Unless you happen to fall within the shrinking minority of Americans who do not use a cellphone, you have probably received a telemarketing robocall that promises a Florida vacation or an opportunity to pursue a new career that will make you rich within six months. While such calls have become a common nuisance in our everyday lives, the use of automated calls or "robocalls" by school entities has become a common, convenient way for schools to send out announcements regarding matters that range from routine notifications about school events to updates about school emergencies. Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Declaratory Ruling that provides important guidelines for schools related to a school's use of robocalls and automated texts under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
As someone who frequently relies on my wife for technical assistance with my personal laptop, tablet and smartphone, I can be easily distracted by the pretty lights and colors associated with most websites. While visual aesthetics might be a consideration for the design of school district websites, compliance with accessibility requirements under federal law should be a high priority in the design and maintenance of such sites.
For some, Summer evokes memories of camping, swimming, catching fireflies and other childhood endeavors. For many involved in public education in Pennsylvania, it also means attempting to understand the latest amendments to the Pennsylvania School Code to prepare for the upcoming school year. Some of the more recent changes to the School Code include statutory changes that will affect the way school districts manage the treatment and care of students with diabetes.
In two recent decisions, the Commonwealth Court reminded public school employers that the failure to follow procedural requirements for dismissing a tenured employee may result in the reinstatement of that employee. In the cases of New Kensington-Arnold School District v. New Kensington Arnold Education Association and School District of Philadelphia vs. Jones, the Commonwealth Court's rulings resulted in the reinstatement of a teacher who was terminated for using inappropriate language with students and a teacher who was dismissed following an arrest for possession of a "sawed off" shot gun, marijuana and drug paraphernalia.
On May 13, 2016 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.
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.