Legal Updates

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One Activist Has Hundreds of Colleges Under the Gun to Fix Their Websites

After the 2016 presidential election, Marcie Lipsitt looked up the alma maters of Donald J. Trump's chief advisers and persuaded the Education Department to investigate them for illegally having websites inaccessible to people with disabilities. At the height of this year's NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, she similarly triggered ... Read More

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The Supreme Court Sided with Trinity Lutheran Church. Here's why that matters.

The Supreme Court's ruling on a high-profile case involving a church's day-care playground surfaces will likely be used in church-state battles in the future, experts believe. The decision, released on Monday, involving a church in Missouri was seen as a victory for many advocates and a blow to those who ... Read More

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Education Dept. Closes Title IX Investigation of Liberty U.

The Education Department's civil-rights office has closed a Title IX investigation of Liberty University that had been triggered by a sexual-assault claim. The office cited a lack of jurisdiction. In a letter addressed to President Jerry L. Falwell Jr., Letisha Morgan, a team leader in the Office for Civil Rights, wrote ... Read More

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Trump Administration Plans to Minimize Civil Rights Efforts in Agencies

The Trump administration is planning to disband the Labor Department division that has policed discrimination among federal contractors for four decades, according to the White House's newly proposed budget, part of wider efforts to rein in government programs that promote civil rights. As outlined in Labor's fiscal 2018 plan, the move ... Read More

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Wichita State to Pay Nearly $100K Fine in 2014 Hazardous Waste Case

Wichita State University has agreed to pay a $98,578 fine for mishandling hazardous wastes. The university said Friday in a news release that its agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency stems from violations found during an inspection in 2014. The problems were corrected that same year. Those violations included ... Read More

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Supreme Court Remands Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., Will Not Hear Transgender Student's Case

The Supreme Court will not review the Fourth Circuit's decision in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. despite agreeing in October 2016 to do so. The Fourth Circuit's decision in favor of G.G., a transgender Virginia high school student, had been stayed by the Supreme Court while it considered whether ... Read More

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Jerry Falwell Jr. Says He Will Lead Federal Task Force on Higher-Ed Policy

Jerry L. Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University, has been asked by President Trump to head up a new task force that will identify changes that should be made to the U.S. Department of Education's policies and procedures, Mr. Falwell told The Chronicle on Tuesday. The exact scope, size, and ... Read More

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Education Dept. Clarifies Rule Governing Online Courses

The Education Department on Thursday clarified a key piece of a new distance-education regulation, making it clearer that the reciprocity agreement known as SARA, under which more than 1,300 colleges have already been approved to offer online courses across state lines, would satisfy the new regulation. The clarification removes the question ... Read More

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Record Fine for Penn State Sends a Signal on Clery Act Compliance

The U.S. Department of Education on Thursday hit Pennsylvania State University with a $2.4-million fine for failing to comply with the federal campus-crime-reporting law known as the Clery Act, following an investigation that was prompted by the Jerry Sandusky child-sex-abuse scandal. The fine represents the steepest penalty that the department ... Read More

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Supreme Court Will Review Fourth Circuit Decision in Transgender Student's Rights Case

On October 28, 2016 the United States Supreme Court agreed to review the Fourth Circuit's decision in Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. This case is about whether a Virginia School Board's policy limiting students' bathroom access to facilities that correspond to students' biological gender is discriminatory. The case was ... Read More

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Department of Education Issues New Guidance on Disclosure of Student Medical Records

HIGHLIGHTS: Through a Dear Colleague Letter addressed to the higher education community, the U.S. Department of Education has released "significant guidance" on the application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to the release of student medical records generally, and specifically in the context of litigation. When evaluating ... Read More

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N.C.A.A. Moves Championship Events From North Carolina, Citing Anti-Gay-Rights Law

The N.C.A.A., responding to a contentious North Carolina law that curbed anti-discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, will relocate all championship tournament games scheduled to take place in the state over the coming academic year, the organization announced Monday night. Among the events affected is the Division ... Read More

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Updated Clery Act Handbook Released

The Handbook for Campus Safety and Security Reporting (the "Handbook"), which provides important guidance for institutions as it relates to their compliance with the Clery Act's safety and security requirements, was recently revised and a new version (the 2016 Edition) released by the United States Department of Education. This valuable ... Read More

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5 Lessons to Take From the Fisher Decision

The gasps heard in higher-education circles around midmorning on Thursday were not, as anticipated, expressions of dismay. Rather, with the U.S. Supreme Court's 4-3 decision in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (Fisher II), the mood among higher-education leaders was one of apparent shock -- and delight. Many had ... Read More

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DOL Implements New Sex Discrimination Rules for Federal Contractors

On June 14, 2016, the U.S. Department of Labor adopted a final rule updating sex discrimination regulations for federal contractors. The final rule details the obligations under Executive Order 11246 (as amended by Executive Order 13672) for federal government contractors and subcontractors and federally assisted construction contractors and subcontractors. Originally issued by President ... Read More

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Former Basketball Captain Sues Yale Over Expulsion for Alleged Sex Assault

A former captain of Yale University's men's basketball team is suing the university in federal court over its decision to expel him in February after he was accused of sexual assault by another student. The allegations against the player, Jack Montague, became the subject of controversy on the campus and ... Read More

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Obama administration directs schools to accommodate transgender students

The Obama administration on Friday directed schools across the nation to provide transgender students with access to suitable facilities -- including bathrooms and locker rooms -- that match their chosen gender identity. The move, which affects all public schools and most colleges and universities that receive federal funds, plunges the administration ... Read More

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UNC Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Controversial Bathroom Law

The University of North Carolina system was caught in a flurry of legal activity on Monday as the federal government continued its push against a contentious state law banning transgender people from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity, while the state filed its own lawsuit in return. The ... Read More

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Federal appeals court sides with transgender teen, says bathroom case can go forward

A federal appeals court in Richmond has ruled that a transgender high school student who was born as a female can sue his school board on discrimination grounds because it banned him from the boys' bathroom. In backing high school junior Gavin Grimm, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the ... Read More

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Legislature will audit University of Utah athletics in wake of BYU rivalry suspension

The University of Utah roiled fans across the state -- and in the Capitol -- when it yanked Brigham Young University from next season's basketball schedule. Now, lawmakers are taking the Utes to task with ... ... Read More

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President Seeks $19 Billion and Creates a Commission to Address Cybersecurity

President Barack Obama requested $19 billion in his budget for 2017 to address cybersecurity in the United States, $5 billion more than was budgeted for the current year. Today, he issued an Executive Order that will create a commission within the Department of Commerce to be known as the "Commission ... Read More

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Education Dept. Will Publish List of Colleges With Title IX Exemptions

The U.S. Department of Education will publish a list of religious colleges that have received exemptions from some provisions of the gender-equity law Title IX, the assistant secretary for civil rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, said in a letter on Wednesday. Dozens of religious colleges have been granted waivers that exempt ... Read More

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US Education Department Appeals for Compassion in Schools

Will the new year bring peace to the world and more tolerance and goodwill among its citizens? The U.S. Department of Education certainly hopes so. In the wake of extreme acts of violence and the ongoing worldwide refugee crisis, the department is trying to do its share to promote peace ... Read More

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DOJ Reaches $145,000 Settlement Over Access of Emotional Support Animal to University Housing

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Kent State University (KSU) reached a $145,000 settlement over claims of discrimination under the Fair Housing Act (FHA) on January 4, 2016. In 2014, DOJ initiated a lawsuit against KSU and four of its employees for disability discrimination due to KSU's denial of ... Read More

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FAA Task Force Recommends Sweeping UAS Registration Requirements

Transportation (DOT) created a registration task force (RTF) charged with making recommendations to the FAA on what mandatory registration of small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including those used for recreational or hobby use, should look like. Today, the FAA publicly released the RTF's much-anticipated final recommendations report. Here are the ... Read More

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OSHA Fines to Rise for First Time Since 1990

Federal penalties for workplace-safety violations were increased this week for the first time since 1990, thanks to a little-noticed provision of the budget bill signed into law by President Barack Obama. The move would bring the fines in line with inflation over the past 25 years. In the future, fines from ... Read More

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New Department of Homeland Security Regulation Aims to Preserve and Enhance STEM OPT Program for Nonimmigrant Students and U.S. Employers

On October 19, 2015, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register regarding optional practical training (OPT) extensions for F-1 students with U.S. degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM). The proposed rule is essentially a response to an August ... Read More

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2 Senate Democrats Blast Greek Groups for Backing Contentious Sexual-Assault Bill

Two Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday slammed national fraternity and sorority organizations for backing a bill that would limit colleges' ability to investigate sexual-assault cases. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand of New York have pressured Congress for more than a year to rally around their ... Read More

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When Students Become Patients, Privacy Suffers

During her senior year at Yale University, Andrea faced spiraling depression and anxiety. She sought treatment at the campus health center, where she received medication and therapy. By the final week of classes, though, her struggles had grown more intense. Andrea was drinking heavily and contemplating suicide. She was hospitalized ... Read More

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CFPB, DOE, Treasury Issue Joint Statement on Student Loan Servicing

A new Joint Statement issued by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Department of Education, and Department of the Treasury presents a framework to standardize student loan servicing practices across the various federal and private borrowing programs. The agencies expect the new principles will guide rulemaking for better servicing practices and, ... Read More

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Campuses Debate Rising Demands for 'Comfort Animals'

Rachel Brill and Mary McCarthy are seniors and longtime roommates at St. Mary's College of Maryland. This year, they share their four-bedroom campus apartment with two other female students. Also, Theo and Carl. Theo, easygoing and unflappable, is a tawny, 103-pound, longhaired German shepherd. Carl, an energetic charm magnet, is ... Read More

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UVa Had 'Basis' for Sexually Hostile Environment, Education Dept. Finds

After a years-long investigation of sexual assault at the University of Virginia, the U.S. Department of Education announced on Monday that "a basis for a hostile environment" existed at the university as recently as 2012. Among the department's findings, enumerated in a 26-page letter: The university did not have policies compliant with ... Read More

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HHS Releases Highly Anticipated Proposal to Modernize U.S. Human Subjects Research Protections

HHS Releases Highly Anticipated Proposal to Modernize U.S. Human Subjects Research Protections September 8, 2015 In a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) released September 2, 2015, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Office for Human Research Protections (OHRP) and 15 other federal departments and agencies, ... Read More

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Higher-Ed Groups Criticize Obama's Overtime-Pay Proposal

A coalition of higher-education organizations on Friday criticized the Obama administration's proposed changes in federal rules on overtime pay that would raise the annual salary cutoff below which workers are generally eligible to receive such pay. Employees who make below $23,660 annually are generally eligible for a time-and-a-half wage rate for ... Read More

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In the NSF's Priciest Grant-Fraud Settlement, Northeastern U. Will Pay $2.7 Million

Northeastern University has agreed to pay $2.7 million to cover nine years of mishandling federal research funds, in the largest-ever civil settlement with the National Science Foundation. The case stems from the management of NSF grant money awarded to Northeastern for work at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, ... Read More

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DOJ Issues FAQs on Service Animals

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued new guidance yesterday regarding the applicability of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to service animals. The new guidance underscores the DOJ's 2010 revisions to the ADA regarding which animals qualify as service animals and permissible lines of inquiry about tasks the service ... Read More

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Drone Researchers See the Technology Grounded by Federal Safety Rules

Unmanned drones could very soon be delivering medical supplies to third-world villages, saving lives in disaster zones, and dropping packages on the porches of suburban American homes. Those and thousands of other uses are part of a future that Ella M. Atkins, an associate professor of aerospace engineering at the University ... Read More

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What Same-Sex Marriage Means for Employers

The Supreme Court's landmark decision left many questions unanswered. The U.S. Supreme Court in June ruled in a 5-4 decision that the equal protection guarantee provided by the Fourteenth Amendment to opposite-sex marriages extends to same-sex marriages. The opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, authored by Justice Anthony Kennedy, holds that "same-sex ... Read More

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How to Evaluate Your Web Pages for Accessibility

This month is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disability Act, federal legislation designed "to [eliminate] discrimination against people with disabilities." Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be writing some ProfHacker posts concerned with disability, accommodations, accessibility, classrooms, and digital environments. Today I'm going to provide links to a ... Read More