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Policy Alert: Federally Required Annual Notices (2015)

Policies of a school district, especially those negotiated with bargaining representatives for the protection of teachers, have the full force and effect of law, and legally bind the school district.

 

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By Gerry Kaufman, ASBSD Director of Policy & Legal Services

 

Below is a list and brief synopsis of annual notices which school districts are required to provide under federal law.

 

The National School Boards Association/Council of School Attorneys (NSBA/COSA) Annual Notices (July 2015) can be found at http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/reports/2015%20Annual%20Policies.pdf.

 

The NSBA/COSA Policies Required By Federal Law (July 2015), with sample policies and forms, can be found at http://www.nsba.org/sites/default/files/reports/2015%20Annual%20Notices.pdf.

 

It is permissible to combine the notices required in numbers one through six, inclusive, into one published notice in the school’s legal newspaper.

 

1. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

 

The Title VI regulations do not specify the methods to be used by recipients in publishing notices of non-discrimination.  However, “[t]he Title VI regulation requires schools and colleges to notify students and others of the regulatory provisions in a manner that a responsible ED [Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights] official would find necessary to tell students of their protections against discrimination under the statute and regulation.”

 

2. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972: A school must adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of student and employee complaints alleging any discrimination on the basis of sex in education programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. A district receiving federal funds must also designate at least one employee to coordinate its compliance efforts under Title IX.

 

Title IX regulations state that notification may include posting information notices, publishing in local newspapers, publishing in newspapers and magazines operated by the school or its students, publishing in alumnae or alumni newspapers or magazines, or distributing memoranda or other written communications to students and employees.

 

In addition, recipients are required to include a statement of nondiscriminatory policy in any bulletins, announcements, publications, catalogs, application forms, or other recruitment materials that are made available to participants, students, applicants, or employees. Schools may meet this requirement either by including appropriate inserts in existing materials and publications or by revising and reprinting the materials and publications.

 

3. Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act: Schools must adopt and publish grievance procedures that incorporate appropriate due process standards and that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504, and notify students and others that it does not discriminate on the basis of disability.   Schools must designate at least one employee to coordinate compliance efforts.

 

Section 504 regulations state that notification may include posting information notices, publishing in local newspapers, publishing in newspapers and magazines operated by the school or its students, publishing in alumnae or alumni newspapers or magazines, or distributing memoranda or other written communications to students and employees.

 

In addition, recipients are required to include a statement of nondiscriminatory policy in any bulletins, announcements, publications, catalogs, application forms, or other recruitment materials that are made available to participants, students, applicants, or employees.  Schools may meet this requirement either by including appropriate inserts in existing materials and publications or by revising and reprinting the materials and publications.

 

4. Age Discrimination Act: Schools receiving federal funds must notify employees of information regarding the Act, adopt and publish a grievance procedure, and designate at least one employee to coordinate compliance efforts.

 

The Age Discrimination Act regulations do not specify the methods to be used by recipients in publishing notices of non-discrimination (34 C.F.R.§110.25), designation of responsible employee, notice, and grievance procedures:

  1. Designation of responsible employee. Each recipient shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under the Act and these regulations, including investigation of any complaints that the recipient receives alleging any actions that are prohibited by the Act and these regulations.
  2. Notice. A recipient shall notify its beneficiaries, in a continuing manner, of information regarding the provisions of the Act and these regulations. The notification must also identify the responsible employee by name or title, address, and telephone number.
  3. Grievance procedures. A recipient shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by the Act or these regulations.

 

5. Americans with Disabilities Act (Title II, ADA): A school that employs 50 or more persons must designate at least one employee to coordinate its compliance efforts and carry out its responsibilities under the ADA.  The school must adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by Title II of the ADA.

 

Title II regulations do not specify the methods to be used by recipients in publishing notices of non-discrimination.

 

6. Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act:The Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act requires public schools to provide equal access to the use of school property to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.

 

The regulations do not specify the methods to be used by recipients in publishing notices of non-discrimination.

 

“Each recipient shall make available to participants, beneficiaries, and other interested persons such information regarding the provisions of this regulation and its applicability to the program for which the recipient receives Federal financial assistance, and make such information available to them in such manner, as the responsible Department official finds necessary to apprise such persons of the protections against discrimination assured them by the Act and this regulation.” (34 C.F.R.,§100.6(d))

 

7. FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act):  A school must annually notify parents and eligible students in attendance of their rights under FERPA.

 

The annual notification must include information regarding the right to inspect and review education records, what the school has identified (by policy) as directory information, the right to seek to amend the records, the right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records except in certain circumstances, the school’s definitions of the terms “school official” and “legitimate educational interest,” and the right to file a complaint regarding an alleged failure by a school to comply with FERPA.

 

An educational agency or institution may provide this notice by any means that are reasonably likely to inform the parents or eligible students of their rights.  An educational agency or institution shall effectively notify parents or eligible students who are disabled.  An agency or institution of elementary or secondary education shall effectively notify parents who have a primary or home language other than English.” (34 C.F.R. § 99.7(b)(1) and (2))

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Model Notification of Rights under FERPA for Elementary and Secondary Schools at: http://familypolicy.ed.gov/content/model-notificationrights-under-ferpa-elementary-and-secondary-schools.

 

8. Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA): Districts must also provide notice of following policy/policies to parents at least annually at the beginning of the school year:  policies regarding parents’ rights to inspect a student survey, arrangements to protect student privacy in surveys covering particular topics, parents’ rights to inspect instructional materials, administration of physical examinations of students, collection, disclosure, or use of personal student information for marketing or selling purposes, and parents’ right to inspect any instrument for collection of information for marketing/selling purposes.

 

The policies developed by a local educational agency shall provide for reasonable notice of the adoption or continued use of such policies directly to the parents of students enrolled in schools served by that agency.

 

At a minimum, the agency shall:

  • provide such notice at least annually, at the beginning of the school year, and within a reasonable period of time after any substantive change in such policies; and
  • offer an opportunity for the parent (and for purposes of an activity described in subparagraph (C)(i), in the case of a student of an appropriate age, the student) to opt the student out of participation in an activity described in subparagraph (C).  (Protection of Pupil Rights: 20 U.S. Code § 1232h (2)(A)).

The U.S. Department of Education’s Model Notification of Rights Under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/doc/ppra-gen-not.doc.

 

The U.S. Department of Education’s PPRA Model Notice and Consent/Opt-Out for Specific Activities can be found at: http://familypolicy.ed.gov/sites/fpco.ed.gov/files/ppra-gen-notcons%20%281%29.doc.

 

9. Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act: At least once each school year, school districts must notify parents, teachers, and employee organizations of the availability of management plans. School districts are required to have an asbestos management plan for each school, including all buildings that they lease, own, or otherwise use as school buildings, and to maintain and update the plan to keep it current with ongoing operations and maintenance, periodic surveillance, inspection, re-inspection, and response action activities.

 

“Each local education agency shall:… (c) Ensure that workers and building occupants, or their legal guardians, are informed at least once each school year about inspections, response actions, and post-response action activities, including periodic re-inspection and surveillance activities that are planned or in progress.”  (40 C.F.R. §763.84(c))

 

“Upon submission of its management plan to the Governor and at least once each school year, the local education agency shall notify in writing parent, teacher, and employee organizations of the availability of management plans and shall include in the management plan a description of the steps taken to notify such organizations, and a dated copy of the notification. In the absence of any such organizations for parents, teachers, or employees, the local education agency shall provide written notice to that relevant group of the availability of management plans and shall include in the management plan a description of the steps taken to notify such groups, and a dated copy of the notification.” (40 C.F.R. §763.93(g)(4))

 

The Model Annual AHERA Notice Letter can be found at: http://yosemite.epa.gov/R10/OWCM.NSF/asbestos/AHERA+forms.

 

10. Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010:  School districts are required to inform and update the parents, students, and the public about the local school district wellness policies. The USDA has indicated that schools can fulfil this requirement through printed or electronic materials to families of school children and other members of the school community at the beginning of the school year, and posting the local school wellness policy and an assessment of its implementation on the district or school website.  The information must be made available to the public in an accessible, easily understood manner.

 

11. McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act:All school districts must have policies that remove barriers to enrollment and retention of homeless children and youths, including transportation, and prevent homeless children and youths from being stigmatized or segregated on the basis of their status as homeless.

 

The law requires homeless student liaisons to provide public notice of the education rights of homeless students. The notice must be disseminated in places where homeless students receive services under this Act, including schools, family shelters, and soup kitchens.

 

The notice must be in a “manner and form” understandable to homeless students and their parents/guardians, “including, if necessary and to the extent feasible,” in their native language. (42 U.S.C. § 11432(e)(3)(C)(i) and (iii))

 

Free Educational Rights posters can be downloaded or ordered at: http://center.serve.org/nche/pr/er_poster.php#youth.

 

12. Elementary and Secondary Act (ESEA)]: The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), reauthorized under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, requires state education agencies, school districts, and individual schools to provide numerous notices to parents, the public, and others.

 

The U.S. Department of Education Parental Notice Requirements chart, pages 34-39, which can be found  at: http://www.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/parentinvguid.doc oo , identifies the parental notice requirements for the following:  annual report cards, individual student assessment reports, progress reviews,  schools identified for school improvement, schools identified for corrective action, schools identified for restructuring, parental involvement policies, state education agency complaint procedures, teacher and paraprofessional qualifications, achievement information, identification of non-highly qualified teachers; student; an informational meeting on Title I/Part A, and limited English proficient student  general information and educational programs.

 

At the beginning of each school year, each school that receives Title I funds must notify the parents of each student attending the school that the parents may request, and the school will provide in a timely manner the parents information regarding the professional qualifications of the student’s classroom teachers.

 

13. National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program: School districts that participate in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program, must provide information to parents and the public each school year about free and reduced price meals and/or free milk, and must include the eligibility criteria for free and reduced price meals or free milk. The notice must be provided to the local news media, the unemployment office, and any major employers who are contemplating large layoffs in the attendance area of the school.

 

What is required to be in the notices to parents and the public can be found in the USDA Eligibility Guidance for School Meals Manual, on pages 15-19.  The Manual can be found at http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/cn/SP40_CACFP18_SFSP20-2015a.pdf.

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