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Articles: Laws

Some board members of Pasco County Schools discuss their policy revisions From left to right: Kevin Shibley, executive director for administration; Cynthia Armstrong, member; Alison Crumbley, chairwoman; and Joanne Hurley, member.

Some school employees face getting the short end of the stick as district leaders work to comply with new Affordable Care Act requirements while juggling tight budgets.

Districts that treat students with emotional disabilities with a “one-size-fits-all” behavioral approach across the system must change their policies, according to federal findings in a case against the Prince William County Public Schools in Virginia.

Angela Ciolfi, legal director of the Legal Aid Justice Center’s JustChildren Program, and two other attorneys filed a complaint in November of 2012 with the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the U.S. Department of Education.

Jessica Shelly, food services director of Cincinnati Public Schools, sits with an elementary student during lunch. Their nutritious lunch includes milk, carrots, apple sauce and yogurt.

A Chicago suburban district, realizing it would lose more money than it rakes in, opted out of the National School Lunch Program last month in response to strict, new health regulations. But many districts can’t afford to give up federal subsidies, forcing administrators to find ways to encourage students to eat healthier foods required by federal rules.

The ACLU says more than 130 New Jersey school districts may be violating federal law.

Some 136 of 590 New Jersey districts require parents to provide government-issued identification or a social security number before enrolling a child in school—a barrier for illegal immigrant families and a violation of federal law, according to an April survey from the state’s American Civil Liberties Union chapter.

Schools that don’t follow prayer guidelines included in No Child Left Behind risk losing federal funds.

New and pending laws in several Southern states are reaffirming students’ rights to pray during the school day and at school-sponsored events such as graduations and football games.

Laws passed in South Carolina in 2012 and Mississippi in 2013 allow students to pray at assemblies, athletic events and other school functions. A 2007 Texas law lets student express religious viewpoints when they speak at school events.

It was compromise that prevented a major teacher’s strike in February, as Portland Public Schools and the local union struck a bargain during an intense 24 hours of negotiating that ended months of deliberations.

Students at the GSA Network’s Queer Youth Advocacy day last spring in California advocated for the School Success and Opportunity Act. (Photo: GSA Network)

A first-of-its-kind law in California addressing the rights of transgender students in public schools has set guidelines for administrators on how to ensure safety and equality for these students, who are at an increased risk for bullying.

is Van Roekel speaks at a recent conference, sponsored by the Education Writers Association and held at the University of Chicago, about teacher evaluations. Next to him, from his left are:

Changing state laws and the rise of evaluations have given administrators more flexibility in removing tenured teachers, a task that had long been nearly impossible. More states are tying student achievement to teacher evaluations and renegotiating contracts.

A Northern Valley Regional High School junior protested the random drug testing policy at a September school board meeting, saying that the testing would make students feel like criminals.

A New Jersey district’s proposal to randomly drug test students in extracurricular activities has parents and the school board divided over district transparency.

The board at Northern Valley Regional High School District in Bergen County, N.J., voted in July to draft a policy for the testing as a supplement to other education-based drug prevention efforts in the district of two high schools.

A Connecticut school district in the suburbs of New York City violated the IDEA by denying special education students the proper services for the past year, according to a recent Connecticut State Department of Education investigation. The case shows districts may run afoul of the law if special education services are reduced due to budget cuts.

Accordian-style lifts work well in multipurpose rooms or gyms, where balls or other objects cannot be trapped under the machine.

Products such as automatic doors, mechanical lifts, and low, touchless trough sinks increase accessibility in schools. Design elements can also increase accessibility beyond ADA requirements, says Karen Braitmayer, an accessibility consultant.

“A big trend right now is school buildings that have a clarity of organization,” she says. “Good wayfinding is useful to students with cognitive, hearing, and sight impairments.”

Each portable Ascension wheelchair lift has a control panel outside and inside, which allows passengers to operate the lift themselves unless they have assistance.

Districts need to train teachers and paraprofessionals on assisting students with disabilities without injuring themselves or the student. Part of that training must include being aware of every students’ specific needs, says Kathy Espinoza, assistant vice president, ergonomics and safety for Keenan, an insurance brokerage firm.

Espinoza trains teachers and school staff to properly lift students with mobility impairments. “Students may have brittle bones or attempt to go limp when being lifted,” she says. “These are things to be aware of and prepare for.”

Jeff Brown, right, athletic trainer at Flower Mound High School in Texas, tends to an injured football player during a game.

With the start of football and the rest of the 2013-2014 school athletic calendar, districts are looking at new laws and training recommendations to help avoid deadly health problems among the 7.5 million students who will play high school sports this year.

States and school districts could win some authority back from the federal government under a controversial update to the Elementary and Secondary Schools Act (ESEA) passed in July by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Student Success Act would eliminate the adequate yearly progress measures of No Child Left Behind and allow states to create their own benchmarks. And federal programs like President Barack Obama’s Race to the Top initiative would end, leaving states and districts to develop their own plans for turning around underperforming schools.

A Texas law that forces students who have missed an excessive amount of school to go to court and sometimes jail has been challenged as unconstitutional by a coalition of advocacy groups for young people and the disabled.