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Part II: How 2020 Court Decisions and Legislative Changes will Affect Student Discipline

Part II of the Stock and Leader School Group’s three-part series on How 2020 Court Decisions and Legislative Changes will Affect Policies and Practices.

Student Discipline

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Education released new Title IX regulations governing how educational institutions receiving federal money must respond to sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other forms of sexual misconduct. Many districts have updated applicable policies over the last half of the 2020 calendar year, but new changes are on the horizon. Senate Bill 530 was first proposed by Senator Scott Martin on April 5, 2019. The legislation was presented to Governor Tom Wolf on October 26, 2020, signed into law on November 3, 2020 as Act 110 of 2020, and will be in effect on January 4, 2021.  Under Act 110 of 2020, at the request of a victim of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or other type of sexual misconduct, who attends school with the convicted or adjudicated perpetrator, districts must either expel the convicted/adjudicated student or reassign the him or her to another school or educational program within the public school entity, if that is a viable alternative.

Implications: The School Law Group is concerned about the impact Act 110 will have on student disciplinary due process procedures as well as its effect on the discipline of students with disabilities. We are monitoring the issuance of any additional guidance associated with this new legislation. Meanwhile, on December 18, 2020, the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA) issued Policy 218.3 (Discipline of Students Convicted/Adjudicated of Sexual Assault) a new, required policy to address Act 110, and revised other affected policies such as required Policy 103 (Discrimination/Title IX Sexual Harassment Affecting Students) and optional Policy 252 (Dating Violence).  Provisions of Act 110 of 2020 may also result in changes to Policy 200 (Student Enrollment).  Please reach out to any of us in the School Law Group to discuss these policy revisions and the Act’s effects on student enrollment and disciplinary practices.

Vision Screening

On November 25, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law Act 122, which requires first-time students to receive a vision screening in the twelve (12) months prior to their first day of school. Parents and legal guardians have the obligation to present to the district certification from a primary care provider or vision screener the results of a vision screening before enrollment. While Act 122 also requires districts to offer vision screeners, a primary care provider, ophthalmologist, optometrist, or a vision screener with specific training in vision screening techniques and protocols approved by the Department of Health may conduct the vision screener in lieu of the district. Under Act 122, districts must now perform vision screenings (or receive proof of the same) every year through fifth grade, and at least every other year through twelfth grade.

For a student who fails a required vision screening, he or she must also have a comprehensive vision examination within 120 days of the failed screener, or before the start of the next school year, whichever may come first. Districts are not required to provide comprehensive eye exams for students, nor can they be held financially responsible for the treatment of a student who may fail a vision screening.  Despite the mandatory language found in Act 122, a student may not be denied admission, or excluded from attending school, for the reason that the parent/guardian failed to furnish a report of the student’s vision screening or to have a comprehensive examination completed upon failure of the vision screening. Please reach out to any of us in the School Law Group to discuss the new updates to vision screening.

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