Coronavirus Updates & Resources
This page is designed to provide important legal and legislative updates, as well as charter school resources, related to the coronavirus pandemic. As your school manages the impacts of COVID-19, we hope you find this information to be helpful and encourage you to visit this page often.
NEW: Is it unlawful for a non-student to enter an online class for the purpose of disrupting the class?
Answer: Yes, this practice, commonly referred to as “Zoom Bombing” is against both State and Federal laws. It is unlawful to disrupt an educational activity and to intentionally access a computer without authorization. Any minor over 16 years of age or adult who is not a student of the School, who comes into any School online/virtual distance learning class and willfully interferes with the discipline, good order, lawful conduct, or administration of any school class or activity of the school, with the intent to disrupt, obstruct, or to inflict damage to property or bodily injury upon any person, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Additionally, any parent, guardian, or other person whose conduct in any online/virtual distance learning class materially disrupts classwork or extracurricular activities or involves substantial disorder is guilty of a misdemeanor. Upon the first conviction for either of these offenses, this individual may be fined up to one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both fine and imprisonment. It is also illegal for a person to “intentionally access a computer without authorization,” such as entering an online/virtual distance learning class in which the person is not a student, and any individual who does this may be civilly or criminally liable under the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
We would recommend that Schools consider notifying parents and students of the risk of criminal penalties via written notice and including such notice in any distance learning policy adopted by the school. Schools might also consider notifying students of this at the beginning of each online class. Please contact Lisa Corr at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ankita Thakkar at email@example.com for questions or to develop the recommended notice and/or policy.
NEW: How should a charter school manage grading, credits, and graduation requirements during the time period of the closure?
Answer: On April 1, 2020, the CDE posted an FAQ on grading and graduation during closures. You can find the FAQ here: https://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/he/hn/gradegraduationfaq.asp
As you can see, the CDE guidance allows for local determinations regarding grading and graduation requirements during school closures due to COVID-19 and there is no law that would require otherwise. The CDE has recommended that each LEA create policies with a focus on equity and with the primary goal of doing no harm to students. Our Office recommends that each charter school adopt a policy to notify parents and students of their minimum participation expectations in distance learning and the manner in which student’s participation in distance learning will impact grades, credits and graduation requirements. For questions regarding the CDE guidance or for assistance in developing your School’s distance learning policy, please contact Lisa Corr at firstname.lastname@example.org or Casey Fee at email@example.com.
Does a charter school have to maintain attendance accounting after February 29, 2020?
Answer: There is nothing in Executive Order N-26-20, SB 117, or the CDE or Federal Guidance that would require attendance to be kept during a school closure while educational opportunities are offered to students. However, as a charter school proceeds with offering educational opportunities through a distance learning plan during school closure, the charter school should be communicating with parents as to the expectations for student engagement in the educational opportunities the School is offering. The adoption of a policy which sets forth the charter school’s requirements with regard to student minimum levels of participation will ensure that all decisions regarding grading and credit are handled consistently, and would help to avoid any claim of discrimination. Such a policy should provide for how much academic credit a student can earn, and whether work during this time of school closure will count toward graduation requirements, class rank, and valedictorian status. Depending upon the policy set forth by the charter school, keeping some form of documented attendance could be helpful:
- As a tool for grading, or granting credit consistent with the expectations set forth to families by the charter school;
- Maintaining continuity of process for teachers so that they don’t lose practice with “typical” schoolwide procedures (this is especially true for nonclassroom based schools which would typically have extensive attendance documentation requirements); and
- As documentation the educational opportunities being offered to students.
The decision to choose to continue to take attendance in some manner during the period of school closure, will differ from charter school to charter school depending upon the expectations of the charter school as to student engagement in educational opportunities during the closure. We would recommend that each schoolwork with legal counsel, as needed, to develop a policy that is appropriately tailored to the charter school.
As a Nonclassroom based charter school, should we close or should we continue to operate?
Answer: Nothing in the Executive Order, SB 117, CDE or USDOE guidance required any school to close but allows each school to make a local decision in alignment with County and State Health Department directives. Further, nothing in the Executive Order or SB 117 defined what it means to be “closed.” As such, it is not clear whether the CDE would consider a nonclassroom based school to be “closed” if it merely prohibits access to its facilities, but otherwise remains operational. The decision of each nonclassroom charter school to “close” while continuing to offer educational opportunities should be considered on a case-by-case basis in consultation with legal counsel and back office business administrators as applicable. The decision should take into consideration multiple factors including but not necessarily limited to:
- Any increases in P2 attendance accounting beyond February 29, 2020;
- The SB 117 waivers of certain timelines for closed schools – i.e. assessment plans and uniform complaint timelines;
- The ability/desire of the school to potentially assume a temporary influx of new students who flock to an open school;
- The ability of the charter school to maintain essential operations under any staffing limitations;
Is there a written notice to law enforcement regarding essential employee status available if I am stopped on my way to work?
Answer: Gov. Gavin Newsom issued Executive Order – 33 – 20 on March 19, 2020 which directed all California residents to stay at home except as needed to maintain continuity of operations of federal critical infrastructure sectors. Under state and federal law public school are exempt from the Executive Order as part of the state’s critical infrastructure sector. Employees that are essential to maintaining the continuity of operations of the charter school are allowed to continue performing assigned job duties on behalf of the charter school, including but not limited to, travel to and from work, completing job functions etc. In case any employee is stopped by law enforcement or National Guard the attached “Notice to Law Enforcement: Essential Employee Status” could be used to demonstrate that the employee has the right to proceed to and from work etc. Download a copy of this Notice here.
Do the Governor’s Executive Orders allow us to hold an entirely virtual board meeting under the Brown Act?
Answer: Charter schools may now hold public meetings via teleconferencing in accordance with the Governor’s Executive Order. However, public meetings must be accessible telephonically or otherwise electronically to all members of the public seeking to observe and to address the local legislative body. Please note you are required to implement a procedure for receiving and swiftly resolving requests for reasonable modification or accommodation and resolving any doubt whatsoever in favor of accessibility.
Charter schools still need to comply with the timelines for posting agendas, including putting the agenda as a direct link on the home page of their website. The agenda must give notice of the means by which members of the public may observe and participate (e.g., conference call dial in number etc.). The agenda does not need to list the address from where each Board member will be calling in, agendas do not need to be posted at those locations, and the charter school does not need to make those locations accessible to the public or ensure that members of the public may address the body at those locations. Charter schools with multiple school sites or learning centers do not need to establish teleconference accessibility at those locations. And a quorum of the Board does not need to participate from locations within the boundaries of the territory over which the charter school exercises jurisdiction. These changes only apply during the period in which state or local public health officials have imposed or recommended social distancing measures.
Additionally, the Governor has not waived the requirement that entities operating multiple charter schools in more than one county audio record, video record, or both the meetings of the charter school board and post them to each charter school’s website.
March 10, 2020
Ensuring California’s Charter Schools Respond Efficiently to the Threat & Impacts of Coronavirus (COVID-19): Understanding Legal Considerations and Taking Proactive Measures Read more »
Sources of Up-to-Date Information
Local, state, and federal health authorities and governmental agencies (Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), California Department of Education (“CDE”), California Department of Public Health, and the Governor’s Office) have issued and will continue to issue regular updates and guidance regarding COVID-19. To receive regular updates, consider regularly checking the following websites along with your county department of health:
California Department of Public Health
The California Department of Public Health is providing statewide guidance regarding responding to COVID-19. Although this guidance is often more general in nature, it does provide some insights that will be helpful for school leaders.
California Department of Education
The California Department of Education has provided both general guidance to schools during this time of school closures as well as specific guidance pertaining to school finance. These links take you to both sets of guidance, which we anticipate will be updated as circumstances change.
California Governor Gavin Newsom
The Governor has declared a State of Emergency and has issued a number of Executive Orders waiving portions of State laws and regulations that would make responding to the pandemic more difficult. He has also mandated that all Californians stay home unless they are working in jobs in essential industries. His press releases contain information about these actions and links to the Executive Orders themselves.
Centers for Disease Control
The Centers for Disease Control provides federal information and guidance relating to COVID-19.
YM&C Legal Alerts do not constitute legal advice but are solely intended as a general resource to assist charter schools. For specific legal advice under the particular facts of your school’s situation, legal counsel should be consulted.