Monday, October 22, 2018

How To Survive Public School With Less Chance Of Discipline -What You Need To Tell Your Kids BEFORE They Go To School

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Over the years, I have had my eyes opened far larger than the average parent on just what can lead to school discipline due to all the terrible stories I have heard in my law practice.  I often find myself trying to cram in general advice for parents on what to tell their kids so they will be less likely to get suspended or expelled.  Is it possible to prevent all chance of suspension or expulsion?  No.  However, perhaps a little wisdom shared with your kids may help them avoid some issues.

So, here are some simple things to share with your kids, whatever age they may be, to try to prevent problems long before they start:  

Things Brought to School

1)  Don't bring any odd household objects to school.  For example, that steak knife, or that sharp thing from your recent trip, may mean discipline.
2)  Check your pants pockets prior to going to school and don't leave any multitools or pocket knives in them.  Kids may go fishing over the weekend and drop a multitool with a blade into their pocket and wear the same pants to school.  We don't want to bring these items to school.
3)  Same goes for backpacks, purses, and anything taken to school. [Parents- check their stuff too.]
4)  Never bring a weapon or fake weapon (e.g. airsoft gun), to school, for "protection" or for any other reason.

Found/Shared Items

5)  Don't agree to hold anything for anyone else.  
6)  Don't pick up that dangerous object you see on the ground- tell an adult if you wish (parents you decide on that one), but don't touch it.  

Physical Contact

7)  Don't hit or stab someone with something.  Even a pencil can be a weapon if used the wrong way.
8)  Hands off is a great policy. And no hitting, shoving, tripping, etc.
9)  Don't get in that fight- handle it another way if possible as discipline usually follows regardless of who started it.  

Communication

10)  Don't make fun of others for being fat, gay, from a certain country, for being male/female, etc.- this could lead to a bullying allegation and discipline.
11)  Don't draw (e.g. doodling etc.) weapons, explosives or scenes of murder, decapitation, etc,.  Teachers and school staff are sensitive to these.
12)  Don't repeat (verbally, in writing, etc.) violent lyrics.  The lyric "I'm gonna roll in and destroy you," can be misinterpreted and be a basis for discipline.
13)  Don't make lists of classmates for negative purposes or say you have a "list" of classmates you don't like/want to hurt, etc.  
14)  Don't tell anyone you are going to hurt them, may hurt them, someone will hurt them, etc.
15)  Don't say or post that you are going to damage or harm the school, students, or a school staff member at any time.

Social Media

16)  Be very careful what you post, like, comment on, and what student groups you join on line.  I have seen students punished for posting/liking a post that was allegedly improper and for being in a group which made fun of students.
17)  Don't take or post photos with weapons or imitation weapons (e.g. air soft guns).
18)  Be careful what you text/photograph/forward.
19)  A "private group" is not really a private group on line.  Other students (even non-members) or a parent may turn in something inappropriate.  Just get your kids to understand that ultimately, nothing is really "private" on line, regardless how small the group.
20)  Snapchat, despite rumors, is definitely not a safe place to post things - many kids think Snapchat means instant post then gone forever.  You don't know how many times I have had Snapchat posts as a basis for discipline.  People screenshot items and turn them in to schools all the time.
21)  No nude photos of yourself or others.  And don't pass them on if someone sends these to you.

Relationships

22)  Be careful with relationships- I have many times seen girls make allegations against boys which get them in trouble, and the boys have no defense if no one else is there.  This applies to all genders and all types of relationships.

Drugs/Medications

23)  Don't agree to get any improper substance for anyone, for free, paid or otherwise.  No controlled substances should be exchanged.
24)  No possession of nicotine, vaping material, drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia.
25)  Marijuana is still prohibited.
26)  Don't carry anyone else's prescriptions or medications.
27)  All prescription or non-prescription medications (even cough drops) must be okayed by the school office, and if you want to carry them, the school must okay this.  No sharing your medications.

Bullying

28)  Report bullying to your parent and to the office in written/online form so there is a record. 

Basics/Attendance

29)  Use basic manners and common sense at school- if it feels its wrong, maybe it is.
30)  A day off of school for a vacation or personal reasons (other than religious, funeral, medical  or other legitimate excused), will be an unexcused absence.  If you will go out of town for a vacation during school time, get advanced approval of a short term independent study contract so there are no truancy issues.

And last but not least, have a plan if your child gets called into the office on what they need to do, how they can get a hold of you (the parent) when the office won't let them call you - e.g. texting you- and what they should say or not say at the office.   

This does not cover all possibilities, but it should be enough to get a productive conversation started.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[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.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

2018 CIF Sports Transfer Rule- First Sit Out Period Now Fifty Percent Of Season

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF), which governs all high school sports, has yet again changed the time a student must sit out of a sport [Sit Out Period (SOP)] when transferring for the first time without a family move.  This rule should apply until August 2019 when they may or may not change it again.

CIF is a problem child for many California high schoolers, as they can be very strict and can stop a student's ability to participate in varsity level sports, often without all the facts.  One common issue is when a student transfers schools their first time, but their family does not move.  If this student does not transfer based on a discipline matter and have not transferred in high school before (ensuring they generally won't play for a year), they will face a limited varsity SOP at the new school for any sport where they participated at their former school.  

Previously, CIF had specific sit out dates for various sports.  However, as of today, CIF has implemented a 50% (plus one day if the season days is an odd number of days) sit out rule.  The amended rule, in bylaw 207 B(5)b(ix) states in part:

The Sit-Out Period will be 50% of the total number days in that particular season of sport. The number of days in a season is determined by each Section in accordance with their first allowable competition date through the final regular season competition date. If total number of days in a season is an odd number, then the Sit Out Period would be 50% plus one additional day. 

This means if a season went 120 days, the student could not participate for 60 of the 120 days. If it was 121 days, the student would sit out 61 days.

Additionally, if a student played in the same sport at the prior school during the same school year they transferred, they would not be able to play at all that year.  Other various rules apply as well.

CIF is the bane of many parents lives, and will usually strictly apply rules with few options for appealing SOPs imposed except under certain limited bases.  Parents beware when moving your sports-playing students.

Best,




Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[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.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Importance Of The Chronic Illness Form When Your Child Is Sick

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Life may seem rosy for most California public school kids as they can attend school and are there for most of the material, homework, tests and other school activities.  However, if you find your child is missing a lot of school due to a long term illness and attendance is becoming an issue, completion of a "Chronic Illness Verification  Form" may help protect your child, as well as you, from truancy and other issues.

Truancy laws in California can be very heavy handed and allow punishment for a student with 3 unexcused absences and/or who misses more than 30 minutes in a day without valid excuse (Ed §48260).  Although most schools allow students to miss 3 days without a doctor's note, and only parent verification of illness, the fourth day means a mandated visit to a doctor just to get a note.  If the parent does not get this note for that day and days following, the student may be stuck with an unexcused absence.  Three of these unexcused sick days (days beyond what the school allows a parent to excuse) without a doctor's note may may mean the student is labelled a "truant."  

What happens if the child has an illness which keeps them out for a week at a time, and a doctor visit won't alter this (as it is a chronic condition such as cancer, heart condition, debilitating stomach or pain issues, etc.)?  The parent is still forced to drag their child to a waiting room to see a medical person, and must incur a bill for the office visit just to confirm the child is ill and receives an excused absence.  This is even the case  if the parent already knows their child is sick from illness, but must just stay out a fourth, fifth, etc. day of school in a row prior to being able to return to school.

Schools may not tell parents, but when a student has issues where they physically cannot attend school frequently, which are medically documented, the parent has options other than dragging their child to the doctor on the fourth day of any absence.  These options are not always communicated to families by schools.  

One great option for parents is to have their doctor complete a "Chronic Illness Verification Form,"  (link to form which opens a Word document). This form gives the parent the ability to excuse their child beyond the 3 days the schools normally allow.  The preface in the form states:

"The Chronic Illness Form allows parents to excuse absences due to a specific medical condition with the same authority as a medical professional." 

It may be best to ask for the school's form as a first step, but a parent does not have to wait to get this form from their school.  Rather, parents can take this form directly to their child's doctor.   

Once this form is completed by the medical professional, it is returned to the school, which may verify the form came from the physician.  Thereafter, the parent may excuse their child for medical reasons for an extended time period without having to go to the doctor.  Work missed should be able to be made up and truancy issues will hopefully not be pursued (fingers crossed as some districts try to pursue truancy for "excessive excused" absences).

Other options for help with this type of situation are Home Hospital Instruction (HHI), as well as setting up a Section 504 Plan, or even an IEP (Individualized Education Program).  However, while those may be pending or even not pursued by the parent, this form can help a parent deal with a student who just cannot go to school due to their illness.  It allows an already stressed parent to breathe a large sigh of relief that even though their child is very ill, at least a doctor's visit is not needed every fourth day to avoid truancy at school.    

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[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, April 6, 2018

Searches Of Underclothing At School Are Illegal

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Most parents will never have much involvement with the drama of school expulsions, heavy allegations against their kids, nor the shock of hearing their child had something improper at school hidden in their pocket.  Occasionally, however, there are horror stories involving searches by school officials looking for alleged contraband which go way too far.

In the infamous case Safford v. Redding, the United States Supreme Court found a school strip search of an Arizona eighth grader in violation of the student's Fourth Amendment right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.  The Court in Safford, however,  left some questions open for Arizona, such as whether a strip search could proceed with a specific allegation of a dangerous object being in e.g. underwear.  However, California had already answered this question prior to Safford, strictly prohibiting searches of private places and underwear. 


No school employee shall conduct a search that involves:

(a) Conducting a body cavity search of a pupil manually or with an instrument.


(b) Removing or arranging any or all of the clothing of a pupil to permit a visual inspection of the underclothing, breast, buttocks, or genitalia of the pupil.

This means that school employees can't lift a girls shirt to see if she has a joint in her bra.  They can't pull down a boys pants to see if he has a pipe, nor lift a girl's skirt to see if she has a weapon hidden.  Such searches are illegal and flat prohibited in California.

Only a handful of times since 1994 have I personally met parents with stories of searches gone wild,  where a student was made to take off articles of clothing or things were moved to reveal underwear.  Often these situations are hard to prove, hard on the kids testifying, and school predators may get away with their wrongful conduct.  This is because there is a bias in our society against youths and their believability.  Schools and adults, when faced with an adult versus child situation, usually believe the adult.  Predators know this which is why kids are the easiest targets.  Who will believe Tim, who said I pulled his pants down to check his underwear?  Not many will, and maybe not even his parents.  And how do you prove it?  It is a tough situation in every regard.

Regardless, I wanted to put out there and remind students and parents that schools MAY NOT search them internally, nor extend any search for contraband to underwear, bras, or private places.

Stories that I hear once in a while of the overstepping which can occur would shock most parents.  They are occasional at best, but still something to know about and discuss with your kids.  If something untoward occurs, it should be jumped on immediately with appropriate reports and complaints filed.

Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[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.

For more information, see also: https://digitalcommons.pace.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1753&context=lawfaculty

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Student Electronic Posts Online (In Public Or Private Groups, Chats, And Texts) Are Not Really Private And May Bring Punishment

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Students frequently post things online, make snarky comments to friends, and feel protected posting in "private" online forums, such as Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or otherwise.  However, these posts can come back to haunt them when they are called in and suspended or placed up for expulsion.  Even great kids can post something wrong sometime--and "get away with it," but how long can their luck last?  For some- the answer is not long enough.

In recent months, I have seen more and more kids up for expulsion or suspension for posts or comments in electronic media.  This is really disturbing as some of the things I see students being punished for really do not support school discipline.  Schools also seem to now be lumping student groups together for punishment, rather than looking at individual culpability.  Staff are choosing to punish all student members of a private group where posts were made regardless of whether they actually committed a suspendable or expellable act themselves.  This is disturbing to say the least, for students and families across California.

So, I thought a review would be helpful so parents can review this with their kids prior to it being "too late."

The California Education Code now extends jurisdiction for student acts far beyond the school doors and the school day.  This really began in full force when the bullying discipline rules were developed, as outlined in section 48900(r).  These rules allow punishment for bullying activities, including "electronic acts."  This punishment may be okay if the traditional rules of jurisdiction applied limiting schools in the scope of their punishment to student acts going from/to school, at school or school events, etc. which has previously been a limiting factor.

However, the legislature now allows electronic acts to support school punishment for bullying, intimidation, harassment, etc and define "electronic act" (Ed 48900(r)(2)(a)) as: 

"“Electronic act” means the creation or transmission originated on or off the schoolsite, by means of an electronic device, including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager, of a communication..." [underline added]

Well, this has opened the floodgates to jurisdiction, as now schools can reach internet or phone posts at home, on weekends, or any other time posted.  This coupled with schools labeling all negative comments on line as "bullying," "intimidation" or "harassment," when they are negative about a group, person, or school staff member, even if private or only told to a small group of students, has resulted in a boom of student punishments.  Parents, who have never before encountered the school discipline machine are being called and told that what their child did online was bullying and they are out.  With the limited investigations being performed, this can be fast and terrifying for student and parent alike.

Some examples of what schools are punishing students for nowadays  (some valid, some invalid) include:

1)  Posts involving criticism of students or staff.
2)  Posts discussing acts that are hypothetical (e.g. harming a student with no real intent).
3)  Jokes or funny pictures.
4)  Posts with weapons and/or threatening someone.
5)  Comments about racial groups, disabled students, or just students in general whether actually bullying them or not
6)  Comments about the opposite sex and sexual matters
7)  Anything the school sees as "negative" and can squeeze into the bullying, harassment, intimidation, etc. category
8)  So many other things----

Schools will also use any data gleaned to develop "reasonable suspicion" to then investigate a student for e.g. drug sales, or other inappropriate activities.

Parents of kids who made an offhand comment on a private chat,or otherwise, are now faced with their children being suspended or even expelled for their comments or jokes.  The executioner- the school- doesn't really care about First Amendment rights, but rather care about getting any perceived threat out so they can cover themselves.

These rules and their application to everything people say on line if comments somehow relate to the school setting or someone who is involved with the schools, chills free speech.  I imagine someday, some large civil rights group may try to challenge the application of these policies to try to limit them, but for now, we are faced with having to stop our kids from posting anything that anyone under the sun could misinterpret as offensive, harassing, bullying, intimidating, inappropriate, discussing race, sexual relations, or otherwise being interpreted as wrong.  How are kids to do this?  It can be tough to not make a 5 second offhand comment online which later someone says was inappropriate.

And, one large rule to remember here: NO ELECTRONIC POST, PICTURE, OR PRIVATE GROUP IS REALLY PRIVATE.  If a student posts something privately and one other student or parent reports it- it is no longer private.  Even in Snapchat where supposedly pictures are gone forever- people take screenshots of negative posts and turn them in to the schools frequently.  

Parents, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, and I don't agree with the long arm of the schools now in place.  However, for now, parents, please discuss this speech-chilling situation with your kids and advise them to be cautious in what they post, and perhaps, to ask themselves  prior to posting or joining a group where inappropriate comments are made: "If my school principal saw this post/group what would he/she say?"


Best,

Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney 

LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL 
717 K Street, Suite 228 
Sacramento, CA 95814 
Phone: 916-444-9064 
Email:help@edlaw4students.com 
Fax: 916-444-1209
[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.