Students

NLRB Asserts Employment Protections for Student-Athletes and Seeks to Hold the University of Southern California, Pac-12 Conference and NCAA Liable

December 20, 2022

By Peter A. Jones, Thomas G. Eron, Richard J. Evrard, and Paige Carey

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel has issued a complaint against the University of Southern California (USC), the Pac-12 Conference and the NCAA claiming that certain USC student-athletes are employees under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), and that the conference and the NCAA, along with the university, can be held jointly responsible employers for the treatment of those students under the law. This NLRB litigation portends fundamental consequences for private college and university athletic programs.

Read More >> NLRB Asserts Employment Protections for Student-Athletes and Seeks to Hold the University of Southern California, Pac-12 Conference and NCAA Liable

CBD on Campus: Many Questions, Few Answers

October 17, 2022

By Barbara A. Lee, Ph.D.

Although there is clarity under federal law that colleges and universities may not permit marijuana (also known as cannabis) to be used or possessed on campus by either students or employees,[1] there is less clarity about whether colleges and universities can, or should, permit another form of cannabis—cannabidiol (CBD)—to be used or possessed on campus. Although CBD is technically legal under federal law (and the law of many states), its legal status does not tell the whole story.

Read More >> CBD on Campus: Many Questions, Few Answers

New OCR Fact Sheet Reiterates that Terminating a Pregnancy is Protected Under Title IX

October 6, 2022

By Seth F. Gilbertson

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) released a “Fact Resource” on Oct. 4, 2022 reaffirming legal authority that Title IX protects both students and employees from discrimination based upon pregnancy and related conditions. While the new resource is broadly worded, the timing and presentation suggests that it is intended to signal an enforcement agenda targeted toward the protection of abortion rights for students and employees of educational institutions.

Read More >> New OCR Fact Sheet Reiterates that Terminating a Pregnancy is Protected Under Title IX

Yeshiva University Pride Alliance—Update

September 16, 2022

By Lisa R. Feldman

This is an update to our prior information memo, which you can read here.

On Sept. 14, 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Yeshiva University’s application for a stay pending appeal of the permanent injunction issued by a New York State trial court in June. Accordingly, the University must now “immediately grant [ ] YU Pride Alliance the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges afforded to all other student groups at Yeshiva University,” as directed by the trial court. The Supreme Court’s September 14 decision vacated the temporary stay previously granted to Yeshiva just days earlier by Justice Sotomayor.

Read More >> Yeshiva University Pride Alliance—Update

U.S. District Court Holds that Visual Room Scan Prior to Online Exam Violates the Fourth Amendment

August 31, 2022

By Philip J. Zaccheo

In a decision issued last week, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled that a public institution conducted an unreasonable “search,” in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, by performing a visual inspection of a student‘s remote testing location prior to an online exam.

As is customary, the institution in question (Cleveland State University) reserved the right to employ a variety of safeguards designed to ensure integrity in online academic exercises. Among other things, the University provided instructors discretion to require students to show their surroundings via webcam before, during or after an exam, in order to demonstrate that they were not using prohibited resources or assistance. The student in question was scheduled to take a chemistry examination and was notified approximately two hours prior to the start of the exam that the proctor would be checking his surroundings by visual observation. The proctor did so at the start of the exam, asking the student to perform a room scan that lasted “less than a minute, and as little as ten to twenty seconds.” The student complied with the request, but subsequently sued the University claiming that he had “confidential settlement documents” in the form of IRS forms 1099 in his room that could not be secured prior to the examination (the proctor testified that she did not see any tax documents during the room scan).

In a somewhat surprising decision, the court held that the room scan was an unreasonable search in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Under applicable precedent, whether a particular search is reasonable “is judged by balancing its intrusion on the individual‘s Fourth Amendment interests against its promotion of legitimate governmental interests."1 While acknowledging the University’s interest in ensuring academic integrity, the court nevertheless found the room scan requirement to be unreasonable, among other reasons because the instructor announced the requirement after the start of the course (theoretically leading the student to believe he would not be subject to a room scan until shortly before the time of his test), and because other students could see the room scans. The court also expressed skepticism that the room scans would be effective in preventing cheating, and asserted that the University had other procedural safeguards available to guard against cheating, such as “employing proctors to monitor for suspicious movement or using proctoring programs that perform functions like preventing students from accessing the internet or other programs during the test, recording students during tests, and using artificial intelligence to detect suspicious movement or plagiarism.” With apparent disregard for pedagogical considerations and academic freedom, the court also noted that alternatives to tests, such as projects or papers, might minimize or eliminate the need for remote room scans. In consideration of these factors, the court determined that the student’s privacy interests outweighed the University’s interests in enabling the proctor to view his room and concluded that the room scan was unconstitutional.

This decision is perplexing on many levels, most significantly in that it apparently reflects a determination that conducting a visual inspection of the testing environment for as little as ten seconds after having given a student two hours’ advance notice to secure items he did not wish to be viewed, in the interest of academic integrity, was unreasonable. That said, the likely impact of this decision outside its immediate context, if any, is questionable. For example, it should have no impact on private institutions, and much of the court’s reasoning seems to have revolved around the specific facts of the case, including a perceived lack of consistency in messaging to students as to whether room scans would be required, and the degree of advance notice provided to students. It is possible, and perhaps even likely, that early and consistent messaging in this regard, including timely guidance to students that they should secure any items they do not wish to be viewed, will protect against similar results in other contexts.

If you have any questions, please contact Philip Zaccheo, any attorney in Bond's higher education practice or the Bond attorney with whom you are regularly in contact.


1  Skinner v. Railway Labor Execs.' Ass'n, 489 U.S. 602, 619 (1989) (quoting Delaware v. Prouse, 440 U.S. 648, 654 (1979))

Department of Education Releases Proposed Changes to Title IX Regulations

June 24, 2022

By Sandra M. Casey, Seth F. Gilbertson, Laura H. Harshbarger, and Philip J. Zaccheo

Announcing it as a commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the enactment of Title IX (though anticipated for the past 18 months), the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) announced sweeping proposed amendments to the Title IX regulatory scheme that went into effect less than two years ago.

Read More >> Department of Education Releases Proposed Changes to Title IX Regulations

Office for Civil Rights Faults College for Failing to Accommodate a Pregnant Student

June 16, 2022

By Seth F. Gilbertson and Paige Roseman

A recent finding by the U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights (OCR) that a college failed to accommodate a pregnant student is a pointed reminder of the obligation of colleges and universities to fully and carefully address accommodation requests from pregnant students. 

Read More >> Office for Civil Rights Faults College for Failing to Accommodate a Pregnant Student

The Clery Act: A Refresher

March 22, 2022

By Catherine A. Graziose

While “Clery reporting requirements” and “compliance with the Clery Act” are familiar terms to staff and faculty at colleges and universities, many are unsure exactly what the Clery Act requires and why it matters. Here, in question-and-answer format, is a refresher on the Clery Act’s history, purpose and requirements.

Read More >> The Clery Act: A Refresher

Dealing with the Student Mental Health Crisis on Campus: Are Involuntary Withdrawal Policies or Mandatory Medical Leaves the Answer?

January 10, 2022

By Christa Richer Cook

There is little debate that the student mental health crisis at colleges and universities is at an all-time high. Just last month, news headlines shared the story of a university’s response to receiving an anonymous letter describing a potential suicide that was to take place on campus before the holiday break. The university immediately published a Community Notice encouraging the student at risk to seek help and advising the campus community to be vigilant in reporting and responding to mental health issues amongst their peers. While this student mental health crisis was not caused by COVID-19, it has been intensified by the pandemic and all of the changes it has caused to ‘normal’ college life. According to a survey of college presidents conducted by the American Council on Education (ACE) in September 2021, student mental health was identified as one of their most pressing concerns. 

Read More >> Dealing with the Student Mental Health Crisis on Campus: Are Involuntary Withdrawal Policies or Mandatory Medical Leaves the Answer?

COVID-19 Student Refund Lawsuits: Has the Tide Turned in New York?

December 21, 2021

By Suzanne M. Messer

The challenges confronted by higher educational institutions in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic have been unprecedented. Faced by legal mandates that limited gatherings and ultimately required campus closings during the spring 2020 semester, colleges and universities transitioned to instruction by remote means almost overnight. While it was not the semester anyone had planned for, institutions carried out their missions to educate and devoted significant efforts and resources to supporting their students.

Read More >> COVID-19 Student Refund Lawsuits: Has the Tide Turned in New York?