It has been more than 100 days since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. In the wake of this decision, on October 4, the Biden administration reinforced guidelines regarding legal protections related to abortion and pregnancy under Title IX.
Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which would bar Florida educators from speaking to students about LBGTQ+ topics that are not considered “age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students” has passed in Florida’s House and is likely to pass in the Senate as it now moves to the Republican-controlled Senate floor for a vote. The horrific piece of legislation, formally known as HB 1557, has raised questions as to whether the bill, if passed, would violate the First Amendment rights of teachers or students in public primary schools across the sunshine state.
In May of last year, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a Final Rule, amending the regulations implementing Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. With this guidance came a plethora of changes to how recipients of Federal financial assistance covered by Title IX must respond to allegations of sex-based discrimination. Amongst the most notable changes to these regulations, was the clarification that a reasonable person standard applies to certain elements which are, at times, necessary to prove sexual harassment under Title IX.
Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) released revised guidelines regarding physical distancing in K-12 schools. Originally, the CDC recommended that students should stay six feet away from each other in a classroom with mask but now recommends at least three feet between students in classrooms. These new guidelines will encourage more schools to return to the classroom around the nation.
For almost a year, schools have been reacting to the unprecedented circumstances that Covid-19 has caused. Most of the mitigation efforts thus far have been at the direction of state and local governments. Only recently have federal agencies given clear and substantial guidance on how to get students back into the classroom. Schools have largely fallen into three categories — in-person, remote, or a blended model that involves students doing some classwork at home and some at school. Some schools moved to increase their in-person learning and some have had to retrace their steps when positivity rates were too high, either in the school or in the larger community.
During February 2020, COVID-19 hit the United States and disrupted many lives all throughout the country. Many states shut down most businesses, stores, and restaurants except for all essential services. By March, schools were forced to create unconventional forms of teaching methods for the remainder of the school year such as e-learning and sending students lesson packets for the week. As the school year approaches, many school districts are still determining their instruction mode for the upcoming school year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines to reopening schools and advised school districts to work closely with local and state health officials to determine the best practices for reopening.
In times of economic recession, Americans historically have sought additional education to mitigate minimal employment prospects and retrain for an evolving job market. Coding bootcamps may be especially attractive in the era of COVID as they provide vocational training in a growing field and many programs are offered remotely by design. These programs may become even more enticing because of a new financing instrument called an income share agreement (“ISA”).
On May 19, 2020, the Department of Education published a final Title IX regulation that changes the rights and responsibilities for schools, complainants, and respondents. In summary, these regulations respond to the need to provide a prompt and just response to individuals who have suffered sexual harassment and provide due process for an alleged perpetrator. These changes create a standard grievance process, define conduct that constitutes sexual harassment, outline conditions that activate a school’s obligation to respond, impose a minimum standard of school response, and establish procedural due process protections.
During the expedited legislative session on May 20-24, the Illinois General Assembly passed HB 2455 which was signed into law as Public Act 101-633 on June 5, 2020. While well-intentioned, this Act could create a huge liability for school districts depending on how the Illinois Department of Employment Security (“IDES”) interprets the law. School districts are already facing an uncertain financial future and this law is adds more uncertainty and possibly more financial insecurity.
Public Act 101-0531 (“Act”) was signed into law on August 23, 2019. The Act is a step that the Illinois legislature has taken to protect students from recurring violence by school employees. It allows the Illinois State Board of Education (“ISBE”) to suspend an educator’s license if they are charged with crimes listed in Section 21B-80 of the Illinois School Code. If the person is acquitted of that crime, however, they would have their license reinstated. Prior to the enactment of this statute, ISBE had to wait until the conclusion of any criminal proceedings to revoke a teaching license if a teacher was charged with a sex crime or Class X felony. In addition to the change in agency authority, the bill also creates several reporting and policy review requirements that will help protect students from violence and school districts from liability.