Sloan R. Simmons is a Partner in Lozano Smith's Sacramento office and co-chair of the firm's Litigation Practice Group. His areas of expertise are civil rights and all forms of school district and public agency trial court litigation and appeals, as well as student issues. Mr. Simmons’ years of experience on student issues for school districts of all sizes and in all regions of the state has resulted in his expertise in nearly all student related matters.
Mr. Simmons has presented on the intersection of student free speech and other constitutional and statutory rights, discipline, and the technology and several other issues before the California School Boards Association (CSBA), Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), California Small School Districts' Association (SSDA), California Association of Supervisors of Child Welfare and Attendance (CASCWA), and the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association (CCSESA).
Mr. Simmons' article "Disciplining Students for E-Communications
" was published in the Daily Journal in January 2010. His February and March 2012 articles "What's Next in ACLU's Student Fee Case
" and "Cancer Awareness Slogans Pose Tough Challenges for Schools
," were also published in the Daily Journal.
Mr. Simmons earned his J.D. from the University of California, Davis, School of Law, and his B.A. (summa cum laude
), with Honors in the Major and Honors in General Education, from California State University, Chico.
While attending law school he received the honor of Outstanding Oral Advocate, was selected as a member of the Order of the Barristers, and as a member of the University of California, Davis, National Moot Court Team. He also held the position of Senior Articles Editor for the 2002-2003 and co-chaired the law school's Advocates for the Rights of Children student organization. As an undergraduate, Mr. Simmons presented his Honors Thesis, "Justice William J. Brennan Jr.: Bringing Justice to Education" at the 2001 Western Regional Honors Conference.
The United States Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Department of Justice (DOJ) have withdrawn their 2014 joint Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) on Nondiscriminatory Administration of School Discipline, which provided recommendations and guidance on remediating disproportionate student discipline of minority and disabled students. The stated justification for the agencies' reversal is that implementation of the 2014 DCL resulted in schools easin...
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) made a second round of revisions to its Case Processing Manual (CPM), effective November 19, 2018. The CPM outlines the procedures OCR uses to investigate and resolve complaints under the civil rights laws which it enforces. The CPM last underwent revisions in March of 2015 and March of 2018. The most recent changes are wide ranging and include how OCR will evaluate, investigate and resolve complaints. ...
Effective January 1 2019, a new law in California establishes students' right to wear tribal regalia or recognized objects of religious or cultural significance as an adornment at school graduation ceremonies.
Generally speaking, federal and state law permits school districts, county offices of education and charter schools (local educational agencies, or LEAs) to develop and enforce reasonable dress code policies. Existing law has been understood to...
The California Legislature recently passed Assembly Bill (AB) 1974, which places new prohibitions and restrictions on the collection of debt owed by parents to public schools, including state special schools and charter schools, and school districts, including county offices of education (all referred to herein as school districts). The new law prohibits the practice of punishing students for the failure of their parents to pay debt owed to the school district, add...
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed the constitutionality of California's Voters' Choice Act (VCA), which provides for an all-mail ballot election system. The court's opinion validates the ability of states and local election officials to implement and operate systems that are designed to increase voter turnout.
In this litigation, Lozano Smith represented respondent County of Madera, which had opted in to the VCA system for the 2018 election c...
School surveillance video can be considered a student record under certain circumstances, triggering a school district's obligation under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to allow parents to view it.
UPDATE:The Governor has vetoed AB 3120, which is another bill related to this subject and referenced below, but distinct from SB 1053. His veto message can be found here.
In response to a recent state court case, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1053 to explicitly prohibit local agencies from adopting local claim procedures that limit the presentation of childhood sexual abuse claims. The law, which was signed by Governor Jerry Brown on July 23, goes in...
State lawmakers have indefinitely extended previously approved limits on disciplining students for defiance and disruption and have expanded the list of issues that may be addressed through the Uniform Complaint Procedures (UCP).
The changes were included in a budget trailer bill, Assembly Bill (AB) 1808, and became effective when Governor Jerry Brown signed the bill on June 27.
Extension of Limits on Student Discipline for Disruption and Willful Defiance
Schools may soon be fielding requests to administer Epidiolex, a drug containing cannabidiol (CBD), a chemical component of marijuana that does not create a "high," to students.
On June 25, 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Epidiolex to treat two types of pediatric epilepsy. The approval of Epidiolex will pave the way for school districts, for the first time, to administer a medicine derived from marijuana, provided that the Drug Enforcement...
On June 4, 2018, the United States Supreme Court decided theMasterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission case in a 7-2 decision. While this case had the potential to provide new guidance on the complex intersection between the rights of LGBTQ+ individuals and the rights of individuals to religious freedom, Justice Anthony Kennedy's opinion is narrow and leaves many questions unanswered. The Court's limited ruling is largely based upon the underlying facts o...
The California Court of Appeal’s recent opinion in M.N. v. Morgan Hill Unified School District (2018) 20 Cal.App.5th 607 (“Morgan Hill USD”) resolves several issues of first impression significant to student expulsion proceedings involving sexual battery. In M.N., a case in which Lozano Smith’s Sloan Simmons and Steve Ngo successfully represented the Morgan Hill Unified School District, the court set forth clear rulings on the legal standards for e...
The California Attorney General's Office (AG) has published a comprehensive guide and model policies to equip local educational agencies (LEAs) with information and resources for addressing immigration enforcement actions and also, hate crimes and bullying that target immigrants.
The guide is intended to serve as an instructional tool for LEAs in addressing increased U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) activity and the impacts of the rescission of the De...
The Fifth District Court of Appeal's opinion in Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District v. Superior Court holds, for the first time, that local agencies may enact local claims procedures under the Government Claims Act which require the submission of claims regarding childhood sexual abuse, despite the general exemption of such claims from the Government Claims Act's claim presentation requirements and the more forgiving statute of limitations which apply to s...
In recent weeks, media outlets have reported on immigration raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents that targeted various areas in California. These raids have focused on the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Sacramento areas. Other reports have confirmed ICE agents raiding dozens of 7-Eleven stores throughout the nation, and serving notices of inspection at 77 Northern California businesses within San Francisco, San Jose, and Sacramento.
As these en...
This Client News Brief was updated on March 6, 2018.
UPDATE: California Department of Education Issues Guidance
The California Department of Education (CDE) and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson released guidance on March 2 regarding student walkouts. Echoing the suggestions below, the CDE calls for schools to provide outlets for student political expression through classroom or school-wide discussions, as well as for proactive discussio...
A federal district court in California has granted a preliminary injunction blocking a school district's policy requiring student athletes to stand during the national anthem at school sporting events.
In V.A. v. San Pasqual Valley Unified School District, the Southern District of California court ruled that kneeling in silent protest is a form of student symbolic speech protected under the First Amendment.
During the first game of the 2017 varsit...
A Washington school district was not required to allow a high school football coach to pray on the 50-yard line at the end of each game, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District (9th Cir. 2017, No. 16-35801) ___F.3d___ <http://cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov/datastore/opinions/2017/08/23/16-35801.pdf>. The court found that the District did not violate the coach's First Amendment rights by placing him on administrative leave for ref...
On September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced plans to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The program temporarily permitted some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children to lawfully stay, attend school, and work in the U.S. without the threat of deportation. The Administration is phasing out the program over a six-month period that will end on March 5, 2018, unless Congress enacts legislation...
A divided California Supreme Court threw out a woman's claim against a public agency arising from resurfaced memories of alleged sexual abuse in the early 1990s because it was not submitted to the public agency by the six-month deadline for submitting such claims under the Government Claims Act. (Rubenstein v. Doe No. 1 et al. (Aug. 28, 2017, No. S234269)__ Cal.5th __.)
In a 4-3 decision, the Court found that the "delayed discovery rule" applicable to childhood...
Changes to California's school funding scheme did not eliminate local school district and county office of education immunity from federal claims for damages, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled.
In Sato v. Orange County Department of Education (9th Cir. 2017) ___ F.3d ___, the Ninth Circuit affirmed that California school districts and county offices of education retain their absolute defense to claims for damages in federal court due to sovereign immuni...
The United States Supreme Court has held that trademarks are private speech protected by the First Amendment, even if some find the ideas they express offensive.
In Matal v. Tam (2017) 582 U.S. ___, the Court held the Lanham Act's disparagement clause to be unconstitutional because it discriminated based on a viewpoint. The Court, noting that the First Amendment is a bedrock principle of government, wrote that the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited mer...
The United States Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional a state policy excluding churches from participating in a government benefit program solely based on their religious status. This is a reminder that public agencies cannot deny religious institutions participation in government programs designed to promote a public benefit solely because of the institution's religious character. (Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Carol S. Comer (2017) 582 U.S. _...
The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has issued new instructions to its regional directors regarding how to handle complaints involving transgender students. The document is intended to offer OCR staff additional guidance in light of recent court developments and the Trump Administration's withdrawal of the Obama Administration's guidance on transgender students. (See 2017 Client News Brief No. 9.)
The instructions affirm that transgender...
A federal appeals court recently upheld a Texas school district's practice of permitting students to deliver a religious invocation at the beginning of governing board meetings. ( American Humanist Association et al v. Birdville Independent School District et al (5th Cir. 2017, Nos. 15-11067, 16-11220) ___ F.3d ___ (Birdville). While noteworthy, the opinion is not binding on public agencies in California, where a separate ruling on religious invocations at governing bo...
California school districts and county offices of education are required annually, at the beginning of each school year, to provide written notice of parental rights and responsibilities. Lozano Smith continuously tracks legislation impacting these notices. The following summarizes changes inCalifornia law requiring updates for the 2017-2018 annual notice.
Excused Absence to Attend Student's Naturalization Ceremony
Assembly Bill (AB) 1593 amended Education Code se...
In Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products (9th Cir. 2017) 847 F.3d 678, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently delivered an important opinion regarding public entity employers and what is required for an appropriate response to an employee's complaint of harassment or hostile work environment. In doing so, the Ninth Circuit emphasized that employer liability may exist for negligence, if the employer fails to take effective remedial action in response to such an empl...
In Reynaga v. Roseburg Forest Products (9th Cir. 2017) 847 F.3d 678, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently delivered an important opinion regarding public entity employers and what is required for an appropriate response to an employee's complaint of harassment or hostile work environment. In doing so, the Ninth Circuit emphasized that employer liability may exist for negligence, if the employer fails to take effective remedial action in response to such an employe...
Under new leadership following the 2016 presidential election, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education (DOE) issued a joint "Dear Colleague" letter on February 22, 2017 withdrawing the Obama administration's May 2016 letter and guidance regarding transgender students and sex-based discrimination under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. § 1681 et. seq.) and Title IX's regulations. The prior letter and guid...
In the wake of the recent presidential election, changes in immigration law and enforcement may be on the horizon.
Some California K-12 school district and community college district officials have voiced concerns over the potential for increased enforcement of existing immigration laws, due in part to the president-elect's campaign statements that he would triple the number of enforcement agents at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deport 2 million un...
Following this week's national election, school officials around the state have been faced with threatened or actual student walkouts. Generally speaking, California law and the United States Constitution prohibit school officials from limiting student speech and expression on school grounds unless it does or is reasonably forecast to substantially disrupt the educational environment, or is otherwise lewd, vulgar, obscene, or plainly offensive. This raises the question of whe...
In a case watched closely by the charter school community - including school districts, county offices of education and charter operators - California's Third District Court of Appeal has issued an opinion which holds that the geographic and site limitations of the Charter Schools Act (Ed. Code, § 47600 et seq.) are applicable to all charter schools, including "nonclassroom-based" programs. (Anderson Union High School District v. Shasta Secondary Home School (O...
On July 27, 2016, the United States Department of Education (DOE) issued non-regulatory guidance to the nation's schools addressing changes to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 as implemented by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (ESSA) to the definition of homeless students under the McKinney-Vento Act (42 U.S.C. § 11301 et seq.). The guidance addresses state and local requirements for educating homeless youth, including local educational ...
In C.R. v. Eugene School District 4J (9th Cir., Sept. 1, 2016) __ F.3d__ [2016 U.S.App. LEXIS 16202], the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals considered an issue of first impression: Whether a school may discipline a student for off-campus sexual harassment without violating the student's First Amendment free speech rights. Based on the facts, the Ninth Circuit held that disciplining a student for off-campus sexual harassment of fellow students did not violate the stud...
A secular organization called The Satanic Temple has announced it will be seeking access to public elementary school facilities nationwide to offer its "Educatin' with Satan" after-school program. The group stated that it intends to offer a scientific after-school club to balance the religious viewpoint presented by other programs such as the "Good News Club" run by the Child Evangelism Fellowship.
Based upon the United States Supreme Court's 2001 opinion in Good Ne...
A United States District Court in Texas has issued a preliminary injunction barring the United States Department Justice (DOJ), Department of Education (DOE) and other federal agencies from enforcing the DOJ and DOE's May 13, 2016 joint guidance regarding the rights of transgender students in schools under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Title IX) and Title IX's regulations (Joint Guidance). (See 2016 Client News Brief No. 31.) (State of Texas v. United...
In Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin (June 23, 2016) No. 14-981 579 U.S. __ [2016 U.S. LEXIS 4059], the United States Supreme Court reiterated its 2013 holding that public higher education institutions may only consider an applicant's race in deciding whether to admit that student if the method by which race is considered is narrowly tailored to meet a compelling state interest (this standards is known as "strict scrutiny"). While courts are entitled to take at...
In May 2016, the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) issued joint guidance regarding transgender student rights, sparking nationwide media coverage and a surge in lawsuits related to the guidance, as if it was the first time this issue had ever been breached on a local, state or federal level. To the contrary, and especially in California, the statutory framework regarding transgender student rights have been in place for several...
Governor Jerry Brown recently approved Senate Bill 7 (SB 7), increasing the age to buy tobacco for smoking, dipping, chewing and "vaping" from age 18 to age 21. The law became effective June 4, 2016.
The new law makes California the second state, besides Hawaii, to increase the age to buy tobacco from 18 to 21.
SB 7 amends provisions of the Business and Professions Code and the Penal Code that govern the sale, possession and use of tobacco products. The bill proh...
In Campaign for Quality Education v. State of California (2016) 246 Cal.App.4th 896 (Campaign), the California Court of Appeal held that the “free school guarantee” enshrined in California’s Constitution does not require the Legislature to provide a set minimum quality of education, or level of funding, for public schools.
In Campaign, student advocacy groups and non-profit organizations representing low-income and minority families filed suit in 2010 in hope...
On May 13, the United States Departments of Education and Justice issued joint guidance to the nation's schools regarding the Departments' interpretation of transgender students' rights under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (20 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq.) and Title IX's implementing regulations. The joint guidance addresses various aspects of transgender students' rights under Title IX, including their rights to use school facilities and participate in ath...
Are a special education teacher's complaints about her district's special education program constitutionally protected speech? In Coomes v. Edmonds School District No. 15 (2016) 2016 U.S. App. Lexis 5372, the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a public school teacher's complaints to her supervisors and parents regarding her employer school district's special education program were not protected by the First Amendment.
Plaintiff Tristan Coomes wo...
A United States District Court in California recently concluded that a school board unconstitutionally endorsed religion by reciting prayers, conducting Bible readings, proselytizing at board meetings and adopting a resolution allowing religious prayer at board meetings. (Freedom from Religion Found., Inc. v. Chino Valley Unified School Dist. Bd. of Ed. (C.D. Cal. Feb. 18, 2016) Case No. 5:14-cv-02336-JGB-DTB, 2016 U.S. Dist. Lexis 19995.) The Establishment Clause of ...