School Districts

Question

We are a small, urban, very diverse school district with a large English Language Learner (ELL) population and a high poverty rate. Our school library spaces are small and do not have adjoining meeting rooms. There is no dedicated prayer/meditation space in our schools either.

Answer

In the United States, public schools that accept federal funding are barred from restricting student access to generally available space on the basis of “religious, political, philosophical…” beliefs.[1]


Question

A school district public library is considering installing closed-circuit cameras and thinking of enabling sound recordings, too. Is it legal to record sound, thinking it is a violation of patron privacy? Can board members review the tapes?

Answer

The answer to these highly specific questions will assume readers have reviewed the ALA's excellent general guidance at https://www.ala.org/advocacy/privacy/guidelines/videosurveillance and the "Ask the Lawyer" guidance here: https://wnylrc.org/raq/patron-pr


Question

The library is chartered as a school district public library and thus exempt from NYS sales tax. Due to a mold issue we ended up having our HVAC contractor rent two humidifiers for us, the contractor made the arrangements and we paid for the rental via the contractor. The contractor told the renting business that we were tax exempt. The renting business refuses to remove the sales tax.

Answer

Short answer: You can't find anything to verify that claim because what is claimed is wrong.

Long answer:  The rental business may be wrong, but I can't blame them the way I can blame someone for parking in a "No Parking" zone.[1]


Question

NOTE: On 5/13/22, Erie 1 BOCES hosted a program[1] regarding school library materials management.  That same week, the Erie County Bar Association hosted a CLE on the same topic[2].

Answer

DO ensure your school district library system, school district, or school has a robust and well-thought-out "school library materials policy"[1] ("Policy") governing selection, procurement, cataloging, lending, concerns, re-evaluation, and removal of library materials.


Question

Our local public library has started a collection of donated yearbooks from the high school. They requested to receive or purchase new yearbooks as they were published. As the yearbook contains underage students, information about their sports and clubs, we felt that this was protected personal information and should not be publicly accessible.

Answer

I appreciate the care behind this question: when yearbook information is being assembled, not many people are thinking about all the places the publication could potentially go.


Question

We have a school district public library board considering requiring background checks for new employees. They are concerned that they may be legally required to background check all current employees. Would there be any legal reason they would need to do so?

Answer

[NOTE: for background to this short answer, please see the much longer "Ask the Lawyer" Background checks and fingerprinting for new employees, that addresses the tightrope walk/legal minefields of employee background checks.]


Question

What law, regulation, or regulatory authority governs the budget transfer policy at a school district public library?  Is there any case law or authority on that?

Answer

Quite a few laws, regulations, and regulatory authorities will impact the budget transfer policy of a school district public library.  Here are the biggies:


Question

For public libraries seeking school ballot funding, there's some gray area around whether a petition with signatures of eligible school district voters needs to be submitted to the school. Is the petition actually needed and if so, what laws and policies define this process?

Answer

When I started writing “Ask the Lawyer” in 2016, my daughter was two years old.

I would like to be able to answer this question like a two-year-old Molly and say simply (and loudly): “NO!” (you don't need a petition).


Question

What, if any, are the ramifications if a school district public library board of trustee member refuses to sign the code of ethics and/or the conflict of interest/whistleblower policy?

Answer

I am sure there is a very interesting set of facts, personal convictions, and conversations behind the stark facts presented in this question (there always is).  But we’ll address just the stark facts.