A Capehart Scatchard Blog

OPRA Deadlines Relaxed Amid Declared Emergencies

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. As a result of the public health crisis of COVID-19, on March 20, 2020, Governor Murphy signed Assembly Bill No. 3849 into law which modifies the deadline by which public agencies are required to respond to requests for government records during the period of a declared emergency.  Normally, under the Open Public Records Act (“OPRA”), the custodian of records for public agencies has seven (7) business days to respond to a request made for government records by either granting access to the government record or by denying access.  Failure to respond within the seven (7) […]

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Subcontracting Restrictions and Changes in Health Insurance Plans and Employee Contributions Likely Coming Very Soon

By on March 20, 2020 in Legislation with 0 Comments

On March 19, 2020, the Senate approved two significant bills stemming from Senator Sweeney’s deal with the New Jersey Education Association (“NJEA”).  One bill requires alterations in health insurance plans and modifications to employee contributions to the cost of health coverage.  The other bill places restrictions on the ability of certain employers, including a school district,  to subcontract work of employees in a collective bargaining unit.  While not enacted yet, both pieces of legislation appear to be on the fast track to approval.  If enacted, they will take effect immediately. Key components of the bill altering health insurance and employee […]

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Holding Board Meetings Electronically During the Coronavirus Pandemic

By on March 17, 2020 in Open Public Meetings Act with 0 Comments

Despite severe restrictions placed on public gatherings, school boards must meet during the coronavirus pandemic to address critical business, including convening a public hearing on the budget. The solution, holding a public meeting electronically, is supported by recent guidance from the Division of Local Government Services (“DLGS”). The Open Public Meetings Act (N.J.S.A. 10:4-8(b)) permits public meetings to be held in person or by means of communication equipment.  DLGS guidance provides that communications equipment includes streaming services and other online meeting platforms. Notice of a meeting held by electronic equipment must be properly noticed.  Similarly, the board must provide a […]

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School Powers in Confronting an Epidemic

By on March 13, 2020 in Other with 0 Comments

School districts and boards of health have significant powers to address the spread of contagious disease.  Now is the time to review these powers. The board of health may direct closure of schools. N.J.S.A. 18A:40-12.  Whenever the board of health of any municipality shall declare any epidemic or cause of ill health to be so injurious or hazardous as to make it necessary to close any or all of the public schools in the municipality, the board of health must immediately serve notice on the board of education of the school district situated in the municipality that it is desirable […]

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N.J. District Court Affirms Dismissal of Parent’s Special Education Case as Time-Barred

By on February 25, 2020 in Special Education/504 with 0 Comments

In a case decided on February 11, 2020 by the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, Camden Vicinage, the Eastampton School District (“District”) successfully dismissed a parent’s lawsuit brought under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) on the basis that it was filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations. In McLean v. Eastampton School District, the parent of a special education student initiated a due process petition in August 2018 against the District alleging that an individualized education program (“IEP”) developed by the District in June 2016 failed to provide the student with a free […]

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New Obligation to Meet With Students Facing Multiple Suspensions or Expulsion

By on February 6, 2020 in Students with 0 Comments

On January 21, 2020, Governor Murphy signed legislation requiring that a meeting take place with a student who has experienced multiple suspensions or who may be subject to a proposed expulsion for the purpose of identifying any behavior or health difficulties experienced by the student and, where appropriate, to provide supportive interventions or referrals to school or community resources that may assist the student in addressing the identified difficulties.  The principal is charged with setting up the meeting as soon as practicable between the student and a school psychologist, counselor, social worker, student assistance coordinator or a member of the […]

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N.J. Supreme Court Reverses; Refuses to Allow “Tyranny of Labels” to Compromise Analysis in Tenure Case

By on February 5, 2020 in Labor & Employment with 0 Comments

Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court decided a teacher tenure case which it warned served as a cautionary tale that “demonstrates the ability of labels to cloud an analysis.”  Melnyk v. Bd. of Educ. of Delsea Reg’l High Sch. Dist., 241 N.J. 31 (2020).  The Delsea Regional School District (“District”) had employed the petitioner, Paula Melnyk, as a tenured special education teacher since 1991.  In 2002, the district began also employing Melnyk to work evenings as a teacher in its after-hours alternative program, in addition to her position as a special education teacher during the regular school day.  Melnyk […]

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Court Affirms Dismissal of Parent’s Suit Challenging School’s Communication Plan Setting Reasonable Limits on Father’s Constant, Aggressive E-mails

By on January 28, 2020 in Special Education/504 with 0 Comments

In the world of special education, parents come in all shapes and sizes in terms of their mode of interaction with the child study team and school personnel.  Some parents of special needs children are cordial, while others are friendly and appreciative.  Some are matter-of-fact, while others can be much more emotional or animated.  Special education parents come with varying degrees of how engaged they are or wish to be in the process of planning and communicating with the school district child study team.  For the thousands of child study team members around the country who serve as case managers, […]

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USDOE and USHHS Issue Joint Guidance on Application of FERPA and HIPAA to Student Health Records

By on January 14, 2020 in Students with 0 Comments

In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Education (“USDOE”) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (“USDHHS”) jointly issued a 26-page document, providing updated guidance on the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g, 34 C.F.R. Part 99, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”), see 45 C.F.R. Parts 160, 162, and 164 (the “HIPAA Rules”), and their application to student health records.  The updated guidance provides a basic overview of each of the two federal statutes, as well as 27 frequently asked questions (“FAQs”).  The new guidance […]

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N.J. District Court Issues Post-Janus Decision on WDEA

By on January 7, 2020 in Labor & Employment with 1 Comment

On May 18, 2018, the New Jersey Governor signed into law the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act (“WDEA”), which allows union employees to withdraw from the union and cease paying dues upon notice to the employer during the 10 days following each anniversary date of their employment. On June 27, 2018, the United States Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus, holding that public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from non-consenting employees. On December 27, 2019, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey issued a decision in Thulen v. AFSCME regarding union members’ argument that the […]

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