Posts by cmsamuel

Education and School Law

Posted on Mar 20, 2017

Louisiana Education Law Attorneys

The attorneys of Rittenberg, Samuel & Phillips, LLC, proudly represent educators.

Teachers and other school employees enjoy the status of professionals in our society. But all too often, educators aren’t treated as professionals.

We take pride in representing educators at all levels: pre-kindergarten, elementary, secondary and in our colleges and universities.

If you are an educator in a Louisiana public school district, a Charter School, or in a public institution of higher education, we represent members of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, who are referred to us by the Union.

We also represent educators in a private or parochial schools and institutions of higher education.

If you are facing disciplinary action or termination, or you are experiencing other employment-related problems, you may have rights and protections under your contract, policies and regulations, or under state or federal law. We will thoroughly review your situation with you, and advise you of your rights.

We know that you treasure your livelihood as an educator, and we will work hard to protect your rights and interests.

To schedule an appointment with an experienced education lawyer, contact us online or call 504-524-5555. We promptly return all calls. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 8 to 5, with off-site meetings available by appointment.

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How to avoid problems administering standardized tests

Posted on Mar 20, 2017

Standardized testing season is about to begin. And as history teaches us, it is inevitable that some educators around the state (and around the country) will be accused of testing improprieties.

 

Some educators will be accused of providing direct assistance during the test to help students, such as by giving hints or even answers. Fortunately, the number of those types of accusations has greatly diminished over the years. Suffice to say that under no circumstances should any educators make any comments that could be interpreted as “coaching.” If you are accused of facilitating cheating, you could lose not only your job but also your teaching certificate.

 

These days, the accusations of wrongdoing and impropriety usually involve the failure to adhere to a specific policy. Sometimes it’s inadvertent. But the problem is that even technical, inadvertent violations can result in (1) voiding the test scores and (2) educators facing disciplinary action or dismissal.

 

Case in point: the test manual may require you to walk around the classroom, up and down the aisles, to more closely monitor the students. So what should you do if you notice that a student is entering their answer on the wrong section of a bubble sheet? Should you quietly point the error out to that student? Should you stop the whole class and tell everyone to make certain that they are entering their answers on the correct section? Or should you do nothing?

 

Years ago, the test manuals provided no guidance on that question whatsoever. So one educator might stop and redirect the entire class, whereas another educator might decide to only redirect that student. That exposed a huge problem because not only is the test instrument itself supposed to be standardized, but the test administration procedures are also supposed to be uniform and standardized. Test results can be skewed and rendered meaningless if different educators use different procedures.

 

Here’s what LFT recommends based on problems that have arisen in previous years:

 

FIRST, listen closely to what is said at your in-service sessions. Ask “what if” questions. Example: “What should I do if I notice that I am administering the wrong section of the test?” “When am I supposed to notify the test coordinator when I see a problem or if I have a question?”

 

SECOND, thoroughly familiarize yourself with the procedures.

 

THIRD, be sure to adhere to those procedures. Closely.

 

FOURTH, be sure to closely follow the policy governing how to distribute and collect the testing materials.

 

FIFTH, read to the students only what you are supposed to read to the students. Don’t improvise or add offhand comments. Remember: the procedures are supposed to be standardized and uniform from educator-to-educator, school-to-school, and school district-to-school district.

 

SIXTH, never leave students unattended during testing, and never leave testing materials, manuals, answer sheets, booklets, etc., unattended.

 

SEVENTH, don’t “assume” that you should do something in a certain way just because that’s what you did last year, or what you did on another test. Instead, ask questions. Test instructions may vary from year to year and from test-to-test.

 

EIGHTH, there shouldn’t be ANY cellphones in the classroom. No student should have their cellphone in their possession, and you must relinquish yours as well. Better yet, leave it in your car. If you have an emergency situation, make pre-arrangements that someone can reach you by calling the school office.

 

NINTH, immediately report any discrepancies or problems. You are better off self-reporting right away rather than having to explain what you did or didn’t do, and then explain why you didn’t self-report what you did or didn’t do, days or weeks later. Also, it is a violation of Louisiana Department of Education Policies to fail to report any testing irregularities to a testing coordinator.

 

What happens if there is a problem?

 

If a problem surfaces either during testing or if a problem is detected afterward, the Louisiana Department of Education will require the school district to conduct an investigation. You may be called into a meeting or conference, and you may be asked to respond to questions, to submit information, to make a statement, or to attend a hearing. You may face the possibility of disciplinary action and even dismissal if you are accused of wrongdoing, even if it is unintentional.

 

We recommend: If you are a member of an LFT local, before you answer any questions, submit any information, or attend a hearing or conference, contact your local for assistance. Note: assistance is limited to members.

 

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United States Supreme Court refuses to review Katrina Wrongful Termination Class Action

Posted on Mar 12, 2015

On May 18, 2015, the United States Supreme Court denied plaintiffs’ request for review of the Louisiana Supreme Court decision in the Hurricane Katrina wrongful termination class action against the Orleans Parish School Board, State of Louisiana, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Louisiana Department of Education. The Louisiana Supreme Court dismissed the lawsuit against the Orleans Parish School Board and the State Defendants. For more details, please go to the plaintiffs’ website at www.nopsejustice.com.

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New Louisiana Teacher Tenure Law is now in effect

Posted on Mar 12, 2015

The Louisiana Teacher Tenure Law has been amended. The new law sent into effect on July 1, 2014.

We have prepared a “Question and Answer” flyer, which answers some of the most common questions about the new law, and also prepared a flyer with the entire text of the new law. Please see “Publications” page on this website.

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Employers and prospective employers are prohibited from asking for your social media passwords.

Posted on Mar 11, 2015

The Louisiana legislature in 2014 passed a law that prohibits employers – and prospective employers – in Louisiana from requiring employees and prospective employees to divulge their usernames and passwords on their social media accounts.

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