A major upset took place on first day of the very much anticipated 2021 National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) Division 1 Basketball Tournaments, and I am not referring to any of the games that took place on that day. In the evening of March 18th, University of Oregon Forward Sedona Prince took to social media to expose the evident discrepancies between the weight room facilities for the men’s and women’s tournament facilities. To prevent a coronavirus outbreak, each of the tournaments are taking place in a bubble funded by the NCAA. The video Prince posted showed the women’s tournament weight room which consisted of a single set of dumbbells, then showed the men’s tournament weight room that was supplied with various training equipment. Not only were there massive disparities between the weight rooms for the men’s and women’s tournaments, but there is also a clear and substantial difference in the “swag bags” given to each student athlete participating in the tournament from the NCAA. As well as the quality of food provided to the female student athletes who are competing in the tournament.
The incoming Biden administration includes Dr. Miguel Cardona as the new Secretary of Education. Advocates for students with disabilities recently met with Dr. Cardona to voice concerns about issues ranging from school discipline to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on special education services. In this meeting, Cardona stressed the importance of inclusivity in public schools and the need to promote the rights of people with disabilities, as well as to increase civil rights law enforcement by Office of Civil Rights (“OCR”). Providing a “free appropriate public education” or FAPE during this time came with tremendous costs to budgets and other burdens for school administrators who, in “good faith” tried to meet these standards. However, after the DOE initiated four investigations in the past month over concerns districts nationwide have failed to provide appropriate services to students with disabilities during the coronavirus pandemic. These investigations will be one of the first tasks Dr. Cardona will take on as Secretary of Education.
The new Title IX regulations that were introduced by the Department of Education (the Department) in May are officially in effect and require school districts to implement multiple changes in their Title IX compliance practices. Title IX explains that educational programs and activities receiving federal funding from the Department must not act in a discriminatory manner on the basis of sex. These new regulations extend many new protections against sexual harassment, and aim to protect the rights of students, mainly their right to due process. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools are challenged with implementing these new regulations while navigating the obstacles brought by the virus.
As thousands of schools across the country comply with state and local social distancing orders due to the global pandemic COVID-19 for this 2020-21 school year, many schools are now faced with having to educate students from their homes in either hybrid or fully remote models. Millions of students are now utilizing online educational services to aid in remote learning. Although these education technology companies (“EdTech”) are now providing crucial remote learning opportunities for students, school districts must also keep students’ privacy rights in mind. Many of these EdTech services will collect and use personal information of students who use their services. This is where the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”) pertains.
Preparing for the 2020-21 school year has been exceptionally challenging for students, teachers, and administrators than in years past. This year, not only will schools be battling the challenges presented in the return to in-person learning, there is also a growing concern that school districts and educational service agencies will face unparalleled rates of litigation for their inability to meet requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) during the months of remote learning. The IDEA guarantees eligible students with disabilities a “free appropriate public education” (FAPE). This Act also provides the right for parents to file a complaint through a due process hearing for when they believe their child is not being provided with a FAPE.