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New Year, New Regulations, Anticipated Decisions

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January 3, 2017

Happy New Year to you all! I hope your holidays were filled with peace and joy. With 2017 now underway, schools face some changes with ESSA compliance, as well as a U.S. Supreme Court ruling anticipated to issue a final determination on the U.S. Department of Education’s stance on Title IX’s applicability to gender identity. 

Final regulations—effective January 30th—have been issued by the U.S. Department of Education addressing the accountability, data reporting and consolidated state plan provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The new regulations address state-determined accountability systems, modify how differentiation is made among schools and how they are targeted for support and remediation, allow state and local education agencies to determine the interventions to address the targeted schools, expand the content to be contained in state and local school report cards, and require that the report card be developed with input from parents and made widely available, among other things. A link to a summary of the regulations may be found here, and a link to the timeline for identification of schools for support and improvement may be found here.

In what might be a resolution to the transgender student issue, the U.S. Supreme Court has granted a petition for certiorari in the G.G. v. Glouchester case, to review the holding of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit’s three-judge panel that the U.S. Department of Education’s interpretation of Title IX as being applicable to gender identity should be given deference by the courts. Three questions brought in the petition are 1) Should this Court retain the Auer doctrine (giving an agency’s regulatory interpretation “controlling weight unless it is plainly erroneous or inconsistent with the regulation”) despite the objections of multiple Justices who have recently urged that it be reconsidered and overruled? 2) If Auer is retained, should deference extend to an unpublished agency letter that, among other things, does not carry the force of law and was adopted in the context of the very dispute in which deference is sought? 3)With or without deference to the agency, should the Department’s specific interpretation of Title IX and 34 C.F.R. § 106.33 be given effect?

It should be an interesting year!

About the Author

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Terri Thomas

Director of Legal Services

Terri Thomas serves as Director of Legal Services for OPSRC.  Ms. Thomas is an attorney practicing exclusively in the area of Oklahoma school law, with a primary focus on rural and smaller school districts. Prior to OPSRC, she served as legal counsel for the Organization of Rural Oklahoma Schools (OROS) from 1999 to 2015 and represents many school districts throughout all parts of the state.

It’s no accident that Terri wound up practicing school law.  She grew up in the school business. Terri’s father, the late Howard Thomas, was a school superintendent for 25 years in several Oklahoma school districts, including Pauls Valley—Terri’s hometown—and Ardmore. After graduating from Pauls Valley High School, Terri received her bachelor’s degree in Finance from Southern Methodist University and her Juris Doctor from the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

She and her husband, Norman Thompson, and their 8-year old daughter, Mary, reside in Oklahoma City.

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