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News from Thrun Law

Posted 03.29.2018

In a case handled by Thrun Law Firm, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a Michigan Em­ployment Relations Commission (MERC) decision, which found that a union committed an unfair labor practice by demanding to arbitrate a school’s decision to issue a written reprimand to a teacher. Ionia Co Intermediate Ed Ass’n v Ionia Co Intermediate Sch Dist, Case No. 334573 (February 22, 2018).

Posted 03.05.2018

MDE issued a memorandum this month reminding schools of sexual harassment obligations under State and federal law. MDE noted that both Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act and Title IX of the Edu­cation Amendments Act prohibit sexual harassment, a prohibition that protects all individuals, including students, employees, parents, and guardians.

MDE stressed that schools have numerous obligations under Title IX, including the following:

Posted 02.22.2018

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

Posted 02.19.2018

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) reissued an opinion letter from January 15, 2009 that it had previously withdrawn. The reissued opinion letter provides guidance about how school districts should classify and compensate community members who serve as athletic coaches. The DOL de­termined that certain athletic coaches who are not otherwise employed by the school district meet the “teacher exemption” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Posted 02.05.2018

A California federal court recently granted a student’s motion for preliminary injunction, holding that the student athlete was entitled to kneel during the playing of the national anthem as part of the pregame ceremonies. V.A. v San Pasqual Valley Unified Sch Dist, Case No. 17-cv-02741-BAS-AGS (SD Cal, Dec. 21, 2017). The court ruled that the act of kneeling was protected speech, which the district’s superintendent could not prohibit because kneeling during the anthem was unlikely to substantially disrupt the school’s activities or interfere with other students’ rights.

Posted 01.15.2018

While school board elections take place on the even-year November election date, a school district may place millage and bond propositions on the ballot on any of the three regular election dates each year (four election dates in a presidential election year), as well as on certain petition initiative election dates.

The 2018 regular election dates for millage or bond proposals are:

May 8, 2018
August 7, 2018
November 6, 2018

Posted 01.01.2018

The National School Boards Association recently invited Thrun Law Firm attorneys to write an amicus or “friend of the court” brief (a brief filed by a non-party that has an interest in the case) in a special education case likely to impact schools nationwide. The case, L.H. v Hamilton Co Dep’t of Ed, Docket No 1:14-CV-1126 (2016), is currently on appeal to the Sixth Circuit – whose decisions are binding on Michigan schools.

Posted 12.21.2017

The Michigan Legislature recently passed HB 5126 amending the definition of “school personnel” as it applies to Revised School Code Sections 1307-1307h, which address the use of emergency seclusion and restraint in schools. Thrun attorney Dan Martin testified on the bill before the House Education Reform Committee, emphasizing the need for clarifying legislation to exclude law enforcement officers from the definition of school personnel in those sections. We anticipate that Governor Snyder will sign this bill into law.

Posted 11.13.2017

When Andy Williams sang “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” he clearly was not singing to school administrators! The next couple of months can be stressful for school officials seeking to navigate the holiday season without violating the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Our gift to you is guidance on how to handle religious holidays at school.

The starting point is the Supreme Court’s three-part test for determining whether governmental activity complies with the Establishment Clause:

Posted 10.30.2017

The importance of obtaining “qualified status” each year from the Michigan Department of Treasury cannot be overemphasized. School districts, intermediate school districts, and public school academies that obtain qualified status are able to issue new bonds and notes faster and pay lower filing fees to the State of Michigan. Schools that do not obtain qualified status may experience signifi­cant delays in issuing bonds and notes during calendar year 2018.

Posted 09.28.2017

Does your school currently have a summer tax levy of either 50% or 100%? Does your school wish to continue levying summer taxes for the 2018 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, 2017. A suggested resolution form is attached to this newsletter.

Posted 09.28.2017

On September 15, 2017, the Michigan Department of Treasury notified all public employers of the “hard cap” contribution limits under the Publicly Funded Health Insurance Contribution Act for medical benefit plans renewing after January 1, 2018. The 2018 cap amounts were increased by 3.4%. The adjustment is based on the change in the medical care component of the consumer price index for the previous 12-month period.

Posted 09.28.2017

The Michigan Department of Education recently announced the new threshold amount at which school districts, intermediate school districts, and public school academies must competitively bid for: (1) labor and materials for construction projects (Section 1267 of the Revised School Code (RSC)); and (2) the purchase of supplies, materials, and equipment (Sections 623a and 1274 of the RSC). For the 2017-18 fiscal year, the competitive bid threshold amount is $23,881.

Posted 09.11.2017

The Fire Prevention Code requires that local school districts, ISDs, and PSAs that operate any grades from kindergarten to grade 12 conduct various school safety drills throughout the school year. These drills include:

Posted 09.04.2017

Throughout the school year, we receive numerous questions about the appropriate language for, and how to implement, board policies and procedures that apply to students. Below are examples of some student-related board policies that should be in place to ensure a successful start to the school year.

Student Discipline