Articles Tagged with school

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Carolyn Woodruff

Dear Carolyn,

I am a grandmother, and I want to help pay for the tuition for my grandchild’s day care and education at a nice day care facility.  Then, my daughter and son-in-law can work without worry.  They own their own business, and they both need to focus some quality time on the business, while maintaining my grandson as top priority.  My toddler grandson will benefit from the education and interaction with the other children at this particular day care, but it is darn expensive.  Should I give the money directly to my daughter or to the day care?  Is there a tax advantage one way or another?

           – Grandmother of the best grandchild ever…

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Dear Carolyn,

I share custody of our son with my ex-husband. Another school year is about the begin. I dread the issues with homework. As my son gets older and homework gets more important, there has to be something we can do as parents to make sure homework is both done consistently and turned in consistently. My ex is a little more concerned with fun at his house that homework, although he is a pretty good father. What are homework guidelines for sharing custody every other week during the school year?

Carolyn Answers…

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Dear Carolyn,

Prom is coming up, and my daughter is a senior.  I want her to have a nice dress for prom, but her father will not help pay for the dress.  I receive $622 per month child support pursuant to a child support order, and our daughter lives mostly with me.  Can I make him pay for at least part of the prom dress?  What can I do?  These dresses are expensive.

Prom Dress Poor

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Leesa M. Poag, Attorney, Woodruff Family Law Group

After the death of their eight-year-old son earlier this year, two parents in Ohio have filed a lawsuit against Cincinnati Public Schools. The child hanged himself with a necktie from his bunk bed, an act that his parents claim was a result of bullying he suffered at his elementary school.  The parents claim that the child was repeatedly bullied at his school, as were several of his fellow classmates.

This is, unfortunately, not the first such lawsuit to arise over the issue of school bullying.  As discussions surrounding bullying are becoming more prominent in our society today, so are parents seeking to recover damages as a result. In 1999, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of school liability in bullying cases.  In the case of Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, the Supreme Court held that damages were recoverable from a school board in bullying cases, but only if the Plaintiff proves that the school was deliberately indifferent to the bullying.  The Court held that a Plaintiff must show that the harassment was so severe and pervasive that it effectively barred the child from access to educational opportunities. This standard creates an extremely high bar for a plaintiff to meet in a bullying case.

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Bullying in the classroom is, unfortunately, a continuing epidemic both nationally, as well as in the Triad. A new case out of Ohio has recently made news on this topic. An eight-year-old boy named Gabriel Taye from Ohio hanged himself from his bunk bed after being continually bullied at his grade school. The parents of the young boy have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Cincinnati Public Schools, asserting that the school is liable for the child’s death. The lawsuit states that school officials knew about the bullying but were indifferent to the situation and allowed a dangerous school environment to flourish for Gabriel.

Currently, the case law on school liability in the suicide of a student is somewhat sparse. There are two cases which make up the primary law on the issue: Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, which deals with sexual harassment in schools, and Stiles v. Grainger County Board of Education, No. 01-91360 (6th Circuit, March 25, 2016), a 6th Circuit case which deals with bullying and sexual harassment. The main thrust of the cases is that schools are liable where the school’s deliberate indifference to the harassing behavior makes students vulnerable to further harassment or causes them to undergo harassment. Ultimately, the Court must determine what the school was aware of, and what, if any, remedial actions the school took after learning of the harassing behavior.

These two cases do not deal with the issue of suicide, as the students in these cases survived the bullying. In some ways, it may be more difficult for the Ohio court to ascertain the school’s liability as the student Gabriel Taye is not present to testify to the bullying behavior he had to endure and what the school and his teachers were aware of.           Continue reading →

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By: Benjamin N. Neece, Attorney

               Bullying is not a new or novel occurrence; however, the effects bullying may have come as a surprise to many.  Advancements in technology and the associated effects in society have created many new challenges in combating bullying, especially in schools.  Whereas before, a child who was bullied at school was able to achieve some relief upon the bell ringing and returning home- an escape was possible. Today cyber bullying creates a new outlet for tormentors to attack their victims, often anonymously, anytime day or night in front of a limitless audience. A dangerous problem is evolving into an uncontrollable one. So where do we look for help? A recent trend takes the position that bullying is a legal issue that should be confronted in a court of law, but should it?

Gabriel Taye, a young boy lost in the worst way possible, where bullying is believed to have played a major role. His tragic story raises an interesting question as to what role schools play in policing and monitoring bullying, and whether or not they should be held liable when the unthinkable happens.  Children today are smarter and more resourceful than ever; this is especially true with the introduction to electronics and technology at very young ages.  Bullying can be as obvious as physical abuse and as inconspicuous as verbal harassment via social media or messaging apps.  So how does the Court system come into play in enumerating the responsibility and liability of schools when it comes to bullying?               Continue reading →

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At the heart of many family law related disputes lie arguably the most difficult decisions regarding the children and their futures.  At times it may seem unlikely that individuals in the midst of a divorce will ever agree on anything; fortunately, ensuring that any children involved receive a quality education is usually a top priority for everyone.  Setting aside differences for what is in the children’s best interest saves not only time but may also preserve important financial resources that may be reallocated to ensuring the children’s futures are preserved. “Agreements” as they are so appropriately called, may avoid costly litigation procedures, and provide the parents with the opportunity to freely discuss, negotiate, and formulate what they mutually believe to be a plan that will best serve the interests of their children.

The freedom to contract is an important legal principle and when utilized correctly, can be both an effective and efficient means of resolving issues. A recent North Carolina Court of Appeals case, New v. New, discusses the implications and consequences where parents utilize this right to resolve how to care for their child as they confront arguably the biggest step of any child’s life: attending college. In New, the parties agreed to pay off their children’s “ordinary and necessary” college expenses. When it came time to pay up, “ordinary and necessary” became a point of contention.  Language in any agreement is crucial, and given the general stance that parties are free to negotiate how they see fit, it is imperative that any ambiguities are either understood and accepted or limited and clarified during formation.  Here, the parties initially worked together, saving time and money in coming to an agreement, only to end up right back in a courtroom, litigating a language based issue that could have been potentially resolved at negotiations.

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Dear Carolyn,

My daughter just graduated from high school, and she is college bound.  Her father and I divorced three years ago.  Her father paid child support, but I understand child support is ending now as she is already 18.  I thought her father would surely pay (or at least help) with college, and he told me last night that he was not helping with college.  What can I do?  Our divorce agreement says NOTHING about college.

~ College Help Needed

 

Dear College Help Needed,

This is a most difficult situation for you and for your daughter.  Unfortunately, in this State, parents have no legal obligation for support after the child is 18 and out of high school.  Other States are different.  For example, in Alabama, the divorce court can order college if the child’s lifestyle and economic status would indicate that the parent would have paid for college in an intact family.  Also, in Massachusetts, as another example, child support continues to age 21.

The only way a parent can be bound to pay for college is in a private agreement.  At the time of your divorce settlement, the father and you could have entered into a private agreement, signed and notarized, that describes how the child’s college costs will be handled.  If you had such an agreement, the agreement would be enforceable by you.  Frequently, college is difficult to negotiate because Father’s feel that the child will “snub her nose” at the father if college is guaranteed by a contract.  You do not say anything about the daughter’s relationship with the father, and whether it is a close, loving relationship.

If the child’s financial aid application requires the father’s income, sometimes it is helpful to have a letter to accompany the financial aid application stating that the father will not participate in college expenses.  I have written several letters like this in the past for clients who have no expectation from a parent of college participation.

Good luck with college for your daughter, and congratulations on her high school graduation. Continue reading →

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

I know, the last thing your teenager wants to do this summer is read. But, if you get creative with it, you might be able to get them to read a few books this summer. My 15 year old niece helped me with some of my summertime reading research, so most of this is in her opinion. She is a spirited teen who is a stellar soccer player and student, so I trust her opinion in leading me in the right direction for a good teenage view on literature.

First off, the big question: what are those creative ways to get your teenager to read this summer? One of the simplest ways is to make them feel like they are in charge of picking their book to read. All year long in the classroom they are told what book to read, and the last thing any teen wants to do is be assigned another uninteresting book to read. Take a trip to the Greensboro Public Library or Forsyth County Public Library and let them pick out a book or two that peaks their interest. Of course, get them a library card if they don’t have one already! This way it will make them feel in complete control over their choices.

If your teen has no idea what to choose, come prepared with a few suggestions. According to my niece, both the Hunger Games and Divergent book series were popular with her and her friends. If your teen has not read them yet, suggest getting the first few books, then, to keep them motivated to read, rent the DVD of the movie so you can decide which was better, the book or the movie. Another popular series my niece recommends is The Maze Runner. With four books in the set out currently, it too is another book to film series. The next book to be released in the series is The Fever Code, which will be out in the fall, so why not get your teen caught up this summer and gain some excitement about its next release.

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By Kristina Pisano, Blog Writer, Woodruff Family Law Group

On Thursday, May 5, I graduate from the University of North Carolina Greensboro! I am so excited and can’t wait for my close friends and family to watch as I finally get my bachelor’s degree. In the midst of all the graduation excitement, a friend of mine who is also graduating is dreading it. I know it sounds crazy, but, while she is thrilled to be getting her degree, she, unfortunately, has to deal with “the parent drama,” as she puts it. Her parents divorced when she was three years old, and ever since then, every birthday party, dance recital, big or small celebration there is always drama between her mom and dad.

“One time,” as she explained to me over lunch, “my mom got upset with my father because brought me a dozen roses for my 5th-grade dance recital. She said he was showing her up because all she could afford at the time was carnations.” She further explained that “…every time they have to be in the same room it is like a competition for my love. One of them will probably have a large glittery sign that says how proud they are of me while the other will have a bull horn to grab my attention during graduation.” I cannot relate as my parents are married and have never acted this way, so I just laughed off the silly scenario with her.  As graduation approaches, my friend was getting more anxious about having to deal with her divorced parents.  Seeing her like this upset me because her parent’s childish behavior was taking away from what matters, my friend’s accomplishments.

A broken relationship of any kind is unbelievably hard. A divorce that involves children at any age can be even worse. If your son or daughter is graduating this year and you have to see your ex, as much as you want to outshine them or show them that you are the better parent, think of your child. Here are some thoughts on how to keep the spotlight on your graduating child and not your divorce:

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