Biden Administration Strengthens School-Based Mental Health Services

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Biden Administration Strengthens School-Based Mental Health Services

On Thursday, the Biden-Harris Administration announced two new actions to strengthen school-based mental health services and address the youth mental health crisis.

The Department of Education (ED) and Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) also announced that they are planning to release the significantly overdue re-write of the Medicaid program in the next 6-8 weeks! We will keep you updated as learn more.


In addition, next week, ED will begin the process to disburse almost $300 million Congress appropriated in FY22 through both the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act and the FY22 Omnibus to help schools hire more school-based mental health professionals and build a strong pipeline into the profession for the upcoming school year. In total, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will invest $1 billion over the next five years in mental health supports in our schools, making progress towards the President’s goal to double the number of school counselors, social workers and other mental health professionals. This funding is allocated to two critical programs:   

  • The Mental Health Service Professional (MHSP) Demonstration Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to support a strong pipeline into the mental health profession, including innovative partnerships to prepare qualified school-based mental health services providers for employment in schools.
  • School-Based Mental Health (SBMH) Services Grant Program. In FY22, this program will provide over $140 million in competitive grants to states and school districts to increase the number of qualified mental health services providers delivering school-based mental health services to students in local educational agencies with demonstrated need. This will increase the number of school psychologists, counselors, and other mental health professionals serving our students. Some schools will gain mental health staff for the first time. Others will see this critical workforce expand. By increasing the number of qualified mental health professionals in our schools, and thereby reducing the number of students each provider serves, this program will meaningfully improve access to mental health services for vulnerable students. 

ED will be partnering to provide districts with as much TA as possible on how to apply for this funding as well as the $1 billion that will be distributed competitively to States/districts through the Title IV program. Stay tuned for information on a forthcoming webinar on how to apply for these critical funds.

How School Leaders Can Help Families Claim the Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) During the Back-to-School Period

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How School Leaders Can Help Families Claim the Expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) During the Back-to-School Period

Schools can help spread the word about the expanded CTC, which provides up to $3,600 per child. Unfortunately, millions of kids are at risk of missing out- disproportionately Black and Latino children, and children in low-income households. You can help point families to GetCTC.org where they can claim this money on their own before mid-November. 

The back-to-school period provides the perfect opportunity to spread the word about the CTC by:

  • Including flyers in “welcome back” resources at the start of the school year 
  • Sending texts, emails and/or robocalls to families in your district, using these sample messages in multiple languages

You can find additional ready-to-use, multilingual resources on this CTC outreach website from the Coalition on Human Needs and Partnership for America's Children. Want to learn more about the CTC and how schools can help families claim it? Check out this short school outreach training featuring district leaders. Please reach out if you have questions, want support with outreach in your district, or would like a unique URL for GetCTC.org to help you track your outreach impact: Julia Beebe, CTC Outreach Coordinator with the Coalition on Human Needs & Partnership for America’s Children, jbeebe@chn.org 

Webinar Recap: What Do Supts Need to Know and Do About the Newly Proposed Title IX Regs?

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Webinar Recap: What Do Supts Need to Know and Do About the Newly Proposed Title IX Regs?

On July 27, we held our webinar titled “What Do Supts Need to Know and Do About the Newly Proposed Title IX Regs?” with the Association of Title IX Administrators (ATIXA)’s top legal team, Tanyka M. Barber, Mikiba Morehead, Daniel Swinton and AASA’s Sasha Pudelski.

We hope this webinar provided clarity about the significant shift in Title IX policy, and helped you to understand how to take steps to encourage the Department of Education to adopt and change various pieces of the proposed regulations before they are finalized.

Couldn't join us? You can access an archive recording of the webinar here and the presentation here.

ATIXA has a free, open-to-all initiative coming up for the 2022-2023 school year, titled the K-12 Institute for Advancing School Equity, Safety, and Wellness that combines behavioral intervention, threat assessment and Title IX efforts. Visit https://www.atixa.org/k-12-institute/ for more information.

Additionally, AASA has launched aasa.org/titleixtemplate.aspx, a template and instructional guide for superintendents on how to submit comments on the proposed regs to OCR. OCR wants to be responsive to the K-12 field and in particular, district leaders, charged with implementing a new regulation.

 

 

Federal School Safety Clearinghouse Introduces SchoolSafety.Gov Ahead of 2022-23 School Year

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Federal School Safety Clearinghouse Introduces SchoolSafety.Gov Ahead of 2022-23 School Year

As schools and districts look ahead to the next school year, the Federal School Safety Clearinghouse has provided the K-12 community with a variety of resources and tools available on SchoolSafety.gov to assist in safety and security planning efforts. School personnel can use the site to prioritize school safety actions, connect with state-specific and local school safety officials, discover grants and funding opportunities, and find applicable resources, guidance and evidence-based practices to create a comprehensive and holistic school safety program.

SchoolSafety.gov features and tools include:

  • Grants Finder Tool: Supports schools and districts in more easily locating and determining the applicability of Federal funding opportunities to keep school communities safe
  • Safety Readiness Tool: Assists users in evaluating their respective school’s safety posture across ten elements and provides a personalized action plan with options for consideration
  • State Information Sharing Tool: Enables schools to locate and access state-specific school safety programs, contacts, and opportunities
  • Resource Library: Provides actionable resources, guidance, training, and fact sheets that can be filtered by audience, intended application, topic, and more 
  • Calendar of Events: Features upcoming webinars, training sessions, and conferences for school safety personnel, administrators, educators, and parents

You can also find a two-page overview highlighting these tools and other features available on SchoolSafety.gov to support K-12 school communities in their ongoing school safety planning efforts. We encourage you to download and share this with your members, stakeholders, networks and schools and districts in your communities this summer and throughout the upcoming school year as you see fit.

Please contact the School Safety team at SchoolSafety@hq.dhs.gov if you have any questions. 

Learning Policy Institute introduces the Whole Child Policy Toolkit

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Learning Policy Institute introduces the Whole Child Policy Toolkit

The Learning Policy Institute has release the Whole Child Policy Toolkit, a comprehensive framework developed to give state policymakers and education leaders a set of strategies, tools, and resources to advance whole child policy. Produced by LPI with input from more than a dozen Whole Child Policy Table partners, individual organizations, and experts, the toolkit is organized around a framework of five key whole child policy elements. The framework outlines how policymakers can support schools, districts, and communities to make shifts to meet the needs of every child efficiently, effectively, and most importantly, equitably.

The Toolkit offers research-based recommendations that focus on how state policymakers and education stakeholders can support:

In the Toolkit, AASA’s resources have been highlighted, including—In the Loop, Time in Pursuit of Education Equity, and Alternatives to Grade Retention.

AASA and CCSSO Press ED For Guidance on ESSER Late Liquidation Process

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AASA and CCSSO Press ED For Guidance on ESSER Late Liquidation Process

On July 22, AASA, the Council of Chief State School Officers and ten other national organizations, sent a letter to Secretary Cardona confirming late liquidation guidance for ESSER funding that the Department recently issued, and to propose some additional clarifications and considerations. Specifically, the letter seeks clarification that the late liquidation would apply not only agreements related to school infrastructure projects, but also service agreements and licensing agreements that support COVID recovery, such as tutoring programs, summer school, professional learning, and online instructional materials.

It also seeks clarity around the liquidation extension timeline and requests that ED extend the liquidation extension period to December 31, 2026, so districts and states can use funds through the end of the 2025-2026 school year. Finally, we ask the Department to consider a process by which liquidation extension requests can be granted in a timely manner, given the extraordinary burden on districts, states, and the Department that reviewing requests on a case-by-case basis would present.

Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

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Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

On July 20, 2022, Democrats on the House Education and Labor Committee released the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act—their proposal for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. The last reauthorization expired in 2015.

Here are the key points for district leaders:

  • Changes the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) by reducing the eligibility threshold of Identified Student Percentage (ISP) from 40% to 25% and increasing the multiplier from 1.6 to 2.5. These proposed changes would allow more districts to participate by changing eligibility and ensuring the program is more financially feasible.
  • Expands Direct Certification to include Medicaid in all states.
  • Addresses food insecurity over the summer period by changing Area Eligibility for Summer Food Service Program from 50% to 40% students from low-income areas to make the program more accessible. The bill also creates a nationwide Summer EBT program to provide students eligible for Free and Reduced Price Lunch with cash assistance during the summer months.
  • Establishes competitive grant programs to promote scratch cooking, provide plant-based meals, and upgrade equipment.
  • Increases lunch reimbursement by 10 cents and provides an additional 6 cent commodity assistance for breakfast.
  • Requires that summer nutrition standards be updated to align with the Dietary Guidelines. Additionally, codifies the timeline for when nutritional standards must be updated to align with new Dietary Guidelines.
  • Requires USDA conduct a study on best practices regarding adequate meal time and issue guidance for schools participating in the program.
  • Provides guidelines for how districts can deal with unpaid lunch debt. 

AASA and ASBO International sent a letter to House Education and Labor Committee leadership to share our thoughts on the proposal ahead of the mark up scheduled for July 27. Read the full letter here

OCRE Asks USED for Follow Up On Rural Priorities.

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OCRE Asks USED for Follow Up On Rural Priorities.

AASA is a member of Organizations Concerned for Rural Education (OCRE). In a letter dated July 21, 2022, OCRE President John Forkenbrock followed up with Secretary Cardona with pointed questions related to how the Department of Education is proactively considering the perspective of and soliciting feedback from rural educators and communities. Real full letter here

Webinar: What about the students? The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Anti-Inclusive Legislation on K-12 Learning

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Webinar: What about the students? The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Anti-Inclusive Legislation on K-12 Learning

Much of the discussion surrounding the spate of anti-inclusive legislation targeting K-12 education is focused on the rights of families and perceived family values. But what is the impact on students? There has been little to no discussion about the emotional and psychological impact of legislative efforts to craft curriculums that exclude the experiences, history, and identities of students from marginalized communities. Many of these students are already grappling with navigating the societal challenges connected to their sexual, gender and/or racial and ethnic identities.

Is this wave of anti-inclusive legislation exacerbating these challenges? What is the impact on the students’ educational achievement, especially in light of the studies that show that inclusive curriculums are beneficial to all students, regardless of background? Finally, if the goal is to create a more diverse and inclusive legal profession, does the impact of these policies run counter to that goal?

Join the American Bar Association (ABA) for a webinar titled What about the students? The Emotional and Psychological Impact of Anti-Inclusive Legislation on K-12 Learning, Thursday, July 28 at 1 p.m. EDT.

Register here.

Related resources:

 

OCR, OSERS Release New Guidance on Disciplining Students With Disabilities

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OCR, OSERS Release New Guidance on Disciplining Students With Disabilities

 On July 19, 2022, OCR and OSERS jointly released new guidance focused on disciplining students with disabilities. You can find the guidance, factsheet, question and answers document and more here.

A few key takeaways from the guidance are as follows—we encourage you to share this with your special education team and lawyers as well. The guidance states:

  • A school’s responsibility not to discriminate against students with disabilities applies to the conduct of everyone with whom the school has a contractual or other arrangement, such as lunch or recess monitors, cafeteria staff, bus drivers, security staff, private security companies or other contractors, school district police officers, or school resource officers (SROs). Schools cannot divest themselves of their nondiscrimination duty by relying on such personnel when the personnel operate under a contract or other arrangement, such as an MOU.
  • Schools are discouraged from using exclusionary discipline for nonviolent offenses. 
  • A school’s duty to evaluate whether a child has a disability could be triggered by ANY of the following: student behaviors that may harm the student or another person; information voluntarily provided by the student’s parents; frequent office referrals, demerits, notes to parents.
  • A school may have to re-evaluate a student’s disability-based behavioral needs if they are dealing with mental health issues.
  • Schools must ensure that they do not violate the rights of a student with a disability by creating a pattern of removals that constitutes a significant change in placement absent a manifestation determination. OCR considers a series of short-term nonconsecutive removals to also constitute a significant change in placement if combined they total more than 10 school days during the school year and create a pattern of removal. OCR determines whether a series of removals creates a pattern of removal on a case-by-case basis, considering evidence related to, among other factors: the length of each removal, the proximity of the removals to each other, the total amount of time the student is removed from school, and the nature of the behavior underlying each incident and giving rise to the series of removals.
  • Section 504 FAPE requirements do not interfere with a school’s ability to address those extraordinary situations in which a student’s behavior, including disability-based behavior, is an immediate threat to their own or others’ safety. For example, nothing in Section 504’s FAPE requirements prohibits schools from contacting mental health crisis intervention specialists or law enforcement under such extraordinary circumstances, even if the result is that those professionals remove the student from school.
  • Schools can consider the impact of the student’s disability-based behavior on other students. Where a student’s disability-based behavior significantly impairs the education of others or otherwise threatens the safety of the student or others, the Section 504 team’s placement determination could result in a change to the student’s services, supports, or educational setting to more effectively address the behavior and attempt to prevent it from recurring.
  • A school district whose threat or risk assessment team does not coordinate with the Section 504 team of a student with a disability could risk violating the student’s FAPE rights. Schools should ensure that school personnel who are involved in screening for and conducting threat or risk assessments for a student with a disability are aware that the student has a disability and are sufficiently knowledgeable about the school’s FAPE responsibilities so that they can coordinate with the student’s Section 504 team.
  • Informal exclusions are subject to the same Section 504 requirements as formal disciplinary removals, including the FAPE requirements discussed above and the nondiscrimination responsibilities discussed in Section IV
  • OCR cautions schools that informing a parent or guardian that the school will formally suspend or expel the student, or refer the student to law enforcement, if the parent or guardian does not pick up the student from school or agree to restraint/seclusion could be a violation of FAPE.
  • Schools may discipline a student with a disability who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs or the use of alcohol to the same extent that the school disciplines students without disabilities for this conduct.
  • OCR applies the different treatment and disparate impact standard when reviewing discipline for students with disabilities.

AASA will be putting together a webinar for superintendents and special education directors on the new guidance soon. Stay tuned!

USED Webinar: Lessons from the Field: Protecting Students by Preventing Aiding and Abetting Adult

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USED Webinar: Lessons from the Field: Protecting Students by Preventing Aiding and Abetting Adult

On behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Office of Safe and Supportive Schools, the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) invites you to join the next Lessons from the Field webinar, Protecting Students by Preventing Aiding and Abetting Adult Sexual Misconduct, being held Wednesday, July 20, 2022 at 3 p.m. EDT.

Subject matter includes experts and state and local education agencies sharing how schools and districts can inhibit the aiding and abetting of adult sexual misconduct. Also known as ‘passing the trash,’ this is when staff who have engaged in adult sexual misconduct move to another school. This webinar will improve participants’ understanding of what aiding and abetting is and what practices and policies can help prevent it. Register for the webinar here.

Related resources:

AASA Advocacy Conference Resources

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AASA Advocacy Conference Resources

For those of you here in DC in person (and those of you following along at home!) here are the resources for this week’s conference. We will be posting presentation slide decks as we get them.


Don't forget about our IDEA Full Funding Invoice / Call to Action and our 2022 Talking Points

And Making the Most of Your Summer with AASA’s ARP Tools: With ARP spending present of mind following last week’s sessions, we also want to share (or re-share) a set of AASA tools that can help you and your team reflect on your past and planned uses of these recovery funds. The AASA Learning Recovery & Redesign guidance and self-assessment tools focus on evaluating both how you approach using ARP funds, as well as what you use them forWe encourage you to use them to increase the impact of your spending in the remaining time.

Please take a few minutes to complete our Feedback Survey about the Legislative Advocacy Conference so we can continue to bring you the latest and best in federal advocacy sessions.

 

CALL-TO-ACTION: Tell Congress to Fully Fund IDEA

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CALL-TO-ACTION: Tell Congress to Fully Fund IDEA

Join educators across America in urging Congress to fully fund IDEA! The most recent federal appropriation (FY22) puts the federal share at just 13.3% of the authorized 40%, meaning continued and extensive encroachment into state and local education budgets, as states and districts use state and local dollars to cover the federal shortfall. Tell your Senators and Representative to support the IDEA Full Funding Act (HR 5984 / S 3213) now. Take action here and be sure to use the IDEA Invoice templates to calculate the amount owed to your district and include it in the message.

USDA Extends Numerous Waivers for Summer 2022

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USDA Extends Numerous Waivers for Summer 2022

Under the authority granted by the Keep Kids Fed Act, USDA issued or extended six waivers for Summer 2022. These waivers are for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) Programs only and are effective immediately for states that choose to adopt them.

  • Area Eligibility—Allows states to waive the requirement in the SFSP and SSO that "open site" meal service is limited to areas with at least half of the children in the area are low-income households.
  • Area Eligibility for Closed Enrolled Sites—Waives the requirement that closed enrolled sites collect income eligibility applications to determine eligibility.
  • SFSP Reimbursements Rates for SSO—Allows school food authorities to receive the SFSP reimbursement rate for meals and snacks provided under the SSO program
  • Non-Congregate Feeding—Allows meals to be provided outside of a congregate feeding setting. Meals can be distributed at a site where families pick up the meals, as well as be delivered to children’s homes.
  • Parent Pick-Up—Allows a parent or guardian to pick up meals to take home to children.
  • Meal Service Time Restrictions—Provides flexibility to the meal service time requirements by allowing meals to be served outside of the standard meal times.

For school year 2022-23, USDA has extended the Fiscal Action Flexibility for Meal Pattern Violations Related to COVID-19 Supply Chain Disruptions Waiver through June 30, 2023. This waiver ensures that schools are not held financially responsible for missing food components or other meal pattern requirement violations that occurred due to the supply chain disruptions. This waiver is critical as districts continue to face significant challenges due to the supply chain such as unreliable deliveries and last-minute substitutes. 

 

Top Five Things Superintendents Should Know About the Proposed Title IX Rules

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Top Five Things Superintendents Should Know About the Proposed Title IX Rules

By Jackie Gharapour Wernz, Partner, Thompson & Horton LLP* 

On the Fiftieth anniversary of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the U.S. Department of Education released proposed amendments to the Title IX regulations. The rules are just a proposal—don’t go throwing out your current copy of the 2020 regs just yet! The earliest they will become effective would be in time for the 2023–2024 school year. When they take effect, they likely will include some changes from the proposed version.     

However, because the final rules likely will be similar to those proposed, it makes sense to familiarize yourself with the proposed rules now. If you haven’t already, watch the Thompson & Horton free on-demand webinar, Title IX Double Take: A Side-by-Side Comparison of the Current and Proposed Title IX Rules, which provides a fast-paced and thorough side-by-side comparison between the current and proposed rules in a side-by-side format.  

1. Required Grievance Procedures for All Complaints of “Sex Discrimination”  

The proposed rules require a somewhat less prescriptive set of grievance procedures than the current rules. But the procedures would be much more broadly applicable.  Specifically, the current rules require the grievance process to be used only for “sexual harassment” complaints. The proposed rules, however, would require schools to use the grievance procedures outlined in the rules for any complaint of sex discrimination. That includes sexual harassment, but also things like: 

  • Sex-based harassment 
  • Different treatment and different impact based on sex (such as in single-sex programs or discipline) 
  • Failures to accommodate based on sex (including based on pregnancy and LGBTQIA status), and 
  • Retaliation.  

2. On the Hook for Off-Campus Conduct?  

Another broadening would occur under the new regulations regarding alleged sex-based discrimination that occurs outside of the United States or off-campus and outside the educational program or activity. The new rules would make clear that they would applyif such conduct contributes to an alleged hostile environment back home in the school’s educational program or activity. It is unclear whether this new language will require a school to actually investigate the behavior that occurred outside the U.S. or off-campus. But many are suggesting that is the direction the Department of Education may be headed. Such an interpretation would be a significant change for schools, which currently defer to law enforcement for off-campus sexual misconduct in most cases. This is an area where schools should work to make their voices heard during the comment process. 

3. Goodbye “SPOO,” Hello “SORP” 

Under the current Title IX regulations, if conduct is not part of the Title IX Big Five (employee quid pro quo, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking), it can only be “sexual harassment” that must be addressed using the Title IX grievance process if it is unwelcome conduct based on sex that is “so severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive” that it “effectively denies” equal access to the educational institution’s education program or activity. Such conduct is commonly referred to as “hostile environment sexual harassment,” and the Title IX “hostile environment” standard is sometimes shortened to “SPOO” for “severe, pervasive, and objectively offensive.” Other “lower level” types of sexual harassment that is not “SPOO” can be addressed using another process, such as a school’s code of conduct for student discipline.  

The proposed rules would apply the Title IX process to almost all of those “low level” types of sexual misconduct, sweeping many more complaints under the Title IX grievance process. Conduct would create a “hostile environment” subject to the Title IX rules if it is unwelcome conduct based on sex that is “sufficiently severe or pervasive” that, “based on the totality of the circumstances and evaluated subjectively and objectively, denies or limits” a person’s “ability to participate in or benefit from” the educational institution’s education program or activity. Many are already referring to this standard as “SORP” for “severe or pervasive.”  

The change from “SPOO” to “SORP” would be big. It would take us back to a standard more like the one used before the 2020 Title IX rules. In total, the first three changes identified here—and other “broadening” changes in the proposed rules—would mean that many more incidents of misconduct would fall under the Title IX process than under the current rules.    

4. Procedural Changes 

With the broadening of the complaints that will fall under the Title IX rules, superintendents should be understandably worried about applying the incredibly complicated process from the 2020 Title IX rules to all these new complaints. The current rules include lengthy, cumbersome processes unlike any other type of grievance or complaint in the education context. 

The good news is that the processes in the proposed Title IX rules are much less prescriptive than those in the current rules, especially for K-12 schools. Here are some key takeaways from the K-12 process in the proposed rules:  

  • Fewer Time-Consuming Reviews in the Investigation. One of the most cumbersome parts of the investigation process in the current rules is that the investigator must allow the parties two separate ten-day review periods during the investigation process. Parties must be allowed to review and respond to the “directly related evidence” before the investigation report is finalized and then to the investigation report before any decision is made. Under the proposed rules, those steps would be gone for K-12 complaints. All that would be required would be to “provide each party with a description of relevant/permissible evidence with a reasonable opportunity to respond.”  
  • The Single Investigator/Decisionmaker Model is Back. There are also significant proposed changes to decision-making. The proposed rules would allow educational institutions to use the “single investigator/decisionmaker” model for Title IX cases. That means the proposed rules would jettison the current rules’ requirement that the decisionmaker be someone other than the investigator and Title IX Coordinator. Indeed, under the proposed rules, the decisionmaker can be Title IX Coordinator, the investigator, or all three roles. 
  • Less is More for the Written Determination. The requirements for what must be in the written determinationin the Title IX decision-making process would also be loosened significantly for most cases under the proposed rules. In K-12 cases, the proposed regulations would require the recipient only to notify the parties of the complaint’s outcome, including whether sex discrimination occurred under Title IX and the procedures and permissible bases for the complainant and respondent to appeal. That’s a far cry from the current “written determination on the merits,” which prescribes precise information that must be included in an incredibly lengthy document.  
  • Barely Any Appeals. Finally, whereas the 2020 Title IX rules require appeals to be offered for several reasons, the proposed rules require appeals only for dismissals for K-12, and do not identify any required bases for K-12 appeals. However, the decisionmaker in the appeal must continue to be different from the initial decisionmaker. 

5. Application to LGBTQI+ Discrimination  

The proposed rules would be the first time Title IX would explicitly extend to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, aligning Title IX with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia. Bostock held that Title IX’s sister law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits discrimination because of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

While the Biden administration has said unofficially many times that it believes Title IX requires equal access for transgender students, including to sports teams, it will not weigh in officially on the question under these proposed rules. Instead, it will engage in separate rulemaking in the future to address #TitleIX’s application to athletics as early as this fall.  

These are a few of the many, many changes to the Title IX regulations from the 2022 Title IX proposed rules. Superintendents should use this opportunity to weigh in on the rules before they become law; OCR will no longer be listening once the rules are finalized. The comment period for the rules will be open for 60 days after the proposed rules are published in the Federal Register, which has still not happened yet.  

*Also authored by Emmy Edwards, a first-year law student at Southern Methodist University, currently a legal intern at Thompson & Horton LLP. You can reach the authors of this post at jwernz@thlaw.com.  

USDA Provides Additional Funding for School Nutrition Programs

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USDA Provides Additional Funding for School Nutrition Programs

On June 30, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced it will provide nearly $943 million in additional funding to schools to help address the significant challenges child nutrition programs continue to face, such as high food costs and supply chain disruptions. The funding will be made available for the purchase of American-grown foods for their meal programs. 

The $943 million boost from the department is provided through USDA’s Commodity Credit Corporation. Funds will be distributed by state agencies to schools across the country, so they can purchase domestically-grown foods for their meal programs. This assistance builds on the $1 billion in Supply Chain Assistance funds USDA previously allocated in December 2021, which states can use this school year as well as next to provide schools with funding for commodity purchases.   

Like the Supply Chain Assistance Funds, states will allocate funds based on enrollment but must set a base amount to ensure small districts aren't left out of the program. 

 

 

The Advocate July 2022

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The Advocate July 2022

It’s with great excitement to share the legislation AASA helped write and have introduced was signed into law as part of the bipartisan gun legislation known as the Safer Communities Act. We are thrilled that the policy we have long championed to improve and expand access to mental health services, as well as all healthcare services in schools, will now become a reality.

AASA spent the past decade urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) to dramatically revisit their guidance on how districts claim and bill for Medicaid-reimbursable healthcare services. Frustrated about the inaction by multiple federal administrations, in 2019 we issued a report urging Congress to force CMS to issue new guidance on the program that would streamline the paperwork requirements for districts. 

In March, President Biden announced his administration would take steps to revise the program and reduce operational barriers to participation. For the last few months, we have been meeting actively with CMS and our conversations with staff led us to believe there was hesitation to make the bold, transformative changes to the school-based Medicaid program that would dramatically streamline the paperwork for districts and reduce the administrative burden on districts. 

After the tragedy in Uvalde, we led a letter to Congress signed by all the major K-12 education groups asking that they address the Medicaid reimbursement issue as a way of tackling the mental health crisis. We are happy to see our specific asks for the revised Medicaid guidance addressed in the law. 

Specifically, the Safer Communities Act requires CMS to move quickly to update the rules governing school-based Medicaid programs to reduce the administrative burdens that are particularly acute for small and rural districts, opening the door for districts to bill for a variety of healthcare related services they perform every day for students and their families. For years, we have known there are numerous obstacles to obtaining appropriate Medicaid reimbursement for the delivery of healthcare services in schools. As a result, many districts that have high numbers of Medicaid-eligible children do not even attempt to participate in the Medicaid program. 

As districts are faced with more children with critical health and mental healthcare needs and increasing demands for school personnel to provide those services, AASA has developed a specific policy solution that will enable more districts—large, small, urban, and rural, high-poverty and low-poverty—to participate in the Medicaid program. 

Now, Congress has mandated that CMS recognize AASA’s policy solution and allow districts to use a simplified, uniform billing process for direct and administrative healthcare services for direct services such as speech-language pathology, counseling, nursing, etc. as well as care-coordination, transportation, Medicaid enrollment, and other administrative services that they may already provide. In addition to this transformational policy shift, Congress also mandated the creation of a new technical assistance center to help districts maximize their Medicaid billing processes and ensure they follow federal requirements. Congress also granted every state $1 million to operationalize the new billing flexibilities that CMS will issue, so states and districts can shift their programs to take advantage of these new operational efficiencies. 

At a time when we have an uptick in children who lack health insurance coverage and a surge in children coming to school with unaddressed mental health needs, there is an urgency to improve the reimbursement stream for school-based Medicaid programs so schools can deliver more services to more students. This new reimbursement model has the potential to benefit students and families, district personnel and administrators, states and other healthcare partners to ensure more efficient delivery of healthcare services to children in schools.