Study abroad: adventure, danger, and liability

The gravest danger I encountered was a drunken Scotsman looking for a fight (no, he was not in a kilt; those are for formal occasions) at the University of Stirling.  No trouble there for me, but things seem to have changed for students overseas in the new century.

The number of American students "studying” (quotes are deliberate) overseas is growing fast. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (“The Chronicle”)(subscription required, sorry), more than 200,000 American students studied overseas in 2004-05, twice as many eight years before.   Two-thirds of these adventurer-scholars, interestingly, are women, according to The Chronicle.  And according to a recent Newsweek blurb (get your free subscription with your WHYY membership like me), “experts predict that the number of students in overseas programs could swell from 206,000 last year [2006] to 1 million annually within a decade.”   It seems these young adventurer-scholars get into all sorts of trouble, from falling off the Great Wall of China, to being war refuges in Lebanon. 

Continue Reading...

The rights of disabled students in higher education.

This past Spring, the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, issued two letters and a guide relating to students with disabilities and higher education. 

The first, addressed to institutions, summarized the rights and obligations of disabled students in higher education.  The second, addressed to parents, similarly explains rights and obligations and addresses how those rights and obligations differ in higher education than in public K-12 schools. 

The letters themselves do not offer any new insights or agency positions. But they serve as a useful reminder, particularly for parents, of how different circumstances are in higher education than in K-12.

The guide, Transition of Student with Disabilities to Postsecondary Education: A Guide for high School Educators, a question and answer format, is available here.

FMLA: employer notice and the deemed eligible employee

A couple of recent decisions from the federal trial courts in the Middle and Eastern Districts of Pennsylvania show a gathering consensus that a controversial Family And Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) regulation is not proper. The gathering is not complete, however, and employers need to continue appropriate practices while we watch the consensus evolve.

The question is whether an employee is “eligible” under the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601-2654?   The statute at 29 U.S.C. § 2611(2)(A)(ii), defines an eligible employee as one employed by employer for at least 12 months and who worked at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before requesting leave. 

Detailed facts of the cases in review need not detain us: the common scenario is of an employee

Continue Reading...

Tom F.: the decision that isn't

Mark Fitzgerald is again our guest blogger, writing about the U.S. Supreme Court's non-decision about tuition reimbursement.  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 one sentence decision, an evenly divided U.S. Supreme Court in Board of Education of the City School District Of New York, No. 06-637, --- U.S. --- (2007) (Justice Kennedy did not participate) affirmed the decision of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in finding parents need not accept a public school offer of a free appropriate public education before enrolling their child into a private school placement for purposes of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).  Substantively, however, the Court “punted” on analyzing the statutory constructs of the IDEA to determine whether such a right exists for parents who have never accessed public education prior to unilateral private school placement. Therefore, the dispute surrounding this issue was not put to rest late last week.

With this “decision,” the Supreme Court affirmed an equally short decision by the Second Circuit, which had vacated and remanded the holding of the trial court in light of the decision in Frank G. v. Board of Education of Hyde Park, 459 F.3d 356 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, --- U.S. ---, 127 S.Ct. 3054 (2006). Therefore, while the decisions, or lack thereof, of both the Second Circuit and the Supreme Court together combine to form a modest sized paragraph, our analysis must turn to the comprehensive, yet peculiar decision by the Second Circuit in Frank G. in order to glean what the Supreme Court decision means for school entities, if anything at all.

Continue Reading...

Another ill-gotten mandate for Pennsylvania public schools

In Lower Merion School District v. Doe, 2007 WL 2792927 (Pa.), through some unfortunate legal reasoning, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has interpreted § 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. § 794, to mean that a public school district must provide occupational services to a dual-enrolled private school student. In so doing, the court expands the dual enrollment and the Veschi decision mandates to provide public support for private schools. 

In this case, the district evaluated the student, found he was not eligible for special education and related services but was eligible as a protected handicapped student under § 504 and Chapter 15 of the Pennsylvania education regulations, 22 Pa. Code Chap. 15. The district therefore offered a program of appropriate supportive services in order for the student to access his public education. Parents rejected the offer, enrolled student in a private kindergarten, and dually enrolled student in the public school under § 502 of the Pennsylvania School Code, 24 P.S. § 5-502. 

The district argued that its § 504 requirement is limited to only providing equal access to its federally funded programs. Stated another way, one might say § 504 is not a mandate for a public school to intrude into a private school program and fix the private school’s “discrimination.” The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rejected the district’s argument based on some significant misunderstandings.

Continue Reading...