Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Schools, Colleges, And Current Trends In One Education Law Office

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

It has been a VERY busy year for my office, as our clients come from all across California and issues run the gamut.  With the internet, even MORE parents and students in trouble are finding me!  So, I thought I would reflect on what the recent trends have been in my office where I focus only on Education Law.

This year, I have seen a great number of interdistrict (between two districts) and intradistrict (within the same district) transfer issues.  It seems that many districts have been clamping down hard on students attending outside their area of residence.  My phones have exploded with issues where kids who may have been attending a school previously are suddenly denied entry, or the student expected to go to "School A", but now has to attend "School B" which the family thinks is a bad school.  It is distressing for all parties concerned, particularly the student! They don't know where they will attend, if they will have to make new friends, or what will happen.

I have also been handling a large amount of expulsions for a variety of matters, but have seen a rise in school expulsions for drug sales.  These are very sad situations where a student gets caught up in the moment and they do something wrong.

I have seen more college disability-related issues lately as well.  Disabled students in colleges need to ensure that they take the proper steps to notify the college of their disabilities and insist that proper accommodations be put in place.  Students also need to ensure that they are mindful of discipline policies, and that if they are punished, they force the college to follow its own policies on discipline (and state law).

Special education denials abound as well, as due to financial woes, it seems school districts deny more students or limit services.  This obviously leads to disputes!

Bullying by students and school staff (teachers, etc.) have hit my office, as well as expulsions for things on Facebook, in text messages, and otherwise.  This is a somewhat new area of punishment and it can be confusing.  I have found that many districts don't necessarily know or limit themselves to what the law requires in cases of internet or other electronic comments and can expel students technically outside their jurisdiction.  Expulsion for speech on the internet while off campus crosses over into the area of free speech and the First Amendment. Students retain their First Amendment free speech rights in the school setting, although that speech can be limited (see Tinker v. Des Moines and cases since this time).

There are so many more issues as well!  One thing which would help them all, and alleviate many parent complaints, is better communication with parents by school employees.  I often find that if better communication had been in place, the parents never would have ended up in my office in the first place.

What have your school issues been this year?

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
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