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SEC Issues Advisory Opinion on Board Member Who is a Current Student

By on February 13, 2018 in Board Members with 0 Comments

In January, numerous individuals took the oath of office to officially begin their service as a school board member. Potential conflict of interest issues are never ending. On January 3, 2018, the New Jersey School Ethics Commission (“SEC”) issued Advisory Opinion 36-17 which addressed questions pertaining to a newly elected board of education member who is also a current student within the same school district.

The individual in question is an eighteen year old, twelfth grade student currently enrolled in the school district. The individual also serves as the Senior Class President and is a member of the Principal’s Advisory Council. Based on these facts, the SEC explained that the individual’s status as a current student does not by itself limit his involvement in board activities or diminish his status as a board member. To that end, the SEC advised that so long as there is no other conflict under the School Ethics Act, this newly elected board member may engage in the following:

(1) participate in personnel discussions and vote on personnel matters;

(2) participate in collective negotiations with the District’s teachers’ association;

(3) participate in grievance hearings;

(4) serve as a volunteer for school related activities and functions in the same manner as any other Board member;

(5) participate in student suspension/expulsion hearings;

(6) participate in closed session discussions where a particular pupil matter is being discussed;

(7) participate in residency hearings where the Superintendent is seeking removal of a currently enrolled pupil;

(8) vote for class trips, club trips and/or competitions involving student travel for District clubs or activities;

(9) vote for the establishment of new clubs, sports or activities at the high school; and

(10) vote on policies related to pupils or personnel.

However, the SEC emphasized that this board member/student, like any other school board member, must constantly evaluate whether different situations create a conflict of interest that would preclude his participation. For instance, the board member must avoid being involved in matters which would create a personal and direct benefit to him and/or create an unwarranted privilege, advantage or employment to himself, a member of his immediate family or others.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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