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Montana Schools: Remember to Circulate Your Annual Notices!

November 02, 2020

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By: Lily Crespo Esq.

What you need to know: Even though this year is like no other year, school districts must still comply with numerous federal laws and provide students, parents, and/or the public with notices, many of which must be provided at the beginning of the school year.

What we cover in this issue: some of the notices required by federal law, including the methods required to give notice. ***Not included are employment-related notices required by federal or state law***

We made a list and we are here to help.

  1. Every Student Succeeds Act
    1. What it is: The Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA), requires certain notifications to parents and guardians when school districts receive federal funds. School districts must annually disseminate federal programs complaint resolution procedures to parents and guardians of students and appropriate private school officials or representatives.
    2. What schools need to circulate: SEAs and LEAs that receive Title I funds must publish state and local report cards on their websites that are concise and in an accessible format School districts must annually disseminate federal programs complaint resolution procedures to parents and guardians of students and appropriate private school officials or representatives.
  2. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
    1. What it is: Pursuant to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), school districts must provide parents/guardians and eligible students (students at least 18 years of age) with annual notice of their rights to inspect and review education records, amend education records, consent to disclose personally identifiable information in education records, and file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
    2. What schools need to circulate: The U.S. Department of Education recommends that districts post all FERPA and PPRA notices, including the directory information policy, on their websites. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s Transparency Best Practices for Schools and Districts (p. 5). The Department provides additional guidance on FERPA including:
    3. Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
      1. What it is: The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) requires school districts to adopt several policies regarding surveys of students, instructional materials, physical examinations, personal information used for marketing, and the like.
      2. What schools need to circulate: Parents must be notified of these policies at least annually at the beginning of the school year and within a reasonable time period after any substantial change to the policies. The Department of Education’s Protecting Student Privacy provides a PPRA Model General Notice of Rights and a PPRA Model Notice and Consent/Opt-Out for Specific Activities on it’s website.
      3. Child Nutrition Programs
        1. What it is: If school districts participate in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program, they must provide both parents and the public with information about free and reduced-price meals and/or free milk near the beginning of each school year.
        2. What schools need to circulate: The USDA published a guide on July 25, 2017 that highlights requirements for accommodating children with disabilities who participate in School Meal Programs. With the help of school food service staff, LEAs must implement procedures to enable parents and guardians to request modifications to meal services for their children with disabilities. LEAs must notify parents and guardians of both the process (1) to request meal modifications that accommodate the child’s needs; and for resolving disputes. The hearing process must follow the necessary procedural requirements: notice, right to counsel, opportunity to participate, and examination of the record.
      4. Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
        1. What it is: The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) requires school districts to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building materials, and develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan.
        2. What schools need to circulate: School districts must annually notify parents, teachers, and employee organizations in writing  of  the  availability  of  the  management  plan  and  planned  or  in-progress  inspections,  re-inspections,   response   actions,   and   post-response   actions,   including   periodic   re-inspection   and surveillance activities.
      5. McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
        1. What it is: The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires school districts, through their homeless student liaisons, to provide public notice of the education rights of the homeless students enrolled in their districts.
        2. What schools need to circulate: Such notice is to 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. Additional resources available from the U.S. Department of Education include: Dear Colleague Letter: educational rights of homeless children and youths and guidance on Supporting the Success of Homeless Children and Youths. Also, the National Center for Homeless Education (funded by the U.S. Department of Education) has created free Educational Rights posters (in black/white or color; English/Spanish; parents/students).
      6. Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, the Age Discrimination Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act
        1. What they are: Several federal statutes protect the rights of beneficiaries not to be discriminated against in programs or activities receiving federal and/or state financial assistance. Specifically, the following statutes prohibit discrimination: Title VI, 34 C.F.R. § 100.6(d) (race, color, ethnicity, and national origin); Title IX, 34 F.R. § 106.9 (sex and pregnancy); Section 504, 34 C.F.R. § 104.8 and Title II, 28 C.F.R. § 35.106 of the Americans with Disabilities Act (disability); and the Age Discrimination Act, 34 C.F.R. § 110.25 (age). The Boy Scouts of American Equal Access Act, 34 C.F.R. § 108.9 requires public schools to provide equal access to the use of school property to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.
        2. What schools need to circulate: The regulations implementing the above statutes require school districts to notify students, parents, and others that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, disability, or age, and that they provide equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups. The regulations contain minor differences relating to the required content of the notices and the methods used to publish them.
        3. NEW!!! Pursuant to new Title IX regulations effective August 14, 2020, instead of notifying only students and employees of the Title IX Coordinator’s contact information, schools must also notify applicants for admission and employment, parents or legal guardians of elementary and secondary school students, and all unions of the name or title, office address, e-mail address, and telephone number of the Title IX Coordinator. Additionally, schools must prominently display the required contact information for the Title IX Coordinator on their websites.
      7. Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
        1. What it is: Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), a school district must give parents of a child with a disability a copy of its procedural safeguards one time per year, and upon initial referral or parental request for an evaluation, the filing of a first request for a due process hearing, a disciplinary action constituting a change in placement, and at the request of a parent.
        2. What schools need to circulate: The notice must fully explain the IDEA’s procedural safeguards in an easily understandable manner, and in the native language of the parents unless it is clearly not feasible to do so. Parents may choose to receive the procedural safeguards notice and other notices under the IDEA by email, if the LEA makes this option available.

As you consider these and other issues, we recommend you speak with your school lawyer or contact Bea, Kevin, Megan, Beth, and Lily by email or at 406-542-1300 for templates of these notices and any other information.

Kaleva Law

At Kaleva Law Office you receive the experienced, practical advice of a large firm with the responsive, efficient, top-notch support of a small firm. We take care of the legal questions so you can focus on education.

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