The Swier Law Firm Education Law FAQs
Have questions? We have answers! Our South Dakota attorneys answer the questions they hear most often from clients just like you.
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How does the State's "Back To Normal" Plan Impact School Districts?
Under the State of South Dakota's newly-issued "Back to Normal" Plan, each school district should make its own decisions about the remainder of the school year. School districts are encouraged to take steps to contact all students and assess student learning.
How should teacher non-renewal issues be dealt with in the age of coronavirus?
Over the past few days, we've had a number of questions regarding South Dakota's teacher non-renewal laws and their applicability in the age of the coronavirus. Here are five fundamentals for teacher non-renewals and our law firm's suggestions as to how to move forward.
Fundamental #1 - Reasons Needed for Non-Renewal of Tenured Teacher's Contract
SDCL 13-43-6.1 provides:
A school district may non-renew a teacher who is in or beyond the fourth consecutive term of employment as a teacher with the school district (i.e., a "tenured" teacher) for just cause, including
- breach of contract;
- poor performance;
- gross immorality;
- unprofessional conduct;
- neglect of duty; or
- the violation of any policy or regulation of the school district.
Fundamental #2 - Date By Which Recommendation for Non-Renewal of Tenured Teacher's Contract Must Be Given
SDCL 13-43-6.3 provides:
After a teacher is in or beyond the fourth consecutive term of employment as a teacher with the school district (i.e., a "tenured" teacher), the superintendent or chief executive officer must notify the teacher and the school board in writing of the recommendation to not renew the teacher's contract on or before April fifteenth.
Fundamental #3 - Reasons Needed for Non-Renewal of Non-Tenured Teacher's Contract
SDCL 13-43-6.3 provides:
Until a teacher is in or beyond the fourth consecutive term of employment as a teacher with the school district, a school board may or may not renew the teacher's contract.
In other words, an administrator does not have to give any reason for the non-renewal of a non-tenured teacher's contract.
Fundamental #4 - Date By Which Recommendation for Non-Renewal of Non-Tenured Teacher's Contract Must Be Given
SDCL 13-43-6.3 provides:
The superintendent or chief executive officer must give written notice of nonrenewal to a non-tenured teacher by April fifteenth.
Fundamental #5 - Does the Coronavirus Impact These Non-Renewal Dates?
Our law firm's recommendation is that school administrators should continue to follow the law which requires notice of non-renewal be given on or before April fifteenth. Although we are all in "unchartered waters" when it comes to the coronavirus' impact on our schools, the most prudent way of moving forward is to continue to follow the law as written.
If you have any questions regarding these issues, please feel free to contact our office.
If a South Dakota school district overlaps county boundaries, what county is considered to be the school district’s county of residence?
A school district which overlaps boundaries of a county is considered to be in the county where the majority of the children belonging to the district reside as determined by the fall submission of student enrollment data.
Does a school district have to provide students the opportunity to recite the pledge of allegiance?
Yes. Under South Dakota law, a school district must provide students the opportunity to salute the United States and the flag each day by reciting the pledge of allegiance.
May a school district require the random drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities?
Yes. In Board of Education of Independent School District No. 92 of Pottawatomie County v. Earls, the United States Supreme Court held that mandatory, suspicionless drug testing of public high school students participating in extracurricular activities is a constitutionally reasonable intrusion that furthers a public school’s legitimate interest in deterring drug use among children.
The Supreme Court further found that a public school does not need to demonstrate a pervasive drug problem among the population subject to testing to warrant the intrusion.
In sum, the Supreme Court determined that the government’s compelling interest in preventing and eradicating drug use among children outweighs the limited privacy expectations held by public middle and high school students.
For more information about searches and seizures in our state's public schools, read Chapter 18 of the South Dakota School Law Deskbook™.
What is the South Dakota School Counseling Association's Mentoring Program?
The South Dakota School Counseling Association (SDSCA) offers a Mentoring Program to members who are newer to the field of school counseling or are new to South Dakota.
SDSCA attempts to match members with experienced school counselors in similar grade levels and/or geographic areas. Mentors field questions, provide information for resources, help with networking, and offer support.
For more about the SDSCA's Mentoring Program - click here.
Which South Dakota school district employees are considered to be “mandatory reporters”?
In South Dakota, any person who has contact with a child through the performance of services in any public or private school, whether accredited or unaccredited, as a teacher, school nurse, school counselor, school official or administrator, or any person providing services under S.D.C.L. § 13-27-3 (alternative instruction) must notify the school principal or school superintendent or designee of suspected abuse or neglect.
Is prayer allowed at public school football or basketball games?
No. In Santa Fe Independent School District v. Doe, 530 U.S. 290 (2000), the United States Supreme Court held that a policy permitting student-led “invocations” before football games violates the Establishment Clause. The Supreme Court refused to view the expression as “private speech” because the messages were delivered over the school’s public address system by a student body member under the supervision of school faculty and under a school policy that encouraged public prayer. Under these circumstances, the Supreme Court considered the prayer to be “school-sponsored.”
When do school officials have disciplinary authority over students off school grounds?
In South Dakota, any superintendent, principal, supervisor, and teacher has disciplinary authority over all students while the students are participating in or attending school sponsored activities off school grounds.
For more information about school disciplinary authority, read Chapter 8 of The South Dakota School Law Deskbook.
In South Dakota, who has disciplinary authority over students on school grounds?
Any superintendent, principal, supervisor, and teacher has disciplinary authority over all students while the students are in school or participating in or attending school sponsored activities on school grounds.