On May 13, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the U.S. Department of Education made headlines by issuing a "Dear Colleague" letter regarding the rights of transgender students. While "Dear Colleague" letters are not statutory or regulatory law, the letter is an expression of the OCR's interpretation of federal law and how the OCR intends to enforce the law.
The following are some of the important points from the OCR's letter:
Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued information encouraging school districts to stock and administer an antidote for opioid overdoses called Naloxone, commonly referred to as “Narcan.” The Department of Health’s communication was issued more than a year after the passage of Act 139 of 2014, a law that provides the legal authority for certain individuals to administer Narcan. Last week, PSBA issued a Policy News Network (“PNN”) newsletter with a model policy to provide districts with resources on this subject. Because our school clients might have important questions regarding Narcan, we are issuing the following summary about this issue.
Even though we are just starting a new year, it is important to start thinking about tax planning, if you have not done so already. Spring may seem far off, but April 15 will be here before we know it. It’s difficult to do any meaningful tax planning for 2015 at that point. One of the most common tax deductions is charitable giving, but did you know that you may be able to deduct more than just gifts or contributions to charities? If you volunteer your time for a non-profit organization, you should be aware that your generosity may entitle you to some tax breaks.
Ready or not, TRID (Truth in Lending - Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act Integrated Disclosures) is fully integrated into all residential real estate transactions involving residential mortgages, effective for all transactions inked after October 3, 2015. TRID does not apply to commercial real estate loans or cash deals.
We at CGA have been following an important and interesting story in which the DA launched an investigation in Lancaster County in response to a Sunshine Act Violation. While no findings were made by the DA at this time and no charges will be brought, it is important to understand what this board did wrong in the eyes of the press and the DA (and what avoided prosecution at this time).
Video Surveillance can provide municipalities with security and peace of mind. However, such technology can also create new issues and concerns. Recordings of surveillance footage are subject to the Right-to-Know Law, and municipalities must address requests for video footage. Some video systems might record over previous footage in order to save space. If so, the municipality might need to reference its document retention policy. Municipalities must make sure to preserve any footage while a request is pending if the footage existed at the time of the initial request.
Municipalities are frequently witness to the tensions between large-scale farmers and their residential neighbors who resent the effects of these farms on their way of life. Concentrated farming operations are strictly regulated by the Commonwealth; but even a large-scale farm that complies thoroughly with all of Pennsylvania’s requirements can generate odors, insects or runoff which create at least the perception of problems or violations in the eyes of neighbors. Municipal officials are often pulled in both directions - to support one side’s position or take action to correct the other.
Act 168 of 2014 took effect in December amending the Public School Code of 1949. The Act adds a section to the Code entitled “Employment History Review” which imposes requirements pertaining to employment involving direct contact with children. The amendments are designed to require and enable schools and independent contractors to conduct background checks in the interest of protecting children. This Act affects school entities and independent contractors that are hiring applicants as well as current or previous employers of persons who apply for positions with other entities.
Most school districts are in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with their employees. During this process, modifications and/or additions are made to the collective bargaining agreement as it relates to certain contract language. It is important for parties to ensure that the language they are modifying or adding to the collective bargaining agreement is understood by both parties as it relates to how it will be applied to the district.
The Commonwealth Court has provided a decision on whether or not home addresses of employees may be released under the Right-To-Know Law. This case has been ongoing since 2009 and was brought by the Pennsylvania State Education Association which was against the releasing of school employee’s home addresses pursuant to the Right-To-Know Law. The Court found that there was no constitutional right to privacy in one’s home address. However, the Court found that there was a due process right for the employee to be able to raise viable objections when one’s home address is requested. Furtherm
The disparate nature of school district responses to claims of student bullying led to different results in recent decisions from the federal appellate courts. In a September 2014 decision, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s ruling, which dismissed a student’s claims against the district related to bullying she experienced at the hands of her classmates.