Education

Now that many of us have been doing some form of remote learning for close to 7 months, we are starting to see hearing officers and state agencies weigh in to resolve complaints related to the appropriateness of remote special education services. While we have not yet seen any Illinois decisions, a review of decisions from other states may shed some light on trends and approaches. Read on for a sample of recent cases and takeaways that may be relevant to your school. Participation in Remote Learning In a due process case in Washington, DC, the student had previously been…
Election season is rapidly approaching. Candidates for the April 2021 election can start circulating nominating petitions on September 22, 2020.  Candidates should carefully check compliance with the rules and deadlines: Monday, December 14, 2020. The first day for candidates to file their nominating petitions, statement of candidacy and receipt of filing of Statement of Economic Interests. Monday, December 21, 2020. Last day for candidates to file. Names are placed on the ballot in the order in which the nominating papers are received.  However, for those who file within the first hour and last hour of the filing period, a lottery is held…
Under Illinois law, you may only be terminated as a teacher for cause once your probationary period has expired. To do so, however, the school district must follow certain procedures. See: 105 ILCS 5/34-85. If the alleged “cause” is remediable, you must receive a reasonable written warning specifically stating that such cause may result in charges unless you take steps to remove the problem. There are a couple exceptions to this rule, such as if you have failed a remediation plan or if the district and your union have agreed on an alternative system of remediation. No written warning…
Consolidated Election First Tuesday in April April 6, 2021 As the April 2021 election fast approaches, many clerks and local election officials will be responsible for accepting nomination petitions. Generally, a receipt upon the filing of a petition is provided but are they aware that they are also required to provide a “Notice of Obligation”? The official with whom nomination papers are filed must provide to each candidate at the time they file nomination papers a Notice of Obligation to comply with the Illinois Campaign Financing Act. The notice will state that the manual of instructions and forms for statements required…
As of June 1, 2020, high school students old enough to vote will not have to choose between exercising their constitutional rights and facing trouble over an unexcused absence. Of course, this law may be less critical during the pandemic. Under 10 ILCS 5/7-42, a student may leave school in order to vote for up to two hours during a school day. The student may vote election day or during early voting beginning the 15th day before an election. The school, however, may specify the hours when the student may be absent. If you have questions about this or…
The Attorney General’s Office has issued a new binding opinion (PAC Opinion 20-006) on a FOIA request which sought to obtain records from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) regarding data on head injuries incurred by inmates in IDOC custody as well as the policies for evaluating head injuries of IDOC inmates and IDOC employees. IDOC responded to the FOIA request denying it possessed or maintained any of the requested data or policies and indicated that it outsourced such matters to Wexford Health Sources and denied the request. The requester then appealed IDOC’s denial with the PAC. Upon review the…
The Attorney General’s Office has issued a new binding opinion (PAC Opinion 20-006) on a FOIA request which sought to obtain records from the Illinois Department of Corrections (IDOC) regarding data on head injuries incurred by inmates in IDOC custody as well as the policies for evaluating head injuries of IDOC inmates and IDOC employees. IDOC responded to the FOIA request denying it possessed or maintained any of the requested data or policies and indicated that it outsourced such matters to Wexford Health Sources and denied the request. The requester then appealed IDOC’s denial with the PAC. Upon review the…
A recent Illinois First District Appellate Court decision, Better Government Association v. The City of Chicago Office of Mayor and the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, 2020 IL App. (1st) 190038 (August 5, 2020), addresses whether communications on a public official’s personal device are considered public records for the purposes of FOIA. In Better Government Association v. The City of Chicago Office of Mayor and the City of Chicago Department of Public Health, the Appellate Court found that communications on a public official’s personal device could be public records for the purposes of FOIA and subject to disclosure…
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently updated its guidelines for best practices on home isolation. The following isolation recommendations apply to individuals who have a) tested positive for COVID-19, b) have symptoms of COVID-19 or c) were exposed to COVID-19. These new guidelines are more closely related to the symptoms exhibited by the individuals, as follows: Persons without symptoms of COVID-19 can end their isolation after 10 days from the date of a positive COVID-19 test. Persons who were exposed to the virus, but were never tested and have no symptoms, should likewise quarantine for 10 days. Persons who have…
While only a handful of cases have been reported related to districts’ provision of special education services remotely, we are watching carefully for lessons learned. So far, courts have not required in-person instruction as stay-put, but have indicated the importance of providing remote services tailored to student needs. These early cases reinforce our guidance to make individualized decisions to meet student needs in these extraordinary circumstances. Further, documenting these determinations in an individualized remote learning plan that is incorporated into the student’s IEP can help guard against both procedural and substantive challenges. The first case comes from the District of…
Key Points The ministerial exception protects religious employers from government interference in internal employment disputes involving the selection, supervision, and removal of individuals who play an important role relative to the core mission of the institution. To determine whether the ministerial exception applies in a specific case, courts must assess the nature of the duties or functions performed by the employee for the religious institution. Employees of religious institutions who are designated as performing functions vital to the core mission and that fall within the scope of the ministerial exception cannot pursue an employment claim. The Supreme Court stated: “When…
Governor Pritzker has signed into law Public Act 101-504, amending the Illinois Pension Code (40 ILCS 5/7-135.5). It requires IMRF to post certain information regarding contributions made by local taxing bodies. Further, the Act requires that by January 1, 2021, all Illinois municipalities, as well as all other local taxing bodies that participate in IMRF, must post on their websites a link to the IMRF’s new information page.  The IMRF information page is entitled “Employer Cost and Participation Information,” and can be found at https://www.imrf.org/en/about-imrf/transparency/employer-cost-and-participation-information. The Act does not require a municipality or district to create or maintain…
On June 30, 2020, the Supreme Court, in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, ruled that states must allow religious schools to participate in programs that provide scholarships to students attending private schools. Background of Espinoza Case The Montana Legislature established a program that granted tax credits to people who donated to organizations that award scholarships for private school tuition. However, the Montana Constitution contains a “no-aid provision” that prohibits government aid to flow to any school “controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect, or denomination.” To reconcile the program with this state constitutional provision, the…
Recent events have brought forth media discussions of qualified immunity in the context of the use of deadly force. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed a federal trial court’s grant of a defendant police officer’s motion for summary judgment in a case alleging that the defendant used excessive force during a traffic stop that eventually resulted in the killing of the plaintiff. Gysan v. Francisko, No. 19-1471 (July 13, 2020) N.D. Ill., E. Div. The defendant successfully asserted qualified immunity in plaintiff-decedent’s section 1983 action. The record showed that: (1) defendant stopped plaintiff after receiving a report that plaintiff had just…
Schools planning for students to return to campus in person this fall are confronting many significant challenges, including how to support students who may need physical restraint while also maintaining safe practices to minimize the risk of Coronavirus transmission. Schools and IEP teams should start planning to address this issue, such as considering whether additional PPE is needed, whether alternative behavior strategies and interventions could be effective, and whether other changes to the student’s  IEP, including placement, may be warranted to safely provide the student an appropriate education. Additionally, staff need training to understand and comply with the new physical
ISBE and IDPH recently released their guidance related to Starting the 2020-21 School Year. The guidance addresses a broad range of topics, including some suggestions related to special education. The following week ISBE issued an FAQ targeting special education issues.  While many details remain to be worked out at the local level, here are our key takeaways related to placing a high priority on returning students with disabilities to in-person instruction, addressing the needs of medically fragile students, continued remote learning versus homebound instruction, face coverings, and the many demands and challenges facing IEP teams. First, ISBE states that…