The U.S. Department of Education has signaled a new route for its civil rights investigations of educational institutions. Candice Jackson, the Department’s Office for Civil Rights’ Acting Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, reportedly provided new internal complaint investigation guidelines to Regional Offices. These new guidelines change course from prior policies mandating that, for certain types of complaints, OCR must conduct broader investigations, request particular types or greater amounts of data from schools, and be subject to additional oversight by the Department’s Headquarters.

Under the previous administration, complaints alleging Continue Reading Former OCR investigator breaks down new Department marching orders

PrintThe U.S. Department of Education (ED) has now more than doubled the original fine amount for violations of the Clery Act.  For several years now, institutions have been operating with the understanding that ED could issue civil fines of up to $35,000 per violation for Clery Act compliance deficiencies, as recited on page 1-11 of the 2016 Edition of The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (i.e., “Clery Handbook”).  But this amount was just raised to $54,789. Continue Reading Yes, Clery Fines Increase Again (Clery Blog Series #1*)

close up of conference meetingRecently on American higher education campuses, the U.S. Secretary of Education was shouted down during a commencement speech; a Nobel Prize winning biologist was disinvited to speak following student outrage related to his past comments linking intelligence to race; and a faculty member held his ground when his colleagues at a large religious institution purportedly questioned whether he should host a speaker whose presence would “make students feel uncomfortable.”  These largely publicized incidents are just a fraction of the speaker controversies sweeping across America’s campuses.  While this issue is not an entirely new one and examples can be gleaned throughout U.S. higher education’s history, they are occurring at a much more frantic and seemingly urgent rate due in part to social media campaigns and the increasing speed and breadth of online communication. Continue Reading Disinviting Controversial Speakers — the Temptation of No Platforming: Key issues for administrators to consider

Myths or Facts ConceptThe Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996—commonly referred to as “HIPAA”—is a federal law imposing certain data privacy and data security requirements with respect to medical information, including the personal health information of individual persons.  Colleges and universities maintain medical information related to employees and students in a host of locations, including human resources files, student records, and in the records of on-campus health and counseling centers, among others.  Higher education administrators unfamiliar with the intricacies of HIPAA often believe the law imposes more obligations on colleges and universities than it actually does.  This post dispels some of the most common myths relating to HIPAA and higher education.

Myth #1: HIPAA applies to all medical information we maintain as a college or university.

While HIPAA’s privacy rule does govern the privacy of protected health information (PHI), HIPAA’s privacy rule only applies to HIPAA “covered entit[ies].”  As a general rule, covered entities include: (1) health plans; (2) health care clearinghouses; and (3) healthcare providers who electronically transmit health information in connection with certain electronic transactions relating to billing, payment, and/or insurance coverage. Continue Reading Top 5 Common HIPAA “Myths” That Arise In Higher Education

students166671612Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (Section 504), colleges and universities have a general duty to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and students with a qualifying disability. Unlike in the K-12 setting where schools are required to affirmatively address a student’s potential need for accommodations, in higher education, the ADA and Section 504 generally require a student to self-identify his or her disability, request accommodations, and then participate in an interactive process with the institution to determine whether and to what extent accommodations will be provided. Continue Reading Retroactive Accommodations Under the ADA and Section 504 Are Not Required and May Create Liability for Colleges and Universities

Empty school classroom with blackboard for training. 3D renderinThe U.S. Department of Education recently released two reports spotlighting the achievements and challenges of its Office for Civil Rights (OCR). During an event with U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., former Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights Catherine E. Lhamon, the Department released two reports touting OCR’s achievements.

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Last week, the U.S. Department of Education (“Department”) issued final regulations regarding the teacher preparation program accountability system. The regulations become effective 30 days from the date they are published in the Federal Register—the regulations have not yet been published as of the date of this post.

The goal of the accountability system is to collect and disseminate meaningful data on the quality of teacher preparation programs, provide such programs with ongoing feedback to help them improve, and respond to educator concerns regarding their readiness to enter the classroom after graduation. The regulations apply to all teacher preparation programs within the state, including traditional, alternative routes, and distance learning. Continue Reading New Reporting Obligations for States Regarding Teacher Preparation Programs

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently provided additional guidance about when text messages and automated calls initiated by colleges and universities are exempt from liability under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Below is a brief background of relevant portions of the TCPA, a summary of new guidance from the FCC, and a few open issues to consider. Continue Reading Texts to Students: New Developments and Open Questions Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act