Connecticut School Law Update: Three Changes for 2012
As the New Year dawns, administrators in Connecticut school systems should be aware of a few items from last year’s legislative session.
1. Public Act 11–232, concerning bullying policies, requires that, by January 1, 2012, each Board of Education develop an approved “safe school climate plan.” Among other things, this plan should include the appointment of a school principal or other designee to investigate and address bullying incidents that occur both in and out of school. In addition, each district must establish an annual training program for all school employees dealing with the identification, intervention, and prevention of bullying and youth suicide among students.
2. Public Act 11–248, concerning carbon monoxide detectors, provides both obligations and protections for Connecticut school districts. The obligations are straightforward: Each school building is to be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors. The protection that the installation of carbon monoxide detectors provides, in addition to the obvious, is that the school board employees and agents are held harmless from any damages resulting from failure to detect carbon monoxide in a public school building if: A) The employees and/or agents were acting without malice and in good faith within the scope of their employment or official duties; and B) The appropriate detection equipment was installed and maintained in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions and regulations to be adopted pursuant to the Act.
3. Finally, Public Act 11–136 has modified the teacher tenure statute to provide that nonrenewal of public school teachers may be accomplished by notifying affected teachers by May 1, as opposed to the old April 1 notification date. While this modification allows boards of education with an additional month to notify nontenured teachers of the nonrenewal of their contracts of employment, school boards and administrators should be aware that there may be other individual contractual obligations that still require notification by April 1.
With regard to the modification of the teacher tenure statue, most school systems provide an individual contract, usually titled “Initial Contract”, for teachers newly hired into the system. These Initial Contracts often contain language regarding nonrenewal that includes the April 1 date for notification. While the amended statute now allows a May 1 notification, the Initial Contract would override the statutory notification date and could spark a breach of contract action by a teacher notified of nonrenewal between April 1 and May 1. This dilemma requires two things of prudent boards of education:
- First, check any nonrenewals that are scheduled for this spring to be sure that the teacher’s individual file does not include an Initial Contract with an April 1 nonrenewal date. If such a contract is found, be sure to meet the April 1 notification date.
- Second, review your standard contracts and, if you have not already done so, either eliminate the notification date entirely, since it is covered by statute, or at least modify your contract to include the new May 1 date.
Bottom Line for Administrators
These three items should get your New Year moving in the right direction! If you have any questions regarding these or other matters of education or labor law, please feel free to consult the attorneys of our firm.