Revisions to Chapter 103 Seclusion and Restraint rules, firearms on school grounds, service animals in the workplace, and leadership changes at the Iowa Department of Education. Thomas Mayes, legal consultant at the Iowa Department of Education, provides legal information on these topics in this December 2019 issue of Special Education Law Update:
1. Public Comment Period on Proposed Revisions to Iowa's Rules on Seclusion and Restraint. At its November 2019 meeting, the State Board of Education gave notice of its intent to revise Iowa Administrative Code chapter 281-103, Iowa's rules on seclusion and restraint. The public comment period closes on January 7, 2020. There will be a public hearing on January 7, 2020, at 11:00 a.m., in the Grimes State Office Building, State Board Room. Here is the notice of intended action.
2. Iowa criminal law case involving a firearm on school grounds. In State v. Mathias, the defendant was convicted of carrying a firearm on school grounds. The question on appeal was whether the parking lot of Davenport's Brady Street Stadium was "school grounds." On December 6, 2019, the Supreme Court of Iowa (5-1, with Justice Mansfield dissenting) held that it was.
3. Eighth Circuit Case on Service Animals in the Workplace. In McConnell v. Anixter, Inc., the plaintiff sued his former employer for violating the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, 38 U.S.C. § 4301 et seq., which prohibits covered employers from, among other things, taking "any adverse employment action" against former service members "because of their service in the uniformed services." On December 13, 2019, the Eighth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the employer. In relevant part, the Eighth Circuit concluded that Anixter's denial of McConnell's request for a service animal was not an adverse employment action because McConnell was able to perform the essential functions of his position. McConnell did not help his case by telling Anixter that the denial of his request was “[n]ot a problem”.
4. Unpublished IDEA attorney fees case from the Eighth Circuit. In Wofford v. North Little Rock School District, a brief, unpublished decision filed on December 20, 2019, the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court order that concluded Wofford was not a prevailing party entitled to attorney fees: "Specifically, as the relief ordered by the hearing officer required Wofford’s action, which he did not take before moving J.W. out of the district and precluding implementation of the relief, Wofford cannot be considered a prevailing party."
5. Leadership Transitions at the Iowa Department of Education. Both Director Ryan Wise and General Counsel Nicole Proesch will be leaving the Iowa Department of Education for other opportunities. Director Wise will be joining Drake University as the Dean of Drake's School of Education. Attorney Proesch will be joining the Iowa Hospital Association as its Vice President of Government Relations and Assistant General Counsel. I'm sure both would appreciate your good wishes as they take their public service into a new venue.