News from Thrun Law

December 25, 2023

Thrun Law Firm announces the well-deserved retirement of our colleague and friend, Matt Hiser, who will retire on December 31 after 15 years of exemplary service to this Firm and our public school clients. Matt came to the Firm in 2008 with 17 years of experience.

During his 32-year career, Matt served Michigan school districts as bond...

December 18, 2023

As the school year’s midpoint approaches, school officials responsible for teacher evaluations should turn their attention to midyear progress reports. Revised School Code Section 1249 requires that school officials complete midyear progress reports for all first-year probationary teachers as well as all tenured and probationary teachers rated “minimally effective” or “ineffective” in their most recent annual year-end evaluation. It is also prudent to conduct a midyear progress report for...

December 11, 2023

With the excitement of the holiday season, finance-related filings may be the last thing on school officials’ minds. Nevertheless, they must remember two important end-of-the-calendar year deadlines.

Continuing Disclosure

If your school has outstanding bonds, your school likely entered into a “continuing disclosure agreement” (CDA). A CDA requires school officials to submit certain “continuing disclosure” documents annually to the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board...

December 4, 2023

Imagine this: A parent submits a request for their student’s records and all internal staff emails that include the parent’s or student’s name. What do you do? Responding to this cumbersome request requires school officials to comply with both the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).

FERPA First

FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA applies...

November 27, 2023

Obtaining “qualified status” each year from the Michigan Department of Treasury is critical if your school wants to borrow money. To issue most types of debt, a school must either have: (1) prior approval or (2) qualified status. The latter saves schools both time and resources.

Prior Approval

Acquiring Treasury’s prior approval is the more costly and time-consuming option. If a school has not obtained qualified status, then school officials must...

November 27, 2023

School libraries — previously known for their quiet, studious atmosphere — are now becoming contentious, cultural hotspots.

Recently, a Michigan circuit court weighed in on a library book-ban dispute between Parents and Taxpayers Against Pornography (the “Organization”) and Rockford Public Schools (the “District”). Parents and Taxpayers Against Pornography in Rockford Public Schools v Rockford Public Schools, Case No. 23-08510-AW, opinion and order of the 17th Circuit Court...

November 20, 2023

Parental support is a vital component of high school athletics, but it can also present schools with unique challenges. In McElhaney v Williams, one parent’s overzealous advocacy turned into controversy.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, whose decisions are binding in Michigan, recently held that a parent’s criticism of coaching decisions was protected speech under the First Amendment. McElhaney v Williams, Case No. 22-5903 (CA 6, 2023). This decision reminds...

November 13, 2023

Thrun Law Firm has recently experienced an uptick in transgender student questions. We are also monitoring pending Michigan litigation and Office for Civil Rights complaints filed against schools for their approaches to accommodating transgender students.

Conflicting court decisions and varying guidance from state and federal agencies render this topic complex. Below is general guidance on three frequent questions we receive from clients regarding transgender students.

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November 6, 2023

Every year school officials confront the quandary of what schools can do to celebrate the holidays without running afoul of the Constitution. School celebrations — whether musical performances, decorative displays, or curricular activities — often involve religious content that implicates the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause. Under the Establishment Clause, the government (including public schools) may not endorse or promote religion.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court struck...

October 30, 2023

On October 10, 2023, Governor Whitmer signed into law with immediate effect Public Act 147 of 2023, which amends the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement Act (MPSER) to allow certain retirees to continue to receive their retirement allowance and subsidy for health care benefits when returning to work for a “reporting unit” (i.e., a public school district, ISD, or public school academy) sooner than previously permitted. This change will remain in place for five years after its...

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