CGA Law Firm Elects Attorney Zachary E. Nahass a Shareholder

CGA Law Firm is pleased to announce that Attorney Zachary E. Nahass has been elected a member of the Firm.

CGA Law Firm’s president, Jeffrey L. Rehmeyer II, notes, “Zach has been a dedicated, hard-working and insightful attorney for the CGA Law Firm since the day he joined us. He is a skilled advocate for his clients, especially in litigation matters.” He adds, “Zach is also an involved member of our community. We look for him to continue to help and to impact others as a shareholder and owner of the Firm.”

Attorney Nahass focuses his legal practice in the areas of business law, labor and employment law, civil litigation, immigration law and education law. He counsels local businesses and entrepreneurs on issues from start-up through succession, including choice of corporate entity, employment matters, acquisitions, regulatory compliance and licensing.

Attorney Nahass offers counsel to school districts on a variety of issues, including labor and employment matters, student discipline and special education compliance.

In the event of litigation, he offers representation to individuals, businesses and school districts in various administrative and judicial forums.

Attorney Nahass received his Juris Doctorate from The American University, Washington College of Law and his undergraduate degree from the University of New Hampshire. He is licensed to practice in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Prior to joining CGA Law Firm, he owned a successful private practice in Maryland. Attorney Nahass also spent several years as a litigation associate in a boutique firm in the District of Columbia.

Attorney Nahass serves as a member of the Board of Directors for Big Brothers Big Sisters of York & Adams County and York Art Association. He also assists Leadership York as a Community Ambassador for the Future Leaders Program and is attorney advisor for the Red Lion High School Mock Trial Team.

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Founded 51 years ago, CGA Law Firm’s team of 35 attorneys and 35 professionals offers depth of experience, passion and skill to businesses, individuals, municipalities and school districts. Practice areas include:

  • Bankruptcy & Debt Restructuring
  • Business & Corporate Law
  • Elder Care, Estate Planning & Administration
  • Education Law
  • Family Law
  • Health Law
  • Labor & Employment Law
  • Litigation
  • Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Municipal Law
  • Real Estate Law

CGA Law Firm prides itself on its commitment to community. The Firm supports a wide variety of charitable, cultural, educational and civic organizations throughout South Central PA with charitable donations, volunteer involvement and pro bono services.

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School Law Training: May 22, 2017

You’re Invited to a School Law Training Session

on Monday, May 22 from 5 – 7 p.m. at CGA Law Firm!

Join the co-chairs of CGA’s School Law Group, Margaret “Mieke” Driscoll and Sean A. Fields, for a complimentary training for School Directors, Superintendents and Administrators regarding recent developments in school law.

The session will focus on:

  • Student Expression Under the First Amendment
  • Transgender Students: The Shifting Landscape
  • Student Discipline Issues including Bullying and Social Media
  • Employee Discipline Procedures for School Boards and Superintendents
  • Stump the School Law Attorneys: Bring any general questions you have about school law.

CLICK TO REGISTER NOW

Registration Deadline: Thursday, May 18  

135 N. George Street | York, PA 17401 | On-site parking is available.


CGA School Law Attorneys

Margaret “Mieke” Driscoll | Sean A. Fields | Jeffrey L. Rehmeyer II

Zachary E. Nahass | Christine Nentwig | Peter R. Andrews

CGA Law Firm Boosts School, Municipal and Labor & Employment Law Groups with Addition of Sean A. Fields

Attorney Sean A. Fields recently joined CGA Law Firm in York, PA. He brings over 12 years of experience and expertise in School Law, Municipal Law and Labor & Employment Law to CGA. During his 12-year career practicing school law with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), he successfully worked with superintendents, school directors, and solicitors on a variety of legal issues including student discipline, extracurricular activities, employment matters, taxation, and constitutional rights. He is skilled in drafting school district policies, analyzing statutes, writing briefs and providing legal training to school leaders at every level.

Sean has experience dealing with the Sunshine Act, Right-to-Know Law, competitive bidding, and Ethics Act issues. In addition, he is skilled in reviewing and developing employment policies and providing training to clients so they can mitigate risks. He is experienced in dealing with hiring practices and employment discrimination. Sean has worked specifically with school districts on issues involving employee discipline and employee rights. He is also an accomplished presenter and author.

Sean is a graduate of The Dickinson School of Law of Penn State University and Northern Kentucky University. He is admitted to the United States Middle District Court of Pennsylvania, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit and the United States Supreme Court. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at Shippensburg University and Harrisburg Area Community College.

According to CGA Law Firm president, Jeffrey L. Rehmeyer II, “Sean was a valuable resource while he served as counsel at the Pennsylvania School Boards Association. He was insightful and helpful on a variety of school law issues, including employment and discipline. Sean’s knowledge on the laws governing public meetings and public records is impeccable. We are happy that Sean has joined us at the CGA Law Firm, adding to our depth in both the school and municipal law departments.” He notes, “Sean is an interesting and humorous individual, in addition to being a terrific lawyer.”

CGA Law Firm is comprised of 29 attorneys advising individuals, businesses, municipalities and school districts throughout South-central Pennsylvania on their legal needs. Focused on what is important to their clients and the outcomes they want to achieve, the attorneys at CGA listen and provide sound advice in order to reach their clients’ personal and business goals. Practice areas include:

  • Bankruptcy & Debtor/Creditor Rights
  • Civil & Commercial Litigation
  • Corporate & Business Law
  • Domestic & Family Law
  • Labor & Employment Law
  • Health Law
  • Estate Planning & Administration
  • Immigration
  • Intellectual Property
  • Land Use & Development
  • Mediation/Alternative Dispute Resolution
  • Municipal Law
  • Military Law
  • Real Estate
  • School Law
  • Taxation

Additionally, CGA Law Firm prides itself on its commitment to community. The firm supports a wide variety of charitable, cultural, educational and civic organizations throughout South Central PA with charitable donations, volunteer involvement and pro bono services.

Third Circuit Court Expands Potential Recovery Under IDEA

In a precedential decision issued on September 22, 2015, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals resolved what had been a matter of confusion and dispute among lower courts and administrative hearing officers. In G.L. v. Ligonier Valley School District Authority, the Appeals Court applied the most expansive possible interpretation of potential recovery under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

The source of the confusion was two seemingly conflicting provisions of the statute: one that requires IDEA claims to be filed within two years of the date on which the parents knew or should have known of a violation, and one that describes a due process complaint as asserting claims for an injury that occurred not more than two years before the reasonable discovery date.

The District argued, and the Hearing Officer agreed, that those provisions permitted relief only for injuries that occurred in the two years preceding the filing of a complaint. On appeal, the District Court held that the statute was properly interpreted to allow relief for injuries occurring up to two years prior to the reasonable discovery date, so long as a complaint was filed within the two years following reasonable discovery. In other words, under the District Court’s theory, a student might be entitled to a maximum of four years of relief, extending from two years before the discovery date until two years after discovery.
In the Court of Appeals’ analysis, it cited the broad remedial scheme of the IDEA in rejecting even the more expansive reading of the statute provided by the District Court. The Court’s precedential holding is that:

“. . . once a violation is reasonably discovered by the parent, any claim for that violation, however far back it dates, must be filed within two years of the “knew or should have known” date. If it is not, all but the most recent two years before the filing of the complaint will be time-barred; but if it is timely filed, then, upon a finding of liability, the entire period of the violation should be remedied (emphasis supplied).”

Compensatory education is now clearly available for a period equal to the term that a student is shown to have been deprived appropriate services, so long as a complaint is filed within two years of the parents’ discovery of the deprivation.

For school districts, the Court’s decision reinforces the need to have robust and effective child-find procedures in place and to ensure that staff are effectively implementing those policies. The failure to identify and service eligible students will certainly be more costly in the aftermath of G.L.

 

This post was written by Zachary E. Nahass. It was included in the October 2015 edition of CGA Law Firm’s School Law News.

Video Recordings in School Districts

In today’s technological society most, if not all, school districts are equipped with video cameras within and outside school buildings. Questions have risen as to who has access to view these video recordings.

Recently, two court cases have been decided which shed some light on whether or not individuals have the ability to access these video recordings. Pursuant to these two decisions, parents would be permitted to have access to these videos under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and under the Pennsylvania Right to Know law.

In regard to the video surveillance being subject to FERPA, the Utah Court of Appeals found a video is protected under FERPA and can only be disclosed under the requirements of this law. In Bryner v. Canyon School District, 2015 UT App 131 (May 29, 2015), the defendant filed a complaint in the trial court seeking to compel the school district to produce a copy of a video surveillance recording taken by a security camera at a school. The district determined that the video constituted an education record and the disclosure requirements of  FERPA prohibited release of the record to the plaintiff without the consent of the parents of the other students shown in the video. The plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment seeking a ruling that the video was not an education record within the meaning of FERPA.

The court denied the plaintiff’s motion,  ruling the record sought was an education record, that it contained the personally identifiably information of other students, and that the video was therefore subject to disclosure requirements of FERPA. The trial court also ruled that the district had to produce a redacted version of the video, but only if the plaintiff paid the cost of the redaction. The plaintiff challenged this ruling on appeal. The Utah Court of Appeals agreed with the trial court that the video was subject to FERPA and the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment was thus correctly denied. Because FERPA forbids release of the unredacted video, the court also agreed that the district may produce only a redacted copy and the plaintiff should bear the cost of that redaction. The Court went on to state in its analysis that due to the fact that the Family Policy Compliance Office of the United States Department of Education (which implements and oversees compliance with FERPA) determined that images of students involved in an incident caught on video do constitute education records of those students. Therefore, the video is nothing more than a record of the actions of the students involved in the video and therefore the students’ images in the video constitute information identifying the students. Accordingly, the video contained information “directly related to the students involved in the incident.”  Since it was determined by the court that the video constituted information identifying the student, the protections were afforded under FERPA for disclosure.

School districts need to realize that parents do have the right to view videos of their children when the child is involved in an incident captured on video. However, under the ruling out of Utah, districts will also need to understand that, should  a request from a parent and/or an outsider for release of information on a video surveillance is filed, the district may have to supply the video with redacted images for use. Without the redaction of certain parts of the video surveillance, which would identify other students, then the restrictions on disclosure under FERPA should be followed and parental permission is required in order to release the video in its entirety.

Recently, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania decided in Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) v. Grove, No. 1146 C.D. 2014 – July 7, 2015, that a request by an individual for a video from the PSP should be provided. The Court concluded that such recordings of a police stop are not exempt from disclosure. The Court affirmed that the Office of Open Records Order requiring the PSP to provide a copy of the video recording, which contains no audio component, should be provided and that redaction of exempt information from the audio component of that recording should also be provided. This same interpretation can be used in the video surveillance for school districts.

The reason that this case is important is that a school district, like the Pennsylvania State Police, is a public agency. If you have a video recording of an incident, it may be subject to the Right To Know law, however school districts will need to evaluate the specific video and determine if redaction of that video is allowed to be released pursuant to the exemptions under the law. School districts can no longer flat out deny a request for a copy of a video recording. Districts will need to carefully evaluate the specific recording and determine if there is any need for redaction based on the protections under the law.

To summarize these cases, video recording of incidents occurring within school districts may be subject to disclosure and/or protections under the law. If the video recording is an incident involving a student, the district will need to determine if, pursuant to FERPA, permission is going to be needed to release the video and/or if the video can be released with proper redactions. Furthermore, a Right To Know Request for a video recording must be evaluated by the Right To Officer of the school district and the Right To Know Officer must determine if redaction is necessary under the exemptions afforded under the law. It is advised that if any school district receives a request for a copy of a video recording that the school district contact its solicitor.

 

This post was written by Benjamin L. Pratt, chair of CGA Law Firm’s School Law Practice Group. It was included in the October 2015 edition of CGA’s School Law Newsletter.