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National School Law Experts: Adopt Good Policies and Procedures, Follow Them Every Time

Kacie Kefgen

By Kacie Kefgen, MASB Assistant Director of Labor Relations and Legal Services

DashBoard, March 25, 2015

That was the theme from the Council of School Attorneys Conference in Nashville last week in virtually every presentation and discussion. School attorneys from all across the country, including Joel [Gerring] and I, updated one another on a variety of hot legal topics that many local school districts are facing already or will likely face soon. Here are a few of them:

Transgendered Students and Staff—The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights’ guidance has observed that “gender-based” harassment includes harassment due to nonconformity with gender norms or sex stereotypes. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has also weighed in and has decided that an employer violates the law when it refuses to hire, fires, demotes or otherwise subjects a transgender employee to adverse employment conditions because of the employee’s status as transgender. It is important for districts to have a thoughtful set of policies in place to address transgender issues and to implement them consistently.

Workplace Bullying—After the 2013-2014 Miami Dolphins bullying scandal involving two football players, the number of workplace bullying cases has increased dramatically across the country. Just like cases of student bullying, good bullying policies to protect employees can be difficult to draft effectively. Furthermore, attorneys from Indiana have seen an increase in bullying claims after the implementation of the state’s new educator evaluation statute, which is similar to Michigan’s laws.  

Religion in Schools—Remember that there is a big difference between what the government (the school, in this case) can do or say regarding religion in school and what a student can do or say about religion in school. Teachers and principals, who work with students and employees directly, should know the issues to consider in deciding whether a given practice is ok for school and whether it is not. Experts at the conference warned about a new proliferation of religious groups offering in-school antibullying workshops that invite students to worship activities outside school hours.

If you have questions about these or other school law topics, feel free to call or email me at kkefgen@masb.org or 517.327.5914.

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