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News from Thrun Law

Posted 02.27.2017

Boards planning to nonrenew an administrator’s employment contract in the last year of the contract must take steps to comply with the timelines and procedural requirements contained in Section 1229 of the Revised School Code. Failure to follow the statutory nonrenewal process (or provisions in an employment contract) may result in automatic contract renewal for an additional year.

Posted 02.20.2017

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that the potential disruptiveness of an employee’s speech is sufficient to outweigh its First Amendment value. Gillis v Miller, Case Nos. 16-1245/1249 (CA 6, January 6, 2017). Public employers do not need to wait until an employee’s speech causes an actual disruption in the workplace before taking action. If an employer can reasonably predict that an employee’s speech will cause disruption, then the First Amendment will not protect the employee from discipline.

Posted 02.15.2017

The Legislature recently passed a package of seven bills that will require school officials to consider various factors before suspending or expelling a student and to consider the use of restorative practices, regardless of whether a student is suspended or expelled. The new laws take effect August 1, 2017.

Factors to Consider Before Discipline

Posted 11.25.2016

“You don’t get what you deserve; you get what you negotiate” is perhaps a clichéd contracting mantra, but it continues to ring true. The days of a handshake agreement are waning in our increasingly litigious culture, and school districts are facing an increase in both the type and amount of business contracts – cleaning, transportation, food service, software licens­es, property acquisition and disposition, utilities, construction, professional services, and cooperative arrangements, to name a few.

Posted 11.24.2016

House Bill 4388 was recently signed into law as Public Act 319 of 2016. PA 319 amends Section 1212 of the Revised School Code to expand the permissible uses of a newly-approved sinking fund levy while reducing the maximum millage rate and duration of that levy.

Posted 11.23.2016

The Family and Medical Leave Act is a federal statute that allows eligible employees up to 12 weeks unpaid leave in a 12-month period. During FMLA leave, employees are entitled to health insurance ben­efits and the right to return to an equivalent position at the conclusion of that leave.

Posted 10.27.2016

The holiday season is fast approaching, bringing with it a sleigh full of legal landmines. Ho-ho-ho! Despite decades of legal precedent and guidance, the holiday season can generate First Amendment lawsuits, as an Indiana school learned recently.

Freedom from Religion Foundation v Concord Com­munity Schools (ND Ind, 2016)

Posted 10.27.2016

Sexting – electronically sending sexually explicit photos or messages – has increased among teenagers. A school investigation into sexting implicates many legal concerns: free speech, search and seizure, Title IX, mandatory child abuse reporting, and child pornography. While policymakers debate whether to modify laws to address teen sexting, school administrators must proceed carefully with student sexting investigations.

Free Speech

Posted 10.27.2016

Two federal courts recently dismissed unrelated Title IX claims against two Michigan school districts involving teacher-student sexual relationships. Irvin v Grand Rapids Pub Schs, Case No. 1:14-cv-1161 (WD Mich, September 27, 2016); Campbell v Dundee Cmty Schs, Case No. 15-1891 (CA 6, October 13, 2016). These decisions provide helpful guidance to school officials on how to respond to allegations of inappropriate teacher-student relationships.

Posted 09.29.2016

Does your school currently have a summer tax levy of either 50% or 100%? Does your school wish to continue with that authorization for the 2017 tax year? If the answer to both questions is “yes,” then your school’s board of education must adopt a resolu­tion to continue the summer tax levy and file a copy of that resolution with each city and township within your school’s boundaries on or before December 31, 2016. A suggested resolution form is attached to this newsletter.

Posted 09.29.2016

Public Act 249 of 2016 not only amended the state school aid budget and increased the pupil foundation allowance, it also appropriated funds for other school purposes and amended the State School Aid Act (SSAA) in ways that impose substantive requirements on schools. We want to highlight four important changes from PA 249.

Foundation Allowances

Posted 08.26.2016

On July 19, 2016, the State School Reform/Redesign Officer (SRO) initiated meetings with school superintendents and board presidents who have underperforming buildings within their districts. Identified as “priority schools,” there are ap­proximately 184 underperforming school buildings targeted by the SRO.

The SRO requested that school officials meet by September 1 to discuss priority schools in their districts. In the meeting request, the SRO indicated that the following information would be provid­ed to each school district:

Posted 08.25.2016

Below is a brief overview regarding the SRO, the recent appointment of a CEO in East Detroit Public Schools, and Public Act 192 of 2016.

Background on the State School Reform/Redesign Office

In 2010, the State School Reform/Redesign Office was created. At that time, the SRO reported directly to the State Board of Education.  The SRO’s primary objective is to turn around the lowest achieving 5% of priority schools and ensure that these schools follow effective reform/redesign plans to improve their performance.

Posted 08.22.2016

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued a published decision explaining that “granting” a request for public records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) is separate and distinct from “fulfilling” a request. Cramer v Village of Oakley, No. 330736 (Mich App, 2016).

Posted 08.15.2016

For school districts with a July tax levy, local tax-collecting units recently sent summer tax bills to district taxpayers. Those municipalities will collect school taxes on those districts’ behalf. Every year, however, some of our clients receive collected tax revenue late, causing unexpected cash flow problems. School officials should be aware that tax-collecting units have a statutory duty to timely transfer school tax revenues.