Articles Posted in Education Law

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The New York Supreme Court has rejected the first of more than a dozen lawsuits brought by recent law school graduates, alleging their school had lured them to enroll under fraudulent pretenses.Our fraud litigation attorneys were disappointed with

the ruling, as it likely means the remaining 14 cases will not move forward.

The case, Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School had alleged that school had misrepresented and/or lied about how successful alumni were in finding employment after the completion of their education. Plaintiffs had been seeking a collective $225 million.

Among the claims made by the school at the time students enrolled was that between 90 and 92 percent of graduates from the school had secured employment within nine months. What the school allegedly failed to mention was how many of those positions were temporary or part-time or how many of them had nothing to do with a law degree. Lumped in with that 92 percent were graduates who were working as coffee shop baristas and in retail sales – jobs that don’t require a law degree and won’t even begin to help make a dent in those astronomical law school loans.

If this case sound familiar, that’s probably because you may have heard it before. A New York County judge had dismissed the action back in the spring of last year, saying that the career woes of the plaintiffs could be pinned more on the economic downturn than on the claims made by the school.

The case was appealed. However, the appellate court found that while the law school had been “less than candid” about the career paths of its recent graduates, the dismissal was still appropriate.

The plaintiffs had hoped the state’s high court would agree to review the matter, but now that does not appear likely. A similar lawsuit involving Albany Law School was dismissed by a trial court as well, though that case is pending appeal. Decisions are also pending in cases against the law school at Hofstra University and the Brooklyn Law School.

Representative lawyers had said that while they were disappointed with the court’s decision, one of the latent goals of the entire process was realized: law schools on the whole are becoming more transparent in how they operate and in what they promise.

Part of that has been the American Bar Association’s response to this type of litigation, which has been to require schools to submit more in-depth information regarding alumni employment for publication of its annual law school rankings, which is compiled each year in conjunction with U.S. News & World Report.

The attention that all this has garnered also prompted a number of U.S. senators to speak out critically against deceptive law school practices.

Although courts in New York State have generally not favored students in these matters, they had a moderate level of success elsewhere. In New Jersey, for example, a federal judge declined just last month to dismiss a similar case, saying that it was plausible that the claims of the alumni had merit.
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School is supposed to be a nurturing haven of learning and a refuge of safety.

Sadly, our education lawyers know this is not always the case. It’s troubling enough when children are cut down by their peers. But when it comes from teachers, administrators and bus drivers, it can be devastating.Parents in New York’s Garden City have filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging the public school system has practiced widespread discrimination against disabled children. It is one of a number of similar cases cropping up across the country.

In this case, three mothers say the district treats children who have autism like second-class citizens.

In one case, a former female student with a neurological disorder who is able to communicate with the assistance of a machine, was allegedly told by public school administrators that she would not be able to finish high school. Her mother refused to accept that answer. She had to fight for it, but her daughter did eventually graduate high school, and is now receiving a college education.

By federal law, the public education system must provide an education to all students – regardless of the unique challenges they face. However, these mothers say when it comes to disabled children, the school does not make equal education a priority.

As our education lawyers well know, the process for these parents often involves an ongoing string of meetings and hearings. It’s wise in these cases to bring an advocate with you, to ensure your child is receiving the best possible education – and that the school is abiding by the law.

The mothers in this case speculate that the schools are reticent to provide equal education for their kids because their children’s test scores, like all other students, are tied to overall school ratings and therefore state and federal dollars.

That doesn’t make it acceptable.

Down in Florida, another federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of a young female student who suffered from a neuromuscular disorder that made it difficult to sit up straight. She died on a school bus after suffocating; the lawsuit indicates bus employees failed to take action or even call 911. Instead, they reportedly followed “protocol” by trying to reach a supervisor. The lawsuit alleges a series of deaths of disabled children within the district dating back to 1999, revealing a pattern of disregard for the needs of disabled children.

In another case out of a Chicago suburb, parents there are suing the school district alleging that a school bus aide slapped an autistic male student. Parents might never have known of the incident had they not put a camera on his backpack when they noticed he seemed afraid to board the bus.

On that tape, the aide reportedly began yelling at the boy to get his hands out of his pocket, and then began slapping and hitting the child and threatened to break his fingers.

No other employee on the bus attempted to step in and stop the abuse, nor was it ever reported to the aide’s superiors.

If you believe your special needs child is being discriminated against or abused, call our experienced attorneys for advice on how to proceed.
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Parents of children with disabilities are fighters and advocates from the time they are born.Our Great Neck education lawyers know those battles have only just begun when the child reaches school age.
Many times, you are up against a district that may be providing substandard services and lessons, or is failing to provide the appropriate accommodations. Other times, you may learn the district isn’t doing enough to protect your child from a number of potential harms.

The latter scenario is what one Brooklyn mother is up against, after her 13-year-old disabled daughter, who was mercilessly teased and bullied, was one day pushed by a peer from a moving bus and into oncoming traffic. It’s a miracle she wasn’t killed. The girl did however suffer a broken collarbone and had to be rushed to the hospital. In addition to being severely injured, the girl was also incredibly frightened and embarrassed by the ordeal, which the mother contends would not have happened had the school district taken action to curb the bullying before it got so out-of-control.

The mother has filed a notice of intent to sue the New York Department of Education in connection with the incident. The bus was reportedly staffed with one aide and a driver, neither of whom are facing any disciplinary action by the district.

The district has said the student believed to have pushed the girl has been forbidden from taking the bus and “will receive appropriate discipline.”

Yet the mother says she had informed school officials for months that a group of children at the school was harassing her daughter, and she was deeply concerned for her safety. She credits God with saving her daughter, but says the district needs to ensure such an incident never happens again.

The ordeal that day began when one of the girl’s classmates spit at her. Another threw her own school books at her.

The aide then instructed the bullied girl to move to the back of the bus so that she could get away. However, once there, one of the boys in the group – who reportedly had a history of violence both with other students and with this girl – walked back, opened the back door of the bus and pushed her out. He fell out along with her.

Said the girl later, “I thought I was going to die.”

Bullying is not a new situation in schools. In fact, it’s one they have been dealing with for some time. In 2011, the U.S. Department of Education released a statement saying that schools have an obligation to intervene to address harassment, online or on campus, when administrators know about it or reasonably should have known.

The department further defines bullying as unwanted and aggressive behavior among school children that involves a perceived or real imbalance of power. It could be verbal (teasing, inappropriate sexual comments, taunting, threatening, name-calling), social (purposeful exclusion, spreading rumors, public embarrassment) or physical (hitting, pinching, kicking, spitting, pushing, tripping, damaging property or making rude gestures).

If your child has been injured by a bully and school officials refuse to address the situation, we can help.
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In a New York education law case, the state’s supreme court has issued a clear message to students: It’s up to you – not your school – to determine your employment prospects.Our New York education law attorneys understand that the case is one of a growing trend of similar suits filed across the country. Basically, students at colleges across the country – including New York Law School in lower Manhattan – say the schools misled them about what kind of future they would have once they graduated.

The plaintiffs, nine students from the New York Law School, said the school took great efforts to misconstrue the truth about their job prospects. They equated it to false advertising when school officials, in promoting the large number of recent graduates who had secured employment, failed to stipulate that many of those graduates were working only part-time or in fields that didn’t even require a law degree.

Students pay premium prices to attend a prestigious law school (or any law school, really) on the expectation that they will find employment when they graduate. The students were collectively seeking $225 million in damages.

The Supreme Court, however, tossed their claim – while still expressing sympathy for the students – saying that those who are contemplating law school are generally a “sophisticated subset” of education buyers, who are fully able to weigh all their options before deciding to enroll. So basically, it’s up to the student to do his or her research prior to accepting an offer to attend.

Still, the courts did say that they realized the students were entering one of the worst job markets in history, particularly for those with a legal degree.

An attorney for the New York Law School graduates said there will likely be an appeal.

This was just one case, however – a class action lawsuit that involves students from the Syracuse University College of Law, as well as 34 other schools, is still pending.

To some extent, students may expect some form of inflation when it comes to data released by the schools. The fact is, statistics can be skewed just about any way you can imagine – and still technically be accurate.

Universities in New York are governed by the state’s Office of Higher Education and the state’s education law, which begin in Federal Trade Commission Act, which essentially says that all advertisements have to be true and non-deceptive, there must be proof to back up the claim and they must be fair.
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A state lawmaker is trying to figure out a way to adjust New York education law in order to punish students for cheating.

In the wake of the Great Neck SAT cheating scandal that officials have determined was going on for several years throughout Long Island, many officials are looking into the problem.As we previously reported on our Great Neck education law blog, one teen, now a student at Emory University in Atlanta, devised a scheme where he would take Scholastic Aptitude Tests for students in exchange for money. The plan went so far as boys dressing as girls in order to get into testing sites where they could take the test for another person. It fell apart, the teen told 60 Minutes recently, when some of the test-takers were caught and confessed.

Newsday is reporting that Sen. Kenneth LaValle, R-Port Jefferson, said that the recent arrests of 20 past and present students is cause for concern. He wants tougher enforcement measures put in place for students taking tests in order to determine their eligibility. Prosecutors have previously said that the victims in the scandal were honest test-taking students who were overshadowed by cheating students.

The senator wants to overhaul a 20-year-old law that gives students accused of misconduct in taking the college entrance exam legal protection. LaValle, head of the state Senate Higher Education Committee, said he wants to make one-of-a-kind changes.

The committee will be meeting to discuss potential changes, including increased test security and increases in criminal penalties for those found guilty of cheating. He believes new legislation that would deal with exam fraud will be drafted this winter.

The senator didn’t provide many specific changes he wants to make, but told Newsday he wants to change a section of the law that provides legal due process for those accused of cheating. Students whose scores are invalidated can have the test fees refunded, retake the test or seek legal arbitration. The senator has said he wants to amend the 1992 law to reduce students’ rights.

The law was put in place to protect students from having the stigma of cheating surround them if they are accused. Some officials argue that colleges and universities should be told if a student was caught or accused of cheating.

Students who are accused of cheating, without relevant proof, shouldn’t have their futures destroyed because of school officials’ allegations. If students are accused of cheating and then re-take the test and pass, why should universities be informed that school officials made a mistake? Students require rights so that their futures can remain bright.

These laws were enacted for a reason. In fact, they went into place after an incident in Los Angeles where 12 students were asked to retake an AP calculus test after suspected cheating. When all 12, who were students of teacher Jamie Escalante, passed, their experience was made into the move “Stand and Deliver.” The New York law was put into place based on that situation, which got much attention.
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In Great Neck, 2011 was marked by a major high school SAT cheating scandal that rocked the community and brought additional scrutiny to New York education law matters that were thrust into the limelight.

As Newsday reported recently, the teen who started the cheating scandal appeared on the CBS News show 60 Minutes to talk about his operation and how it flourished. These are issues that require a person skilled in addressing the rights of students and school districts who must combat this type of behavior.Schools aren’t police departments and their means of investigation are much different. The rights they have are also different. In cases where a student is being accused of committing a crime, cheating or violating some school rule, they must have representation.

Time and time again, we see on the news an example of a child who gets suspended or expelled without a high standard of proof from school officials. These types of punishments — especially in high school as a student is preparing for college — can mar an otherwise solid record. And the consequences can include missing out on scholarships or having college admissions staff disqualify a student.

The 19-year-old mastermind of the plan, now a freshman at Emory University in Atlanta, told 60 Minutes that he heard of other students paying for grades, but he didn’t start doing it until a struggling student asked for his help. Because of relaxed security at testing sites — officials only ask for a school identification card — the plan went into effect.

As the scandal’s reach was revealed by investigators, criminal charges are now being levied. Officials say that 50 students have been implicated over four Long Island counties and include brokers who matched test takers with students. After three years of conducting the scandal, the teen was caught when test takers confessed.

CBS News reports that at least 20 students so far have been arrested as part of the Long Island scandal, while students in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and other areas have been implicated in similar scandals. Teachers are under pressure to ensure test scores remain high and hit certain marks, despite students who need more attention than others.

Schools are constantly under-funded to meet the demands placed on them by federal and state officials, which makes the situation all the more difficult. And colleges and universities are feeling the budget crunch, which is leading to fewer students being admitted. This puts pressure on students, who recognize the stakes and know that if they don’t get into the school of their choice, it could hurt their future.

It’s a tough cycle to break, but students who end up penalized by school officials without required proof must be stopped. These students require an education law attorney who can stand by their side.
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An article out of Rochester reports that salaries for teachers vary widely throughout New York state. For instance, salaries in the Rochester area rank at the bottom of the state, while teachers in Westchester and Putnam counties outside New York City rank highest. The disparity between superintendents range from $166,000 to $506,000.

In a separate article, Bloomberg is reporting that a record number of teachers are retiring, which could save money for state taxpayers as older teachers with years of raises move out and new teachers getting their first job move in.Teachers have been battling for decades to earn better salaries. They are consistently underpaid and under-appreciated despite the commitment they have to educating our children. It is easily one of the most important jobs in the country, but it’s not profitable and teachers are paid far less.

Education law in New York can often be a contentious area of practice, as it can apply to student discipline issues, the fairness of class sizes in different schools and teachers’ rights.

The teacher salary story reports that the average salary for teachers in the Teachers’ Retirement System was $57,971 last school year. Salaries vary, officials said, based on cost-of-living estimates, experience and seniority. Also, some teacher’s unions have negotiated lower salaries in order to cut down on healthcare costs.

While there are great disparities among counties — the average annual salaries in Westchester and Putnam counties are around $95,000 per year, while they trend downward to $50,000 in upstate New York — officials said that cost-of-living averages along with competitive salaries in competitive markets are reasons for the difference in salaries.

The report states that 17 percent of school employees — about 40,000 statewide — earn $100,000 or more. About 50 percent earn $60,000 or more. Administrator salaries have come under attack as state officials look for ways to cut the budget. The story states that the retirement system for teachers lost 11,700 through layoffs and attrition.

Bloomberg’s story reports there were 8,400 retirements in 2010-2011, up from 5,500 the year before. Teachers and other public employees have separate pension plans.

Officials estimate that the Baby Boomer generation of teachers is now retiring, which is leaving large gaps in the education system. Employees who are in their 60s are retiring after working for the better part of three decades.

But budget cuts shouldn’t be a constant excuse for underpaying teachers. And there shouldn’t be great disparities when statewide regulations guide all teachers seeking to educate our students and help them be successful as adults. Strong teachers unions are an important step for teachers seeking to get equal rights, but even unions have faced issues in recent years.

Sometimes, legal action is the only way to ensure a person’s rights are upheld. Students and teachers are entitled to equality, whether in salaries or learning opportunities. They shouldn’t be ignored simply because of budget cuts.
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The New York Times is reporting that city schools handed out more suspensions in 2011 than 2010, but that may be attributed to less-serious problems increasing while big problems declined.

This is certainly good news, as students should be able to enjoy a safe and sound learning environment. But student discipline in New York can sometimes lead to legal problems when a school district oversteps its bounds.According to The Times article, there were 73,441 suspensions in 2011, up from 71,721 a year earlier. In that time frame, schools gave fewer “superintendent suspensions,” which can kick students out of school for between six days and a few months, depending on the allegations.

The article states there were far more “principal suspensions,” which are less serious than superintendent suspensions. Principal suspensions can range from one to five days. Examples of common principal suspensions are for cursing at a teacher or cheating. Superintendent suspensions are likely for fighting and other serious offenses.

The article reports that there isn’t reliable data to compare suspensions across the city, especially because the education department has opened small 500- to 600-student schools and are less likely than large schools to dole out large numbers of suspensions. The data released didn’t include citywide totals, the average length of suspensions, the age of students and the most common infractions.

The article reports that students were suspended for smoking, arriving late for class, horseplay or being rude. One teacher said many schools will give a kid a slap on the wrist, but principals were more aggressive, suspending kids. At one East Harlem school, there were 294 suspensions and only 266 students. At a larger school of 3,925 students, there were 2,097 suspensions.

Black and Hispanic students receive most school suspensions. More than half of all suspensions were given to black students in 2011, though they account for only about 1/3 of all students. Hispanic students received 37 percent of suspensions and they make up 40 percent of students. About 1/3 of all suspensions were given to special education students.

These numbers fit perfectly with a blog that Great Neck education lawyers wrote recently. It looked at anti-bullying efforts that schools have made and reported that research has shown that disadvantaged students suffer the most from these rules and laws. The UCLA Civil Rights Project reported that minority and disabled students end up getting unjustly punished because of anti-bullying policies. The New York City schools numbers seem to support that conclusion.

All students have a right to an education and without it, they can be put at a greater disadvantage than their peers. As adults, we know how competitive the job market is and college admission is equally difficult. Students must have the opportunity to strive while schools maintain the balance of discipline.

For a student to miss school time for a day or more for “being rude,” is ridiculous. Students have rights just like all Americans and they have a right to be treated fairly. If “being rude” doesn’t constitute a suspension in one school, but does in another, that is a problem and that means there is room for improvement.
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A recent SAT cheating scandal has rocked Long Island as officials have brought in a former FBI chief to examine security procedures after allegations arose in Farmingdale, The Associated Press reports.

From teacher-school salary battles to student discipline issues and class-size issues, education law in New York covers many areas important not only to teachers and schools, but to students and parents.Having sound representation in these areas is critical. Take this news story, for instance. The scandal came to light when teachers at Great Neck North High School began hearing rumors of a scheme to cheat on the SAT, the most widely used standardized test for college admission.

After investigating, seven current or former students were arrested. Authorities say that six of those arrested had an older college student from the high school take their exam in order for them to score better than they could. Teachers found that the scores on the SATs were far better than their grades.

In most places that offer the SAT test, students must sign up for certain dates where the tests will be administered. They must bring a form of identification and sit in a large room with other students to take the timed test. In many situations, students can elect to take the test at any school that is offering test times.

Officials are now reviewing security procedures after revealing an issue at the high school. One older student is accused of accepting up to $2,500 for taking the tests and even dressing up like a girl to take one of the tests. All charged face misdemeanors and have pleaded not guilty, The Associated Press reports.

Investigators have said they are expanding the probe to other schools — private and public — and expect to make further arrests soon. At committee hearings recently, officials said students are under immense pressure to perform well on the tests. Bad scores are sent to The College Board and can be used to disqualify a student from getting into a good college or university.

Taking these standardized tests are high-pressure situations, especially for students who do well at assignments and studying, but struggle at test-taking. They know what’s on the line — even with good grades, a bad SAT score could hold them back from getting into their top choices for higher education.

And a degree from a well-respected university can be very important for post-graduate education and in the work force. That said, schools must provide security procedures that are fair to every student. If some are studying hard and trying their best to get good scores to realize their dreams, but other students are cheating, that creates an unfair advantage. And that can ruin futures. Schools must ensure everyone is on a level playing field.

At the same time, the schools may be opened up to litigation in these situations and must have sound legal advice when there is talk of criminal charges, investigations and possible widespread cheating.
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The tragic suicide of 14-year-old Jamey Rodemeyer from Williamsville, New York brought to light the anti-bullying efforts schools have made and what can be done to improve the situation.

Jamey killed himself after enduring bullying because he was gay. And his story made national headlines because he laid out his frustrations in a web video before his death. A recent study by the University of California at Los Angeles found that anti-bullying rules often discriminate against minorities and disabled students.For the most part, New York education law tries to get it right. But the school system and the law makes mistakes and students face discrimination as a result.

Policies school boards think will fix a certain problem can end up creating another, unrelated problem. Needy and disabled students often end up getting the short end of the stick when all students aren’t considered after administrators create rules or impose punishment.

According to the UCLA study, anti-bullying policies became fairly widespread following the 2003 “No Child Left Behind” legislation that made vast changes to schools across the country. President Barack Obama has also called for school administrators not to tolerate bullying.

Under “zero-tolerance” policies that have been enacted, bullies can usually be suspended or expelled for school in an effort to make education safer and more accessible to children.

But “problem children” may end up hurting under policies designed to punish kids who are willfully picking on other children at school. The UCLA Civil Rights Project says that minority students and those suffering from disabilities end up getting unjustly punished because of policies designed for bullies. When they miss school, they end up suffering academically.

The U.S. Department of Education wants to survey children to find out if they view their school as safe. It also warned schools that they could face federal penalties if they can’t control bullying.

In Maryland and Connecticut, zero-tolerance policies result in having to take behavioral classes or remaining in class if they violate rules but don’t pose a threat to other students. Texas, however, ends up suspending or expelling 31 percent of its students, a number that some think leads to children dropping out of school.

All students — regardless of race or physical ability — have the right to get a good education. And it’s not only a right, but a necessity. A person simply cannot survive and have a strong future if they aren’t educated.

And schools have an obligation to provide that education. School administrators must look at students in terms of an individual and not as a statistic or falling under a blanket rule. They must take into consideration that kicking a student out of school hampers their future and prevents them from realizing their dreams.

That’s why students are parents require legal representation that can be essential in making changes to school policy and ensuring that students and future students are treated fairly. No one wants their child to endure bullying and it should be stopped. But what also should be stopped is impeding on learning.

In most cases, even bullies deserve second chances. Throwing a child out of school, and perhaps permanently damaging their future, is no answer.
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