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The Education Code currently provides that students enrolled in grades K through 3 may not be suspended pursuant to Education Code 48900(k).  Furthermore, no student regardless of grade level may be recommended for expulsion based on a violation of that provision.  Senate Bill (SB) 419, introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) on February 21, 2019, would expand the existing ban on suspensions for violations of 48900(k) to students enrolled in grades 4 through 8.  In addition, the ban would also extend to students enrolled in grades 9 through 12, but this provision is scheduled to sunset on January 1, 2025.  The proposed bill also applies the ban to charter schools.

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A federal district court in Massachusetts recently ruled against Harvard University in an ongoing lawsuit filed on behalf of disabled individuals challenging the accessibility of online video content on the university’s websites. (National Association of the Deaf v. Harvard University (D. Mass. March 28, 2019) 2019 WL 1409302, No. 3:15-cv-30023-KAR.) On the same day, the court issued a similar ruling in a companion lawsuit against the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, relying on the rationale from the Harvard University decision. (National Association of the Deaf v. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (D. Mass. March 28, 2019) 2019 WL 1409301, No. 3:15-cv-30024-KAR.)

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On March 29, 2019, the California Department of Education (CDE) proposed sweeping changes to state regulations on Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP). The proposal would overhaul the regulations and separate some complaints into different paths. The amendments are subject to a 30-day comment period, ending with a public hearing on May 13, 2019 in Sacramento.

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Spend any amount of time in a middle school or high school classroom across California, and you will witness firsthand the impact of smartphones on students’ education. In March, the results of one middle school teacher’s experiment went viral. Mary Garza encouraged students to leave their phones on, and turned up loud, during a single class period. The students then tallied each time they received a notification. In one class period, her students received over 300 text messages. The class also tallied Instagram alerts, emails, and other phone alerts. Her students received 32 phone calls during one class period on a typical school day. Overall, instruction was interrupted over 1,000 times in one period.

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As the #MeToo Movement placed a glaring spotlight on the continuing problem of sexual harassment in the workplace, outgoing California Governor Jerry Brown signed several bills aimed at curbing harassment. All of them impact California employers, both public and private.

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Ridesharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, continue to grow in popularity and use. The services are cost-effective, convenient, and require no exchange of cash. A ride can be ordered remotely for someone else. It is no surprise, then, that parents are turning to such services as a means to transport their children to and from school and various extra-curricular activities. Parents order a ride using a mobile app and the driver picks up and transports the child to the preset destination. Except for specialty services aimed at transporting minors (e.g., HopSkipDrive), most ridesharing services, including Uber and Lyft, have policies prohibiting drivers from transporting minors without an adult present. Nevertheless, in a ratings-driven work environment, ridesharing drivers might disregard such policies to avoid a negative rating.

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This summer, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2282, which resolves ambiguities created by earlier pay equity legislation in AB 1676 (2016) and AB 168 (2017). As you may recall, AB 168 prohibits questions about salary history on employment applications and during interviews. The law also requires employers to provide a pay scale to applicants on demand.  

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) launched an investigation to determine whether the popular vaporizer/e-cigarette company Juul intentionally marketed its devices to young people. As part of that inquiry, the FDA ordered Juul to produce the company’s research and marketing documents, including information on focus groups and toxicology reports. The attorney general of Massachusetts is also conducting an investigation of the company to review Juul’s efforts to audit its own website and other online retailers that sell its products to determine how effective they are at preventing minors from accessing Juul devices.

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Education Code section 55220 has long provided community college districts with immunity from claims for injuries sustained on field trips and excursions, including travel related to interscholastic athletic events. While California courts have recognized that the immunity provision allows districts to enhance the educational experience by reducing exposure to injury claims and thereby lessening costs (Sanchez v. San Diego County Office of Education (2010) 182 Cal.App.4th 1580, 1584), a California Court of Appeal recently clarified the extent of this protection.

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California’s public education system is vital to the state’s future and success. However, there is currently no comprehensive method to track student progress throughout students’ educations and entry into the workforce. Recently, the Legislature has noted increased support for a system linking educational agencies’ databases in an effort to prioritize transparency and student welfare and success.

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