Roundup: Religion, Truancy, and Bus Drivers’ Unions

By Mark Walsh — January 13, 2009 2 min read

A bit of a mix today.

Religion in Public Schools: A federal district judge has ordered a Florida school district to stop promoting religion by sponsoring prayers at graduation ceremonies and other practices.

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers of Pensacola, Fla., issued a preliminary injunction on Jan. 9 ordering the Santa Rosa County school district to end practices such as sponsoring prayers at school-sponsored events, sponsoring off-campus baccalaureate services, and permitting teachers and other school personnel to promote their personal religious beliefs in the classroom or at other school events.

The school district in December had admitted liability in a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberities Union of Florida on behalf of two students at Pace High School.

The judge’s order is here, and the ACLU’s news release is here.

Legal Counsel for Truant Students: A Washington state appeals court has ruled that children facing civil truancy proceedings have a due-process right to be represented by a lawyer.

The decision came in the case of a 13-year-old student in the Bellevue, Wash., school district who faced a truancy petition in juvenile court for chronically missing school. The student had no legal representation at her initial truancy hearing, which led to an order for the student to return to school. When that order was violated, the student was ordered to two days of “work crew” and a threat of electronic home monitoring, although it appears from court papers that those sanctions were never carried out.

In its Jan. 12 decision, a three-judge panel of the Washington Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that children must have legal counsel at an initial truancy hearing.

“The initial truancy hearing provides no procedural safeguards to protect the child’s rights, and it is undeniable that the child cannot be expected to protect them herself,” said the appeals court in Bellevue School District v. E.S. “Errors in the proceedings are therefore likely, and the risks to the child’s liberty interests are great.”

The opinion does not discuss whether other states require legal representation for children in truancy, and I don’t recall any other recent decisions in this area of the law.

Bus Drivers’ Union: A federal appeals court has sided against a private bus company in a dispute over who should represent school bus drivers and other personnel after a Michigan school district outsourced its student transporation services to the company.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that Dean Transportation Inc. violated federal labor law by refusing to recognize and bargain with the union that had represented the transportation employees when they were employed by the Grand Rapids, Mich., school district. Instead, the company sought to recognize them as part of a separate union that represented its drivers at its other facilities.

In its Jan. 9 decision in Dean Transportation Inc. v. National Labor Relations Board, the appeals court held that the unit represented by the Grand Rapids Educational Support Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, was the appropriate bargaining unit with which the company should negotiate.

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A version of this news article first appeared in The School Law Blog.