A number of parents have asked us follow-up questions about our blog post about waivers. Here are responses to the most common questions:
What’s wrong with asking for a waiver? I think the district just wants to protect itself from parents suing them claiming that the services being provided are not good enough.
- The problem isn’t with districts “asking” for a waiver. The problem is with districts who impose the signature of the waiver as a condition for providing services. Local school districts do not have the right to decline to provide services. But complying with their own legal obligation is all that these districts are offering to parents in exchange for the waiver. And sometimes the waiver goes well beyond the services being provided now. It waives all rights the parents may have against the district.
- In the current circumstances, a limited waiver may be appropriate, even as a condition for providing services. For example, Zoom is not necessarily FERPA compliant. So parents should be informed of this fact, and given the opportunity to give (or withhold) informed consent, even as a condition of providing remote services (because Zoom may be all we have right now).
- As an example of a waiver that a parent should NEVER sign, see here.
Why was your blog post pushed out on Facebook to my town’s parent group?
- There is a particular New Jersey law firm that has been extremely vocal in pushing for these waivers. (They have many New Jersey school districts as clients.) In fact, the firm even wrote a letter to Governor Phil Murphy, defending the broadest of broad waivers of parent’s rights. The letter can be accessed here.
- The firm pushed out information about our blog post to those parent groups in towns where we had heard (sometimes inaccurately) that the board is represented, or has been represented, by that law firm. It seemed to us more likely that the waivers may have been demanded there.
- If your school has not given you a waiver to sign, you have nothing to worry about.
Aren’t you just trying to stir up trouble, as a parent’s law firm?
- We hope you don’t think so, because we don’t. We are just trying to make sure parents know their rights. For parents who aren’t sure, we offer a free consultation. And when we advise clients, we always look for the collaborative route before becoming adversarial.
- Many school district lawyers, however, are “looking to stir up trouble.” Unlike this Firm, school board lawyers are generally paid bv the hour. So the more trouble they can stir up, and the more time they can devote on behalf of a client to that “trouble,” the more money they can make.
- This firm, on the other hand, mostly has clients who can’t afford to pay big fees, and some who can’t pay anything at all. In the latter cases, we only get paid if we win (that is, if the parents are determined to have been right by a judge). So there’s not much in it for us to stir up trouble.
- But having said all that, if informing parents of their legal rights against schools stirs up trouble, we are not afraid to do so.