On the Call: Informal Removals

Sometimes the guidance concerning informal removals can feel like a game of BINGO at Erin’s in-law’s house! In this episode, Jeremy and Erin help you survey the game board, the OSEP guidelines, and make sure you understand what constitutes an informal removal and its potential repercussions. The discussion includes a case from Michigan where missed opportunities resulted in a FAPE violation. They also cover some practical tips which will have you shouting BINGO! 

You can also listen here or wherever you get your podcasts. Look for new episodes on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.





Special Education Update: HB 33 Impacts Options & Obligations for Special Needs Students

Special Education Update: HB 33 Impacts Options & Obligations for Special Needs Students

The Ohio Budget Bill was signed by Governor DeWine on July 2, 2023. While the spending provisions were effective immediately, substantive changes to the law become effective October 3, 2023. Within these new and amended laws are several provisions that not only impact students with disabilities but will likely expand school district’s obligations to this student population.

Jon Peterson Scholarship applicants can expect more money in the coming years. Most categories of disabilities will see increases the subsidy provided over the next two years.

The Autism Scholarship saw more significant changes from permissible providers to access to scholarship dollars.

  • In the area of behavioral services, families availing themselves of the Autism Scholarship can now access BCBA and behavioral technician services, even when the providers do not possess permits to provide such services in a facility or a home.
  • Additionally, students accessing the scholarship will no longer need a school identification of autism. Students will be eligible if a medical professional diagnoses the student with autism, or if the student has an IEP that calls for services “related to autism.” In the event the student is medically diagnosed but does not have an IEP, the responsible school district must develop an education plan for that student to address the diagnosis.

“Catastrophic” costs are no longer reflected in the special education budget. Schools can continue to seek additional costs of services that exceed the category’s funding threshold, but they will no longer be identified as “catastrophic” costs. It is anticipated that this change is more in the name than in the actual amount of funding received.

Seizure action plans are another new requirement. Designated school employees must develop a seizure action plan for affected students and provide training on the plan to relevant staff. Likewise, Districts must ensure that at least one staff person in each building is trained in such plans every two years. Additionally, district administrators, school counselors, teachers and bus drivers must complete training in the bill’s new requirements. 

Public schools are now required to provide transportation as a related service to any resident student with a disability attending a nonpublic school. This particular requirement is vaguely drafted and the Ohio Department of Education has not yet issued any clarification, nor are there any applicable regulations. It is best to consult with legal counsel to develop an appropriate response to any new requests for transportation related to this change.

Finally, the Ohio Department of Children and Youth Services will assume most of the oversight of preschool education. A full transfer is duties is expected by January 1, 2025.

 What this means for schools – As with all other education related budget considerations, these changes in laws will require careful oversight and timely consideration. Stay tuned for further updates on the implementation of many of these new and revised requirements.











































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Sixth Circuit Sides with Parent in Free Speech Case

Sixth Circuit Sides with Parent in Free Speech Case

McElhaney v. Williams (August 25, 2023).

In a late August decision , the Sixth Circuit reversed a District Court’s decision, finding in favor of a parent’s First Amendment rights, and sending a message to schools and their athletics staff regarding how they ban parents from property and events.

A school district in Tennessee found itself in federal court after it suspended a parent from attending a week’s worth of softball games. The parent, whose child played on the high school softball team, sent two lengthy texts to the coach discussing his frustration after the coach had benched his child. Subsequently, the school banned the parent from attending any softball games the following week after finding that the text messages were inappropriate and violated team policy. The parent sued the district, arguing that the district retaliated against him for exercising his constitutionally protected right to free speech.

Reviewing the District Court’s opinion, which sided with the school, the Sixth Circuit stated that the First Amendment has long protected citizen’s right to criticize public officials. The Sixth Circuit elaborated that that protection extends to parents, meaning that “schools cannot regulate the content of the parents’ speech about their child to a school employee who interacts with the child.”

The school district argued that schools have an interest in avoiding disruption, and the Sixth Circuit agreed; however, it stated that the school’s interest does not apply “to run-of-the the mill adult speech targeting school officials.” Additionally, the district argued that it had an informational sheet that it had sent out, which specifically stated that parents and coaches were not allowed to discuss playing time. However, the Sixth Circuit found that an information sheet does not override a parent’s constitutional rights. In the end, the Sixth Circuit found the speech was critical of a coach’s actions, but the speech was not threatening, harassing or disruptive, and, therefore, was protected by the First Amendment.

What does this mean for your district?

The Sixth Circuit was clear in the conclusion of its opinion:
“in this situation, it is clearly established at a low level of generality that a school official may not retaliate against the parent for the content of his speech.”

Districts should be aware that even if a school or team policy bars parents and coaches from discussing playing time, parents maintain a constitutionally protected right to address their concerns provided they do so in a non-harassing, non-threatening and non-disruptive manner. Districts should educate their staff on parents’ free speech rights, especially when it comes to parents’ right to air grievances regarding their student-athletes.










































































































































































































































































































































































































































































“Erin’s Law” Sets New Staff Training Requirements

“Erin’s Law” Sets New Staff Training Requirements

“Erin’s Law,” originally House Bill 105, was inserted into a criminal justice bill, Senate Bill 288, and was passed in January 2023, and effective in April 2023. It amended ORC 3313.60 to include child sexual abuse and violence prevention training and education for schools beginning in the 2023/2024 school year.

With the school year starting, it is important that your school district is aware of the training/education requirements contained in this law, and also of the parental notices and specifics on who provides the training/education for staff.

Specifically, ORC §3313.60 now requires school districts to provide instruction in child sexual abuse prevention and sexual violence prevention to students as follows:
– Public schools must annually provide developmentally appropriate instruction in child sexual abuse prevention for grades K-6.
– Public schools must include developmentally appropriate instruction in sexual violence prevention education for grades 7-12.
– Public schools are prohibited from providing instruction in child sexual abuse prevention to students in grades K-6 connected with an individual, entity, or organization that provides, promotes, counsels, or makes referrals for abortion or abortion-related services.
– Public schools must notify the parents or guardians of students who receive instruction related to dating violence prevention and sexual violence prevention that:

  • It is required curriculum;
  • Parents or guardians may examine the instructional materials, upon request; and
  • A student may be excused from the instruction upon the parent or guardian’s written request.

– ODE must provide on its website links to free curricula addressing sexual violence prevention to assist schools in developing their curricula.
ODE’s website last updated August 18th – https://education.ohio.gov/Topics/Student-Supports/Creating-Caring-Communities/Child-Sexual-Abuse-Dating-Violence-Sexual-Violence

Erin’s Law also requires the following in-service training for staff:

Training on child sexual abuse incorporated into the current mandated 4-hour, in-service training which includes the prevention of child abuse, violence, and substance abuse and the promotion of positive youth development for teachers and other professionals as outlined in ORC §3319.073. The child sexual abuse training must be:

  • Presented by law enforcement officers or prosecutors who have experience in handling cases involving child sexual abuse or child sexual violence.
  • Provided to each person employed by any school district or service center to work in a school as a nurse, teacher, counselor, school psychologist, or administrator.
  • Completed within two years of commencing employment with the district or center, and every five years thereafter.




































































































































































































































































































































































































































































Ohio Court Rejects Parent and Student Challenge to Bathroom Policy Accommodating Transgender Students

Ohio Court Rejects Parent and Student Challenge to Bathroom Policy Accommodating Transgender Students

A school district in Ohio adopted a policy that allowed transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. A group of middle school parents and students opposed to the policy filed a federal lawsuit in 2022. Their primary argument was that the policy infringed on their free exercise of religion, but other arguments were also put forth, such as an alleged Fourteenth Amendment violation for interfering with the parents’ right to raise their children as they see fit.

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio dismissed the lawsuit on August 7, 2023. The court found that the religious infringement claims failed because the school district’s policy was neutral and did not impose a substantial burden on their religious practice. The court found that there was no allegation that the school district adopted this policy to suppress religious beliefs. The court also noted that the policy was adopted to prevent what the school district believed to be discrimination on the basis of sex, not to suppress religious beliefs.

As for the Fourteenth Amendment claim, the Court found that parents have a right to control where their children go to school but they do not have a right to dictate how a public school educates their children or how it operates its facilities. In other words, prescribing the use of student bathrooms is a school decision to make, not a parent decision to make.

What does this mean for your district?

This decision means that the school district’s policy of allowing transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity can stay in place. The plaintiffs have the right to file an appeal. Ennis Britton will continue to monitor this case as it progresses further on appeal.