IRS releases final § 403(b) regulations

On July 26, 2007 the IRS published final regulations regarding § 403(b) plans and related regulations. Named after the pertinent section of the Internal Revenue Code, § 403(b) plans involve tax sheltered retirement annuities offered by public schools, colleges, universities, and § 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. The final regulations (including commentary) can be viewed in the Federal Register.   

The regulations will take effect, generally, in December 2008, with some exceptions. The IRS press release, Employee Plans News, highlights the impact of the regulations, including effective dates.  Additional information can be found at the IRS’s website.

Although much of the information is publicly available, tax planning is complicated and neither this Blog nor the public information should be mistaken for legal advice. Anyone interested in § 403(b) plans can contact one of the Fox Education Law Group attorneys or, for general tax matters, a member of the Tax Department.

School district implementation of Megan's Law

Guest blogger, Kyle Berman, writes about Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law and implementation of notice and information dissemination procedures for a school district. Kyle is a member of the Education Law Group with a practice emphasis in Labor and day-to-day school operations.  Click here to find out more about Kyle’s background and contact information.

What is a school district to do when it receives a notice concerning a “sexually violent predator” as classified by the courts? There are several duties imposed on a school district following a Megan's Law notification - but you would not know it by examining only the statute itself. The law is not contained at one publicly accessible site, but the Pennsylvania State Police’s website provides some information.

Pennsylvania’s version of Megan’s Law specifies various community notifications, the District being only one of many persons and organizations to be notified of the predator’s

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No second helpings: limits on ADA claimants collecting disability

Guest blogger, Mark Fitzgerald, writes about the tension between employment disability discrimination claims under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and claims for disability benefits. The legal concept of “estoppel” in such circumstances generally holds that an employee cannot certify to being disabled in order to obtain disability benefits, while claiming in court that she is not disabled and qualified to work. Mark is a member of the Education Law Group with a practice emphasis in Labor and Employment. Click here to find out more about Mark’s background and contact information.

 In a case that underscores the federal courts’ heightened scrutiny of employment disability discrimination claims following a plaintiff’s successful application for Social Security Disability, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania granted summary judgment for the employer because plaintiff-employee was estopped from raising claims under the ADA  after successfully applying for Social Security Disability benefits.

In an ADA employment discrimination case, a plaintiff must initially be able to show

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Exhaustion of remedies in special education

The federal District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued a seemingly routine decision that is more than it appears.  Vicky M. v. Northeastern Educational I.U. 19  (although the docket numbers and plaintiff names differ, this decision appears to otherwise be the same as John G. v. Northeastern Educational I.U. 19, Civ A. 06-1900, --- F. Supp. 2d ---, 2007 WL 1450365 (M.D. Pa.). 

The court’s treatment of the Section 1983 claims should be reconsidered in light of A.W. v. The Jersey City Public Schools  341 F.3d 234 (3d Cir. 2007), which was issued nine days later. But more than that, the Third Circuit’s treatment of exhaustion of remedies in such cases now needs to be revisited, as Vicky M. unintentional shows.

Because the family in Vicky M. sought money damages, the court ruled exhaustion was exempted

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IRS contacting districts about 403(b) plans

According to an IRS news release, a pilot project involving three states has found most school districts are not in compliance with the universal availability requirements of § 403(b) plans. According to the news release, “[t]he law requires that all public school employees normally expected to work 20 hours per week must be offered the opportunity to participate in a § 403(b) plan if the school or district sponsors one.” Substitute teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers and nurses are, according to the IRS, often not included. The noncompliance, according to the news release, appears to be based on a lack of understanding and not any bad intent. 

As a result of the pilot project’s findings, the IRS’s Employee Plans Compliance Unit is sending questionnaires to all public school districts, initially to those in Alaska, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia, and reaching all 50 states by 2008.

FERPA guidance for higher education

The Family Policy Compliance Office (“FPCO”)  of the U.S. Department of Education has issued a policy guidance statement with respect to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, known as FERPA, and higher education. 

The statement, “Disclosure of Information from Education Records to Parents of Postsecondary Students,”  is a question-and-answer formant addressing issues arising in the postsecondary setting. Among other things, the statement addresses application of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, known as HIPPA, to student records, as well as when an institution may notify parents of student alcohol / drug use.