It is back to school time -- our FAVORITE time of year! Administrators in Nebraska and all around the country are welcoming their students and staff back in fun and incredibly creative ways. (Here are a few of our favorites!) Although we heartily endorse the fun, celebratory back to school welcome, as school attorneys we have to remind you not to forget to complete a few of the less fun things on your back-to-school checklist.
First: A quick note for Nebraska Superintendents and ESU Administrators: Don’t forget that, under the Superintendent Pay Transparency Act, you were supposed to have uploaded an executed copy of your employment contract to the NDE by August 1. With Administrators’ Days falling on the first, we understand that some school districts have not yet completed this task. The consequence for a school district that fails to file its superintendent’s contract is severe. The statute directs NDE to withhold the district’s state aid and to direct the county treasurer to withhold your tax funds. If you are a superintendent and you have not yet uploaded your contract, you can find the instructions for doing so here.
Second: As You Meet With Staff, Don’t Forget Legal Training. Most Nebraska administrators are familiar with the list of mandatory annual trainings (dating violence, concussion awareness, etc.) and other required communications (written notice of the evaluation process to certificated staff, distribution of the district’s academic performance to patrons, etc.) However, we think that administrators should spend a bit of your back-to-school inservice time covering these topics that aren’t required but could save you legal fees and headaches later in the year:
Sex Harassment and Discrimination. Staff should, at a minimum, know where to locate your policy and handbook provisions on anti-discrimination based on sex. This includes your sex harassment policy, complaint procedure, and grievance procedure (for certificated staff). They should also understand who your Title IX coordinator is and how that person can be contacted. That will be in your nondiscrimination notices, but reviewing it with staff is a good idea. Ideally, you would review prohibited conduct.
Child Find Obligations and RTI/SAT/MTSS/PBIS. The IDEA and most state regulations, including Rule 51, require training for “appropriate” staff to be able to carry out the district’s “child find” obligations under state and federal law. These obligations also apply to Section 504. These should be discussed in the context of the SAT process, as well. Any presentation about SAT, MTSS, and PBIS should also remind staff of ongoing child find obligations regardless of the tiered intervention system your district uses.
Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting. All states require school staff to report suspected child abuse or neglect. Nebraska statute section 28-711 requires “any school employees” to report child abuse when the employee “has reasonable cause to believe that a child has been subjected to child abuse or neglect or observes such child being subjected to conditions or circumstances which reasonably would result in child abuse or neglect.” You should train on this obligation and on your district’s mandatory reporting policy and procedures.
Staff Acceptable Use of Computer Networks. You should review your board’s rules for how staff can use the districts computers and computer networks. Given that the presidential election will be heating up as the school year progresses, staff should be reminded of the limitations placed on their ability to use school resources for political purposes.
Staff Use of Social Media. You should review your district’s policies and procedures on staff use of social media. This should include requiring staff to provide the username and password for every school-affiliated account (e.g. “@BulldogWrestling”). You should make clear to staff that they are not required to provide the username and password for their personal accounts.
Staff Boundaries. You should review your expectations and any board policies on the boundaries that staff members should observe with students.
The school lawyers at KSB regularly visit schools to present in-service training on these and other topics, together with legally required training topics. If you are uncertain about what additional information or training is mandated, contact your school attorney or the KSB attorneys at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great 2019-20 school year!!