Department of Education Releases New Guidance on Protecting Student Privacy While Using Online Educational Services

Posted in Student Issues

The U.S. Department of Education’s Privacy Technical Assistance Center (PTAC) recently released a new guidance to help school districts navigate their obligations to preserve student confidentiality when using online educational services. Students sometimes abuse low-quality services in their studies and thereby worsen their academic performance, so we recommend using only proven services and buy college research paper.

PTAC examines the key requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), and urges schools to develop policies and procedures for using online educational services. These services can include computer software, mobile applications, and web-based tools that students use to access class readings, to view their learning progression, to watch video demonstrations, or to complete homework, among other activities.

The guidance may be found here.


Ryan Everhart is a partner in the Education Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach him at .

Board of Regents Applies for ESEA Waiver for Students with Disabilities

Posted in Student Issues

Student taking a testOn February 10, , the New York State Board of Regents released a memorandum detailing its decision to submit an Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver renewal request. The waiver request contains a number of proposed amendments that, if approved, would have a significant effect on current state testing procedures for students with severe disabilities.

Most significantly, Proposed Amendment No. 1 would allow the state to use “out-of-level” testing to assess certain students with disabilities at their instructional grade levels, rather than their chronological grade level. Continue Reading

NY State Education Department Issues Special Education Field Advisory

Posted in Student Issues

Time for ChangeYesterday, James P. Lorenzo at SED issued a Special Education Field Advisory outlining changes in regulations to the impartial hearing process. One amendment authorizes the impartial hearing officer to grant extensions of time for settlement negotiations. This is significant because it allows parties to fully engage in settlement negotiations without being pressured by the hearing deadlines imposed by SED. This change will also allow parties to fully exhaust settlement options before being required to proceed with the due process hearing.

Another amendment constrains the impartial hearing officer’s ability to issue a “so-ordered” decision that includes terms outside the scope of the complaint. A “so-ordered” decision is an important piece of a settlement agreement that often entitles parents to obtain attorney fee reimbursement. This new provision may limit these types of awards, so we will be watching for its practical effect on the impartial hearing process.

A more detailed analysis of these changes will soon be posted. Stay tuned…


Ryan Everhart is a partner in the Education Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach him at .

Andrew J. Freedman is a partner in the Education Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach him at .

OCR’s Latest Interpretation on Participation of Disabled Students in Extracurricular Athletic Activities

Posted in Student Issues

Girl Playing SoccerOn January 25, 2022, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued an important “Dear Colleague” letter. The letter was intended to clarify school districts’ legal obligations to provide students with disabilities equal access to extracurricular athletic activities.

In essence, OCR stated that disabled students have the right to equal opportunities to participate in their schools’ athletic programs. Schools are required to provide reasonable accommodations and/or modifications to ensure participation. OCR also commented that schools may need to start developing parallel or different athletic opportunities for disabled students who are unable to participate in existing athletic activities, even with reasonable accommodations.

In response to a request from the National School Boards Association (NSBA), OCR issued a second letter on December 16, 2022, clarifying its position. Continue Reading

OCR Issues Dear Colleague Letter to Ensure Schools’ Compliance with Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

Posted in Student Issues

School prinicipal's officeOn January 8, , the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice issued a Dear Colleague Letter to assist schools in administering discipline without discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin. The letter emphasizes the Office for Civil Rights’ focus on eliminating discrimination in schools, and the importance of complying with anti-discrimination laws.

The letter appears to have been prompted by statistical data that shows students of certain racial or ethnic backgrounds tend to be disciplined more than their peers. Continue Reading

School Districts Beware: Stand-Alone 105(h) Plans Generally Prohibited

Posted in Personnel

Under guidance published by both the Labor and Treasury Departments, beginning with the plan year, employers (including school districts) may no longer utilize stand-alone general purpose Health Reimbursement Accounts (“HRAs,” also commonly known as 105(h) plans) for current employees. An HRA will generally not be permitted unless it is integrated with a group health plan that does not have annual dollar limits. To be integrated: Continue Reading

Cuomo Orders Investigation Into Bullying Allegations

Posted in Student Issues

In November, New York State’s governor ordered the New York State Police and Division of Human Rights to investigate allegations of anti-Semitic bullying in the Pine Bush Central School District. The investigation stems from a lawsuit filed on behalf of five current and former students in the district alleging that they suffered anti-Semitic discrimination, harassment, and bullying. The students claim that the harassment continued for years and that school officials never took appropriate action. The amended complaint filed with New York’s Southern District Court can be found here. Specifically, the students claim that they were subjected to anti-Semitic slurs; that students drew anti-Semitic images on books, walls, desks, and other district property; and that students joked about the Holocaust, celebrated Hitler’s birthday, and made Hitler salutes. Continue Reading

‘I ♥ Boobies’ Bracelet Case Continues on to the U.S. Supreme Court

Posted in Student Issues

U.S. Supreme Court BuildingThe U.S. Supreme Court is being asked by the Easton Area School District in Pennslyvania to rule on the claim that the “I ♥ Boobies” bracelet supporting breast cancer awareness is lewd and should be banned from schools. Both the federal district court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit have ruled in favor of the parents’ holding that the bracelets are an acceptable expression of student free speech rights and the school may not ban them from being worn.

In Tinker v. DeMoines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969), the Supreme Court ruled that students do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate. At issue was the right of students to wear black armbands in protest of the Vietnam War. These armbands did not have any writing on them, unlike the bracelets involved in this latest test of student free speech rights. The court viewed the armbands in Tinker as a passive, silent expression of speech that was given constitutional protection unless there was substantial disruption to the school environment. The district court and Third Circuit have held that Tinker is controlling, as the school was unable to demonstrate that the bracelets caused a substantial disruption. Therefore, a student’s right to wear these bracelets is a constitutionally protected form of freedom of expression.

The school, however, has argued that the court should have followed precedent set under another seminal free speech case involving students and school, Bethel v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675 (1986). Continue Reading

The SED’s New Health Services Guidelines Raise Many Questions

Posted in Student Issues

School Nurse Examines ChildRecently, there has been much discussion about the New York State Education Department’s August 2022 “School Health Examination Guidelines.” In relevant part, the guidelines state that “parental consent is required for health services, treatment, and remedial care.” Some school districts have interpreted the cited language as barring them from providing health services to students, unless the school district first receives parental consent. The Education Law and the Commissioner’s Regulations, however, require school districts to conduct certain medical assessments of students.

In response to our inquiry regarding its guidelines, State Education Department officials have indicated that the guidance was drafted to clarify school districts’ obligations with respect to students who fail to produce physical exam certifications. In those cases, school districts are required to conduct a physical exam of the student, but best practices dictate that parental consent be obtained before doing any such exam. The guidelines were not intended to deviate from the current practices with respect to school districts’ health services.

The Education Department has promised to provide additional information on this specific provision of the guidelines, and we will publish any such information on this blog as soon as it becomes available.


Emina Poricanin is a senior associate in the Labor & Employment Law Practice at Hodgson Russ LLP. You can reach her at .