Supreme Court Rules Fair Share Fees Unconstitutional

Today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 that a public sector collective bargaining agreement that includes an agency fee clause (also referred to as “fair share” fee) that requires all employees of the unit to pay union dues is a violation of a public employee’s right to freedom of speech and must cease immediately.

This long-awaited decision overturns the 40-year-old framework established by the Court in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which permitted the collection of public sector agency fees from all unit employees to the extent the fees covered costs related only to collective bargaining, contract administration and grievances. 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

Effective immediately, fair share fees may no longer be lawfully collected from public sector employees. Agency fee arrangements that have been negotiated in a public sector collective bargaining agreement must cease immediately. Failure to do so may nullify any indemnity clauses in a collective bargaining agreement and may result in civil liability. This Supreme Court decision takes precedence over any contractual bargaining language.

The Janus ruling does not change the collection of dues from current union members. Dues from association members should continue to be collected without interruption. Union members who wish to make changes to their membership should follow the regular procedure of providing the union with their notification to withdraw.

Prior to today’s decision, 22 states plus Washington, D.C. allowed public sector unions to charge fees to nonmembers for collective bargaining activities.

It remains to be seen whether this landmark decision will represent a significant change to the collective-bargaining rights of public sector employees, or simply provide a public employee a choice to which the vast majority will respond by remaining dues-paying members.

ODE Issues Guidance for Serving Students in Corrections Facilities and Juvenile Detention Centers

On February 3, 2016, the Office for Exceptional Children issued guidance to school districts whose students with disabilities are, or may be, confined to community corrections facilities or juvenile detention centers.

Generally, the law provides that the school district of residence (the district in which the student’s parent(s) reside) maintains the ultimate responsibility to provide a free appropriate public education (“FAPE”) to the student and remains responsible for the student’s access to appropriate special education and related services while the student is confined. Absent a specific exception, the school district of service (defined as the school district in which the facility is located) provides the special education and related services and charges the cost of those services to the district of residence. Keep in mind, however, that it remains the ultimate responsibility of the district of residence to ensure that students with disabilities are receiving the services to which they are entitled pursuant to their individualized education programs (“IEPs”).

The guidance further emphasizes that school districts must identify, locate and evaluate students in community corrections facilities and juvenile detention centers who may have a disability and may need special education and related services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”). In short, if there is a suspicion that a student has a disability and is in need of special education and related services, the district of residence must evaluate that student in a timely manner.

School districts should review their special education policies and procedures to ensure that they provide FAPE in a timely and appropriate manner to all students with disabilities, including students in these facilities, and in accordance with the Ohio Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities.

For additional information and access to ODE’s guidance, please visit:

Maryland School District Sued for Promoting Islam

The Thomas Moore Law Center, on behalf of John and Melissa Wood and their minor daughter, filed suit against the Charles County Public School District Board of Education and the High School Principal and Vice-Principal alleging that the La Plata High School “promoted Islam” by implementing a pro-Muslim lesson plan in its World History class. The Woods claim that the school concealed that it promoted Islam by leaving the topic out of a course syllabus and that students were forced to use a separate textbook for the segment on Islam but were not permitted to take it home. To that end, the Woods allege that their daughter was forced to profess and to write out the Shahada, the Islamic creed, in worksheets and quizzes.

By way of background, the lawsuit alleges that after the Woods learned of the Islamic subject matter being taught, Mr. Woods immediately contacted the school to voice his objections and to obtain an alternative assignment for his daughter. He maintains that the school ultimately refused to allow his daughter to “opt-out” of the assignments and subsequently enforced its “No Trespass” policy on him so that he was no longer permitted to enter onto school premises.

In a January statement, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center Richard Thompson said the school “forced Wood’s daughter to disparage her Christian faith by reciting the Shahada, and acknowledging Mohammed as her spiritual leader.”

“The Woods believe that it is a sin to profess commitment in word or writing to any god other than the Christian God,” the Thomas Moore Society says on its website. “Thus, they object to their daughter being forced to deny the Christian God and to her high school promoting Islam over other religions.”

The Woods seek a court declaration that the Defendants violated their constitutional and statutory rights, a temporary and permanent injunction barring Defendants from endorsing Islam or favoring Islam over Christianity and other religions, and from enforcing the no trespassing order issued against Mr. Wood.