Pennsylvania Department of Education's BEC's on Enrollment and Pregnant Students Serve as a Reminder to School Districts to Review Policies

By  Timothy E. Gilsbach

The Pennsylvania Department of Education has recently issued two new BECs that present a good reminder for school district's to review their Enrollment Policy and Policy on Pregnant Students.  Both BEC's are not in response to any recent changes in the law, but are a good reminder of some issues that need to be considered by school districts in both areas.   

PDE issues a new BEC on Enrollment of Students in January which puts most of the information you need to know about the process of enrolling students in one place.  The new BEC sets out the information that a district may request, as well as what it cannot, when a student enrolls in the district and the process for doing so.  It further notes the need for a separate process for enrolling homeless students, which differs in many ways as to what can be required of other students.  It is important for districts to take a look at their policy on this issue to make sure it complies with the requirements set out in the law, as explained in the BEC.  PDE has requested that districts post their policies and procedures with respect to enrollment on-line no later that July 30, 2009. 

The second is a revised BEC on Pregnant and Parenting Students.  While not adding anything new, the revised BEC does provide two important reminders.  First, that school districts may not exclude pregnant students from the public school nor from extracurricular activities.  Second, and a little less obvious, is what to do with students who need to be absent from school due to pregnancy complications.  This process may be handled in-district if the period of absence is not to exceed three months, but if the absence is to be longer than three months, approval must be obtained from the Department of Education.  In addition, for excusing students for three months or less, school districts must have a policy for how such requests are handled and by whom. 

Both BEC's should have school districts taking a look at the policies implicated, especially if it has been some time since this policy has been revised.  If necessary, districts should revise these policies and/or guidelines.   

Federal grant aimed at preventing high-risk drinking and violence by college students

The U.S. Department of Education announced today another grant program, this time for colleges, consortia, etc.  This grant program is aimed at preventing high-risk drinking and violent behavior by college students.  Here is the link.


The rules of evidence and employment and school investigations

A recent case  from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit gives a good lesson on how to document sexual harassment investigations. The lesson is also instructive on how a report can be used as evidence in all sorts of investigations in an education setting.

The case facts are not remarkable (the boorish behavior is seen repeatedly in sexual harassment cases). One employee uttered a number of improper comments, sometimes emphasized by physical gestures. Such actions ultimately lead to his termination. But before then, the employer investigated and interviewed a number of employees, all of whom confirmed the conduct in question, which lead employer to decide to fire employee. An appeal followed, a second investigation ensued and confirmed the first investigation and termination decision. Employee appealed to court.

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A paradigm shift for identifying learning disabled students in higher education, independent schools, and admissions testing

Is a person whose academic achievement exceeds national average justly entitled to accommodations as “learning disabled?”   What if the person not only exceeds average on performance measures, but also exceeds average through actual attainment, such as a Bachelor’s Degree, perhaps a graduate degree, or even entrance into medical school? Does such a top-flier really need accommodations? Or is it really a matter of taking advantage of benefits entitled for the genuinely disabled? 

“The law compels accommodations for someone who is ‘disabled’ as that term is used in the Acts, but not for everyone who may have a condition described as a ‘learning disability.’” Wong v. Regents of the University of California, C.A. No. 01-17432, 6452, n.6, 379 F.3d 1097, 1109 n.6 (9th Cir. 2004).  The question of entitlement to accommodations first asks if the person is impaired and asks second if the impairment substantially limits the person. The Wong decision and other cases looked at the second question. Changes in the law on how public schools identify learning disabilities, may require colleges and testing organizations to look more closely at the first question, too.

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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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