The start of school is once again upon us, and there are important legal “To Do” items school corporations should consider as they welcome back students and staff.
LGBT Protections: Two recent decisions binding on Indiana school corporations have changed federal law with respect to LGBT rights. One decision held that Title VII’s prohibition on sex discrimination extends to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in the employment context. The second decision held that a school corporation’s failure to allow a transgender student to use a restroom that corresponds with their new identity may violate Title IX and the U.S. Constitution. Importantly, the court in the transgender student case criticized the school corporation for not having a written policy or guideline in place.  Separately, the IHSAA changed its gender policy to allow certain transgender students to participate in sports that align with the student’s new identity if certain criteria are met. School corporations should be considering a comprehensive review of policies, administrative guidelines and student handbooks in the wake of these developments.
Changes in DCS Reporting: Effective July 1, 2017, a new change in reporting child abuse and neglect took place.  Previously, the reporting statute generated some confusion by imposing on all school employees an obligation to report child abuse and neglect to DCS or law enforcement, but there was also language instructing the employee to notify the “individual in charge of the . . . school.” Now, the law requires reporting without making provision for a report to the school administrator. Updating guidance to administrators on this important development is crucial to avoid delay.  School corporations should also consider guidance that follows the statute but also preserves communication with administrators so that administrators, to the greatest extent possible, can be involved in any DCS report.
Evaluations Report due August 15: By law, principals “must report in the aggregate the results of staff performance evaluations for the school for the previous school year to the superintendent and the governing body for the school corporation before August 15 of each year on the schedule determined by the governing body.” Furthermore, Indiana law requires that the “report must be presented in a public meeting of the governing body.”
Teacher Appreciation Grant Policy: H.E.A. 1001 extends grant monies to school corporations for certain “licensed teachers,” but school corporations must first adopt a policy that is approved by the Indiana Department of Education by September 15, 2017.  School corporations should make sure they receive their portion of this grant money by timely adopting a policy.
Background Check Policy: The General Assembly expanded criminal history check requirements for school corporations, including an obligation to run criminal history and child protection index on existing employees every five years.  The new law also requires that school corporations adopt new policies reflecting these changes. School corporations should enact policies that reflect these important changes while also implementing these changes in current hiring processes.
Changes to Collective Bargaining: The start of formal collective bargaining has moved from August 1 to September 15, although informal bargaining before September 15 is still permissible. Also, the General Assembly modified one of the factors used for compensation plans, and it updated some other important reporting deadlines regarding when the state provides its reports to the parties at the table. Additionally, the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board issued its new “Teacher CBA Compliance Rubric” (available here).
New FLSA Rules: Previously, the Obama administration recommending increasing the salary threshold for exempt employees from $455 a week (or $23,660 annually) to $47,476 annually, but that rule never took effect. However, the new Secretary of Labor has indicated in public statements that the U.S. Department of Labor may be looking at releasing a new rule that sets the new salary test requirement in the mid- to low-$30,000 range. This could cause many school corporation employees to be considered nonexempt and thus entitled to overtime pay. Be looking for developments on this front.
Affordable Care Act: Recent developments gave us hope as to whether Washington would provide clear guidance on the fate of the Affordable Care Act, but we are back to a wait-and-see posture. In the meantime, the Affordable Care Act remains in full force and effect. For updates on these developments, please follow Jim Hamilton’s blog here.
The attorneys in the Education Law Group of Bose McKinney & Evans are available to answer your questions and provide guidance as needed to comply with this important development.