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Information on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. If you have a legal problem, consult your institutional counsel or an attorney licensed to practice law in your state. Information and views presented in this blog are solely those of the individual contributors and not their employers.

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Review of Ed Law Assoc conference

Last week, along with some of my fellow bloggers, I attended the 60th annual meeting of the Education Law Association. This organization is unique in that it brings together those interested in both K-12 and higher education law and policy, as well as three distinct constituencies: faculty, administrators, and attorneys.

My time there was hectic but incredibly informative. (Here is a link to the list of presentation topics.) A particular treat was attending the seminar given by Professor Michael Olivas of the University of Houston Law Center. Olivas was awarded the Steven S. Goldberg Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Education Law for his 2013 book "Suing Alma Mater." (Here is a link to my review of that book.) Olivas' text utilizes a quasi-case study approach to illustrate in-depth some of the legal challenges recently brought before the courts to combat discrimination and disparity. His concluding chapter about the role of purposive organizations is worthy of note and a must-read.

Olivas' inclusion fit seamlessly with the theme of the conference, "The Resegregation of Education in America," as did some of the other keynote speakers. At the conference I was introduced to the work of Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, and Dr. Raynard Sanders, host of the New Orleans Impeative broadcast. Both received standing ovations for their moving and passionate remarks, arguing that modern-day movements in education have reverted American schools to the racial separation and inequity that the Brown case sought to end nearly 60 years ago.

Chemerinsky, for whom his incredibly articulate and well researched address I cannot do justice, argued that our political AND personal divestiture in neighborhood schools has led to the very movement that has caused the general public to lose faith in this basic American institution. Sanders, who at the time of Katrina was working as a school principal, went through a thorough account of the events immediately after the devasting hurricane that led to the abolishment of the Orleans Parish School Board and COMPLETE transition to a charter school system. He outlined how federal funds requested by the state board of education were not spent in the way there were intended, and thousands of community teachers were fired. The narrative regarding the success of NOLA schools is somewhat skewed, as the previously failing schools that are now being touted as "turned around" by this new charter system are being evaluated by a new and lowered assessment model.** Both Chemerinksy and Sanders made rousing arguments that both the education and legal communities must take up figurative arms to combat the political attack on education and public sentiment that it is a defunct system.

Other sessions of note included a presenation by Mark St. Louis and Brian Mistler on the legal and psychological concepts related to conflict managment and employee negotiation. Mistler, a counselor himself, provided some useful tools for those working in education (and beyond) to use conflict as an opportunity to learn both sides of any position and to redirect organizational power to achieve harmony. Mercy Roberg took an interesting look into the potential legal issues involved when high school students dual enroll on college campuses. Jermaine Johnson provided a well-researched overview of OCR guidance regarding direct threats and suicidal students. In that same session, I enjoyed a presentation by John Dayton regarding workplace bullies.

Hopefully this BRIEF recap of the conference has piqued your interest and that you may consider joining us in Cleveland in 2015. (If you have not visited the city before, you are in for a treat. Truly a hidden gem of the Midwest!)

**Footnote: Any discussion of the racial inequity in New Orleans schools would be remiss to not mention the active role the Catholic Diocese of New Orleans played in the 1960s to thwart the desegration movement.


New Clery amendments released

The amendments to the Clery Act concerning how institutions should report and respond to sexual assault have been released. Among the most notable changes are the requirement that institutions compile statistics and adopt policies related to dating violence, stalking, and domestic violence. Also the amendments stipulate that both accuser and accused should be allowed to have an advisor (attorney or non-attorney) present at campus disciplinary hearings.

The new report also addresses some administrators' concern that the new reporting requirements will be cost prohibitive, as well as the lack of a definition of consent in the new regulations.

These rules take effect July 2015 but the U.S. Department of Education is calling on institutions to make a good faith effort to implement the provisions immediately.

In a "Dear Colleague" letter released this summer, the DOE addressed confusion over the added categories of dating violence, domestic abuse, and stalking and indicated that institutions were not obliged to modify statistics from the past two years to reflect these new categories. These changes should be reflected in statistical reporting moving forward.



California's Affirmative Consent Law Signed 

Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown of California signed the Affirmative Consent bill.  As discussed in the Chronicle, the law "explicitly requires colleges and universities that receive state funds to define consent in students’ sexual encounters in terms of 'yes means yes' rather than the traditional 'no means no.'"


It's on us … to make a difference

You might have seen the news about the White House Initiative, It's On Us .  To learn more, go to the White House Blog.   

The campaign promotes individual and group pledges to participate in a national campaign aimed at ending sexual assaults on college campuses.  Please join the campaign by signing up and taking action on your campus.


Does athletic culture contribute to higher rates of sexual assault and substance abuse?

Recent headlines regarding sexual assault and domestic abuse again have brought player behavior in professional and intercollegiate sports to the fore. With the suspension of Ray Rice of the NFL for viciously punching his wife and Jameis Winston in trouble for misogynistic behavior (earlier this year we commented on his sexual asault investigation), the larger question is whether the celebrity status of athletes condones a secret and shameful culture permissive of sexual assault and abuse?

Research has established that substance abuse (namely alcohol) contributes to higher rates of sexual assault. Additionally, research has established a trend of high drinking rates among student-athletes, and media stories like the ones above have illuminated a culture of sexual abuse and assault that is more prevalant among athletes than the public at-large. With this, I wonder if on college campuses with a strong "athletic culture" are there higher rates of substance abuse and sexual assault among the student body?

In a nascent research project, I am examining Clery data related to substance abuse and sexual assault among institutions classified at the highest tier, Football Bowl Subdivision, and the less competitive Football Championship Subdivision. To operationalize "athletic culture" I will rank institutions according to the ratio of money spent on athletics versus academics. (The Wall Street Journal recently did its own analysis of college football spending.) Along with other factors, I hope to establish that on campuses that strongly support athletics in relation to academics, this culture spills over to the general student body. I will be presenting my preliminary findings at the Education Law Association's annual meeting in November. I look forward to your feedback.