Roberta L. Rowe is a Partner in Lozano Smith's Fresno office. She focuses on student, and labor and employment matters for school districts and community college districts in her daily practice of law. Ms. Rowe has expertise in certificated and classified employee matters, termination and layoff hearings, collective bargaining, grievance arbitrations and unfair labor practice charges.
She also has in-depth knowledge of the Brown Act, conflicts of interest and policy development. In addition, she has been involved with investigations on behalf of school districts and municipalities related to harassment and discrimination complaints.
Before becoming an attorney, Ms. Rowe worked for eighteen years as a Vocational Rehabilitation Consultant with workers' compensation, social security and marital dissolution cases.
Ms. Rowe is a sought-after speaker and has made numerous presentations to school districts, county offices of education and statewide organizations including California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), California Association of School Business Officials (CASBO), California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance (CASCWA) and California Small School Districts Association (SSDA). Topics include sexual harassment prevention, student discipline, bullying and gender identity/sexual orientation, employee and student free speech, leaves, Brown Act, classified and certificated discipline, and certificated and classified layoffs.
Ms. Rowe has taught for California State University, Fresno, Kremen School of Education and Human Development Administrative Services Credential Program. She has conducted seminars in Advanced Techniques of Personnel and Legal Aspects of Education.
Ms. Rowe received her Juris Doctor degree from San Joaquin College of Law in 1995. While attending law school, she won first place at the Hopper Moot Court Competition and was a quarter finalist at the Evans Constitutional Law Moot Court Competition at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She also served on the San Joaquin College of Law Agricultural Law Review. Ms. Rowe earned an M.A. in Rehabilitation Counseling from California State University, Fresno, and a B.S. in Psychology from Oregon State University, Corvallis.
Governor Jerry Brown recently signed into law three bills impacting school districts in the areas of pupil curriculum, graduation requirements for juvenile court school pupils and military dependent pupil residency requirements.
Assembly Bill (AB) 2016: High School Ethnic Studies Curriculum
Under AB 2016, the Instructional Quality Commission will develop a comprehensive model curriculum for ethnic studies instruction in high schools. The new law will provide a...
On September 8, 2016, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) reached a settlement agreement with the California Department of Education and State Board of Education (CDE) to improve the CDE's compliance monitoring systems and ensure provision of language instruction services to English learner (EL) students in the state's public schools. In light of this agreement, school districts should expect changes and closer scrutiny from the CDE with respect to monitori...
On October 7, 2015, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 172 into law, suspending the administration of the California High School Exit Examination through the 2017-2018 school year. Under SB 172 students will no longer be required to pass the exit exam as a condition of graduating high school. Further, any student who previously completed grade 12 and met all graduation requirements, other than the passing the exit exam, will be granted a diploma of graduation. S...
On June 30, 2015, the Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 277 into law. SB 277 eliminates personal belief and religious exemptions for vaccine requirements for school children. Previously, students attending public and private schools, including preschools and day cares, did not have to meet immunization requirements under Education Code section 48216 and Health and Safety Code sections 120325 et seq. if their parents chose to opt-out of certain vaccinations due to person...
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) issued a guidance package on April 24, 2015 discussing the obligation of school districts, colleges, and universities to designate a Title IX coordinator and providing guidelines for addressing sex discrimination in education programs and activities and meeting other Title IX requirements.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in all educati...
An employer may dismiss an employee who is on medical leave if the employee violates company policy during the leave. In Richey v. Autonation, Inc. (2015) 60 Cal. 4th 909, a case that applies both to school and municipal employers, the California Supreme Court reversed the court of appeal and upheld an arbitrator's award in favor of an employer that terminated the employee while he was on an approved medical leave because he violated the company policy that prohibited...
An employer's duty to engage in an interactive dialogue process and provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee was reaffirmed in a recent case, Swanson v. Morongo Unified School District (Nov. 26, 2014) 2014 Cal.App.Lexis 1183. In this case, which is relevant for school and municipal employers alike, the court of appeal held that a disabled employee could sue her employer for its refusal to reassign her as a reasonable accommodation.
Governor Brown recently signed into law Assembly Bill (AB) 1611, effective January 1, 2015. AB 1611 amends Government Code section 3543.2 to require public school employers to provide "reasonable written notice" to an exclusive representative of the employer's intent to make any change to matters within the scope of representation. The purpose of the written notice is to provide the exclusive representative "a reasonable amount of time to negotiate" the proposed cha...
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently published Enforcement Guidance: Pregnancy Discrimination and Related Issues (the Guidance) regarding the federal Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA). The Guidance is not legally binding on employers, but can assist them in understanding their obligations toward pregnant employees.
The PDA prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical co...
A recent decision of the California Court of Appeal has reinforced the notion that a reviewing court is required to give a strong presumption of correctness to decisions by the Commission on Professional Competence (Commission) in certificated employee dismissal cases. This case is important for school districts because it provides useful guidance when considering whether to appeal a Commission's decision.
In San Diego Unified School District v. Commission on Profess...
Under Education Code section 44918, temporary teachers who have served two consecutive school years shall receive "first priority" in filling a vacant position in the subsequent school year, if the vacancy occurs at the grade level in which that teacher served during either of the two prior years. The Education Code does not define "first priority" and is silent as to the discretion a district has in granting "first priority" rights to such temporary teachers when fil...
In Johnson v. Poway Unified School District (9th Cir. 2011) ___ F.3d ___, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a trial court ruling and held thePowayUnifiedSchool District(District) did not violate a high school teacher's free speech rights when it ordered him to remove two banners containing religious references from the walls of his classroom.
For approximately two decades, Bradley Johnson, a math teacher in the District, had displayed two banners in...
In a recent decision, the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) affirmed that, in order to file a "failure to bargain" charge, a public employee union must actually demand to bargain effects of a non-negotiable decision, even if the employer never gave formal notice of the decision. The case was decided under the Ralph C. Dills Act which applies to state employees; however, the decision was based on PERB precedent decided under the Educational Employment Relati...
CLIENT NEWS BRIEF
TEACHER HAS CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO DISPLAY BANNERS
CONTAINING RELIGIOUS REFERENCES IN THE CLASSROOM
In Johnson v. Poway Unified School District (Feb. 25, 2010) __F.Supp.2d__, a United States District
Court for the Southern District of California ruled that the Poway Unified School District ("District”)
violated a high school teacher’s free speech rights when it ordered him to remove two banners
from the walls of his classroom because they "o...