Education

In the recent case of Mertes v. Village of Mt. Prospect (2024 IL App (1st) 221787), the Appellate Court considered a dispute over whether a Village firefighter, Eric Mertes, was properly determined to have suffered line-of-duty injuries that were “catastrophic” pursuant to the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act, also known as PSEBA, and if the Village was required to pay for Mertes’ health insurance coverage.

Between 1999 and 2012, Mertes suffered a series of back injuries while responding to emergency calls, and in several instances when he was not responding to emergencies. The Village’s Firefighters’ Pension Fund granted
Continue Reading Appellate Court Sends Municipalities Another Warning on the Dangers of Failing to Properly Administer Benefits Under PSEBA

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued opinions in two cases involving First Amendment challenges to social media activity – Lindke v. Freed and O’Connor-Ratcliff v. Garnier.

In Lindke, the City Manager of Port Huron, Michigan had a personal Facebook profile. He deleted comments from a commenter and the City Manager blocked the commenter from future posts on the City Manager’s personal Facebook page. The commenter sued the City Manager under 42 U.S.C. §1983 alleging that the City Manager had violated his First Amendment rights. The commenter argued that he had the right to comment on the City Manager’s Facebook
Continue Reading New Social Media Guidance from the Supremes!

In 2022, state and local governments banned 2,571 different books. This is more books than were subject to such bans in the previous three years combined (2,436). Most of these efforts are taken at the local level. Texas’ Restricting Explicit and Adult-Designated Educational Resources (READER) Act marked a departure from this practice and sought to ban books statewide. However, the United States Court of Appeals for Fifth Circuit (the “Fifth Circuit”) recently upheld a preliminary injunction against portions of Texas’ law.

Background on Texas’ Sexual Book-Rating Law

In June 2023, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed the READER Act, which
Continue Reading In Bed with Book Vendors: Fifth Circuit Upholds Preliminary Injunction Against Texas’ Sexual Book-Rating Law

Tressler LLP represented the Board of Elections for the City of Chicago in a complaint that challenged the inclusion of an advisory referendum initiated by the City Council on the March 19, 2024 primary ballot. The plaintiffs consisted of a group of trade associations, building owners, business owners and individuals who sought to have a court enter an order directing the Board to remove the advisory referendum from the ballot or in the alternative, to suppress the counting of the votes on the referendum following the election.  The Board moved to dismiss the complaint and strike the plaintiffs’ motion for judgment
Continue Reading Tressler Wins in Appellate Court on Behalf of the Board of Elections for the City of Chicago

In 2022, an inmate sent a letter to the mayor of Taylorville, IL complaining about the City attorney and other matters. The letter also included a FOIA request for a copy of the letter. The City’s FOIA officer denied the inmate’s FOIA request. The inmate filed a complaint under FOIA arguing that when the mayor received his letter it became a public record as defined by the FOIA and that there was no legal basis for denying his request for a copy of the letter. The City filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the circuit court. The
Continue Reading Mayor is Not a “Public Body” Under FOIA

The Unemployment Insurance Act (“Act”) requires all Illinois employers to file a report with the Illinois Department of Employment Security (“IDES”) containing certain information about “newly hired employees.” The definition of “newly hired employees” was amended by Public Act 103-0343, signed into law by Governor Pritzker on July 28, 2023.

Newly Hired Employees Defined

As of January 1, 2024, all Illinois employers must report both employees and independent contractors who (i) have not previously been employed by the employer or (ii) who were previously employed by the employer but have separated from that prior employment for at least 60 consecutive
Continue Reading New Reporting Requirements Under Unemployment Insurance Act

On November 15, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released new civil rights data from the 2020-2021 school year, as well as seven data reports and snapshots which provide an overview of that data. OCR also launched a redesigned Civil Rights Data Collection (“CRDC”) website that includes public-use data files, reports, and snapshots, which school districts can use to review their own and other districts’ data, available here.

OCR’s CRDC, a mandatory survey of public schools, provides the federal government and the public with data about the extent to which students have
Continue Reading Civil Rights Data on Students’ Access to Educational Opportunities During the Pandemic Released by U.S. Department of Education

The Biden Administration has made concentrated efforts to address the rise in reports of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and other hate-based or bias-based incidents in schools and on college campuses since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas conflict. On November 7, 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s (“Department”) Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VI”) to provide all students with a school environment free from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.

The Dear Colleague Letter states that OCR will
Continue Reading U.S. Department of Education Guidance and Resources about Addressing Discrimination and Harassment on the Basis of National Origin

On January 22, 2024, the United States Department of Education (“USDOE”) issued a Dear Colleague Letter regarding supporting students with disabilities who require assistive technology (“AT”) in order to receive meaningful access to their education. In conjunction with the Dear Colleague Letter, the USDOE also released a guidance document, Myths and Facts Surrounding Assistive Technology Devices and Services.

In the Dear Colleague Letter, the USDOE emphasizes the importance of assistive technology in transforming education and reducing barriers in equity and accessibility. The guidance document provides more in-depth information with the aim of increasing understanding of the IDEA’s requirements
Continue Reading Department of Education Dear Colleague Letter Provides Updated AT Device Guidance

On August 4, 2023, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) published in the Federal Register a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), on accessibility requirements for online and app-based services offered by state and local government entities, including public schools, community colleges, and public universities.

According to a press release from DOJ, the purpose of the proposed rule is to make online and app-based services more accessible for individuals with disabilities. The rule also aims to offer clarity to state and local governments as they shift traditionally in-person services onto virtual platforms. DOJ created a fact
Continue Reading DOJ Releases Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Online Accessibility Requirements

Your child just returned from school with a letter from the principal. The school discovered something they consider to be a weapon in his or her locker, and now the school is seeking to expel your child for two years. What can you do?
For one thing, you may need to hire an attorney. Often, it is difficult for parents to understand how a hearing officer will perceive their child’s actions. Without this understanding, it can be difficult to make a persuasive case. For example, pointing out that another student got away with worse behavior generally does not work in
Continue Reading HOW AN ATTORNEY CAN HELP YOUR CHILD’S EXPULSION CASE

In 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (“OCR”) released a Fact Sheet on Ensuring Meaningful Participation in Advanced Coursework and Specialized Programs for Students Who Are English Learners (“Fact Sheet”), which is available here. The Fact Sheet provides data showing OCR found that students who are English Learners (“ELs”) have lower participation rates in specialized or advanced programs offered at elementary and secondary schools. OCR noted that schools must ensure eligibility for such programs, such as evaluation and testing procedures, do not screen out ELs because of their limited English proficiency, unless a program requires
Continue Reading OCR Fact Sheet on Ensuring Meaningful Participation in Advanced Coursework and Specialized Programs for Students Who Are English Learners

In April 2023, the U.S. Department of Education’s (Department) released a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) on Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs and Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance: Sex-Related Eligibility Criteria for Male and Female Athletic Teams. The final rule is expected to be released in spring 2024. For highlights from the Department’s NPRM, see our blog post available here.

Last winter, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released three resources to support equal opportunity in athletics under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX). OCR designed the documents to help
Continue Reading Anticipating Regulations on Athletics Opportunities Under Title IX: A Look Back at 2023 Guidance from OCR

Last fall, Illinois libraries faced a slew of bomb threats. Fortunately, the threats were not real. However, calling in a false bomb or shooting threat is not viewed as a harmless prank. If your child engages in such behavior, they could face serious consequences leading to both criminal prosecution and expulsion from school.
If the school is intending to proceed against your child, they will notify you of your child’s right to a hearing. It is essential to contact an attorney immediately in order to protect your child’s rights. You should not try to explain your child’s situation or mental
Continue Reading THREATENING A SCHOOL IN ILLINOIS

In the recent case of Martin v. City of Chicago, 2023 IL App (1st) 221116 (November 15, 2023) 3d Div., Cook Co., the Appellate Court addressed the issue of public entity liability for injuries caused by defective sidewalks. The Plaintiff, Sarah Martin, alleged that she sustained injuries after falling into a hole in a sidewalk in Chicago. Martin filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging that the city was negligent in maintaining the sidewalk in a safe condition. The trial court considered the case as one of premises liability and instructed the jury to determine if the Plaintiff was
Continue Reading Do You Own a Sidewalk? Appellate Court Gives Public Entities Another Win in Sidewalk Defect Cases

A recent First District Illinois Appellate Court ruling in the case of Lara Stachler v. The Board of Education of the City of Chicago, 2023 IL App (1st) 221092, rejected the plaintiff-appellant’s assertion that the Illinois Human Rights Act entitles an employee to accommodations for pregnancy-related medical conditions even when the accommodation would preclude the employee from performing the essential functions of her job. The court further held that an employee must advise her employer when an employer-provided private room to breastfeed or express breastmilk is inadequate.

Upon return from maternity leave to her work as a speech-language pathologist with
Continue Reading Granting Request for Remote Work to Employee Due to Pregnancy-Related Conditions Not Required Where it Would Eliminate Key Function of Her Position