seen contracts in both camps.  So, if possible, it may be a good idea to obtain and compare various private school contracts in advance of enrollment to try to figure out which one is most favorable contractually.  For, once a contract is entered, it is not that easy to escape.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

School Expulsion/Discipline For Knife Offenses: What IS a Knife Under the California Education Code?

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Many students are suspended or placed up for expulsion for possession of a "knife," pursuant to California Education Code 48900(b).  Although what a "knife" is, seems somewhat obvious, it is specifically defined in  the Education Code and the definition is important.

A sister section, 48915(g) contains the definition of a knife as it relates to suspension or expulsion.  Per 48915(g) a "knife" is:

[A]ny dirk, dagger, or other weapon with a fixed, sharpened blade fitted primarily for stabbing, a weapon with a blade longer than 3 1/2 inches, a folding knife with a blade that locks into place, or a razor with an unguarded blade.

Okay- you may feel like you are somewhere back in time when trying to figure out what a "dirk" or "dagger" is, but click the links to find out.  For our purposes, the two most important definitions are:

1)  Weapon with a blade longer than 3 1/2 inches, and
2)  Folding knife with a blade that locks into place.

This is because in my experience these are two most helpful definitions for parents.

The reason is this: if a kid goes fishing over the weekend, leaves his multi-tool, key chain, or swiss army knife with a blade that locks into place in his pants pocket, and throws those same pants on in the rush to get to school on Monday, he has a knife for expulsion purposes.  It does not matter if he did not intend to bring the item to school, nor that he used it for fishing- he could be in trouble if this item is discovered.  Of course, many kids, finding such an item in their pants pocket while at school, take it out, fiddle with it in class, show it to friends, or simply use it.  That is a very very bad idea.  In fact, even if the blade is minuscule, dull, and looks like it could not hurt a bug, if it locks, the school may choose to apply their "zero tolerance" viewpoint and put the kid up for expulsion.

If the same tool does NOT have a locking blade, that is when the 3.5 inch blade issue arises.  If a blade is 3 inches long, attached to a multi-tool, and not "primarily for stabbing," this may open a door for attack.  Please note: the student still may be put up for school expulsion for other reasons such as possession of a "dangerous object," but that is a story for another day.

Now, don't count on the schools understanding this nuance- it may be a matter to be raised in the child's defense by legal counsel.  In my experience, it is rare for schools to listen to parents without attorneys when it comes to legal interpretations.

There is a lot more to say, but basically if a child is up for expulsion for possession of a knife, check the definition above to be sure what they have really IS a "knife."  If it isn't then any discipline for a "knife" may be open to attack.

P.S.  If you like my blogs, please "like" me on Facebook, and  subscribe to my email updates and Youtube channel (see links up and to the right).

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Parents Rights in Public Schools- Sixteen Rights (And Counting) Which Parents May Not Know They Have

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

California Education Code 51101 has a handy list of public school parents' rights neatly packaged for use when push comes to shove in California schools.  Some of these rights may come as a surprise to parents who are being denied a simple parent-teacher conference, can't get their child's records, are denied volunteer opportunities, were never given the school policies, or are having other difficulties in the public school environment.

Section 51101 affords the following rights to California public school parents (be advised this is an abbreviated list and is paraphrased):

1)  To be "mutually supportive and respectful partners" with the school.
2)  Within a reasonable time to observe their child's current classroom(s) and/or future classrooms if transferring.
3)  To meet with the teacher(s) or principal within a reasonable time of their request.
4)  To volunteer in the school or classroom, under supervision of school employees and with approval of the teacher (if volunteering in the classroom).
5)  To be notified if their child is absent on a timely basis.
6)  To receive the results of standardized and statewide tests.
7)  To request a particular school and receive a response.
8)  To have a safe environment supportive of learning.
9)  To examine curriculum materials of their child's classes.
10)  To be informed of their child's progress and whom the parent should contact if there are problems.
11)  To access their child's school records (see also Education Code 49069 which requires provision within 5 business days).
12)  To be provided with data regarding skills and standards their child is to meet.
13)  To be informed in advance of school rules, including discipline rules and procedures, attendance policies, dress codes, and procedures for visiting the school.
14)  To be informed regarding any psychological testing the school does and to refuse the testing.
15)  To participate in parent advisory committees, schoolsite councils, or site-based management leadership teams.
16)  To question anything in their child's records with which they disagree.

Now, parents, did you know you had all these rights????  Now go out and use them.

Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/

Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

School Dress Codes and the Right of California Parents to Opt Out of Uniform Requirements

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Earlier this week, a parent allegedly punched and injured an elementary school principal in Stockton, California.  According to the individuals interviewed in a Fox 40 (KTXL) video (see video below), this was supposed to be because of a t-shirt the student wore.  Apparently the parent thought her son was being targeted based on race.  I cannot comment on any of the alleged facts in the matter, BUT can discuss dress codes, opting out of them, and even gang-related apparel.

First, per California Education Code section 35183, schools may implement a dress code and may impose a requirement that students wear a uniform to school.  If a school chooses to go the uniform route, they are to provide no less than six months notice of the proposed change.  They are also to provide some sort of means by which low income families can afford the uniforms.

If a family does not want to have their child wear a uniform they may "opt out" of the uniform requirement.  How they do this is not specified in the code, but a district is required to outline just how a parent may opt out in their board policies.  Additionally, a student is not to be penalized in any way for not participating.

The school or district may also prohibit "gang-related apparel," but is required, per Education Code 32282, to define just what "gang-related apparel" is in their comprehensive school safety plan.  Per section 32282:  

The definition [of gang related apparel] shall be limited to apparel that, if worn or displayed on a school campus, reasonably could be determined to threaten the health and safety of the school environment.

If a parent has a concern over the dress code, they may want to review the school dress codes, and the opt out options.

Here's the video regarding the whole Stockton situation:



Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/



Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.