School Bus Safety Education Program offered to New Jersey School Districts by our attorney Sean F. Dalton

NJSA 18A: 39-19.1a requires employers to administer a safety education program to school bus drivers and aides 2X a year. This seminar will provide training on the following mandated topics:

  • student management and discipline;
  • school bus accident and emergency procedures;
  • conducting school bus emergency exit drills;
  • loading and unloading procedures;
  • school bus stop loading zone safety;
  • inspecting vehicle for students left on board at the end of a route;
  • the use of a student’s education records, including the employee’s responsibility to ensure the privacy of the student and the student’s records;
  • working with police, suspicious activity training;
  • addressing needs of students with disabilities;
  • accident reporting

This program is available to School Districts, Boards of Education, Transportation Companies and School Insurance funds

Instructor: Sean F. Dalton, Esquire, Former Assistant Attorney General

Former Gloucester County Prosecutor (2001-2017)

sdalton@cooperlevenson | Direct Dial: (609) 572-7452

New Jersey Department of Education Directive Overturned

On March 14, 2019, the New Jersey Superior Court, Appellate Division issued an opinion which overturned a prior directive of the NJ DOE regarding superintendent, assistant superintendent, and school business administrator contracts. In Wall Twp. Education Association v. Wall Twp. BOE, the Appellate Division held that when a Board rescinds a superintendent, assistant superintendent, or school business administrator’s contract, and then issues a new a new contract, the notice and hearing requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:11-11 apply.   This ruling is contrary to previous guidance provided by the NJDOE that the notice and hearing requirements only applied to amended contracts.   Thus when any Board wishes to rescind the present contract, and enter into a new contract, with its superintendent, assistant superintendent, or school business administrator, it must now follow the public notice and hearing mandates of N.J.S.A. 18A:11-11.

The mandates do not apply to any new contract for an administrator who is newly-hired.   The mandates also do not apply to a new contract that is replacing a contract that has expired for an administrator, though nothing prohibits a Board from providing the notice and hearing provisions of the law in this situation.

Cooper Levenson Welcomes Kasi M. Gifford, Esquire to the Firm

Cooper Levenson is pleased to announce that Kasi M. Gifford has joined the firm. Gifford will work in the firm’s Atlantic City office, in the Education Law Practice Group.

Gifford’s practice previously included a focus on all areas of plaintiffs’ personal injury work. Gifford served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable James P. Savio, J.S.C., in the Superior Court of New Jersey, Civil Division, Atlantic County. She also served as a judicial intern to the Honorable Allen Littlefield as well as to the Honorable James Savio. Gifford is a state trained mediator for the State of New Jersey.

While in law school, Gifford served a legal internship with the Delaware Civil Law Clinic, where she represented victims of domestic violence and handled custody and visitation matters. Gifford participated in an Intensive Trial Advocacy Program and earned a Specialized Legal Studies in Trial Advocacy Law Certificate. She was a member of the Alternative Dispute Resolution Society.

“We are thrilled to welcome Kasi to the Cooper Levenson team. She will be a great addition to the Education Law Practice Group,” said Kenneth J. Calemmo, chief operating officer of Cooper Levenson.

Gifford is an Executive Board Member and Secretary to the Young Lawyers Division, Atlantic County Bar Association. She has also served as that group’s Director of Events and Director of Community Outreach. Gifford is a Member of the, Vincent S. Haneman Inn of Court.

Gifford graduated from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Psychology. She earned a Juris Doctor from the Widener University Delaware Law School.

April 5 Deadline: Cooper Levenson Foundation Accepting Scholarship Applications

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -Cooper Levenson Foundation, Inc. is offering college scholarship grants to New Jersey high school seniors. Candidates must demonstrate academic excellence, active involvement as a volunteer, and financial need, and must be planning to enroll as a full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year university.

“We believe that investing in the education of the next generation is one of the best ways to insure the continuous improvement of a community,” said Lloyd D. Levenson, chief executive officer. “We’re pleased to be able to help high school seniors who demonstrate civic responsibility and academic achievement despite challenges. These are our leaders of tomorrow.”

The application requires sections to be completed by a teacher or school administrator and a volunteer coordinator, and letters of recommendation from each. Students also must furnish an official copy of their high school transcript, proof of SAT or ACT composite score, answers to two essay questions, a Student Aid Report (SAR) report, copy of the submitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and a letter of eligibility for a Pell Grant, if applicable.

Scholarship applications are available through the link below. To be eligible for a scholarship award, applications must be hand delivered or mailed, and received before 5 p.m. on April 5, 2019 at Cooper Levenson Foundation Inc., attn: Donna Vecere, Director of Marketing, 1125 Atlantic Avenue, Atlantic City, N.J. 08401. Email submissions will not be accepted.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 70 attorneys and New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill. The firm also has offices in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Bear, Del., and Las Vegas, Nev.

2019 Cooper Levenson Scholarship Application

School Law Today: NJSBA Podcast with William S. Donio – “The Board Reorganization Meeting”

The board’s reorganization meeting, held in early January, is the first meeting of the new board and it is where decisions are made that will have an impact for the rest of the year. New board members are sworn into office and the board leadership is decided. What actions must the board take at this meeting, and what are the procedures for taking these actions? Please join NJSBA host Ray Pinney as he discusses these issues with William Donio, a partner in the law firm of Cooper Levenson.


A particularly bad year for gun violence in our schools…

From the desk of our attorney, Sean F. Dalton:
2018 was a particularly bad year for gun violence in our schools. Recent reports on these critical incidents focus on identifying the warning signs. Last week, I was proud to provide professional development training to school officials at Woodbury and Egg Harbor School Districts on this important topic and the steps that can be taken to enhance school security. hashtagInterviewTechniques hashtagInformationsharing hashtagCybersecurity

Atlantic City boys basketball coach reinstated: Atlantic County Superior Court

We are pleased to announce that today, November 28, 2018 Judge Michael J. Blee, P.J. Ch., of the Atlantic County Superior Court, entered an order immediately reinstating Coach Allen, as Boys Basketball coach for Atlantic City High School.   Coach Allen is reinstated until further Order of the Court and should be at practice today.

From the Press of Atlantic City article today, 11/28/18: “…The Atlantic City Board of Education voted at a Nov. 20 meeting not to reappoint Allen. The coach filed a lawsuit Tuesday, seeking to be reinstated. The suit said the board’s decision violated New Jersey law, board contracts and Allen’s rights.”

“I’m pleased for the coach,” said William Donio, Allen’s attorney. “But I’m really pleased for the student athletes. They should have their season without disruption. That’s what we want, and we hope that the board will still do the right thing and reinstate him immediately.” Read the entire Press of Atlantic City article by Michael McGarry, Staff Writer –

Cooper Levenson Education Law Team to Speak at NJ School Boards Association Workshop 2018

Attorneys from Cooper Levenson’s Education/School Law Practice Group will speak at the NJSBA/NJASA/NJASBO Workshop 2018, to be held Oct. 22-25, 2018 at the Atlantic City Convention Center, One Convention Blvd., Atlantic City, N.J. This annual gathering is the largest and most comprehensive training conference for the education community in New Jersey. The theme for Workshop 2018 is “Engaging Every Child.”

On Tues., Oct. 23, from 9:30  – 10:30 a.m., William S. Donio and Amy Houck Elco present “Strike Out! Negotiations, Job Actions and Strikes under Janus and the New Jersey Workplace Democracy Enhancement Actin Room 410. Speakers William S. Donio and Amy Houck Elco will present on negotiations, job actions and strikes in a school district in light of the changes under the U. S. Supreme Court Janus decision and the New Jersey Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act. They will also provide practical tips for school boards and school administrators during these changing times. This session is eligible for 1 QPA credit.

On Tues., Oct. 23, from noon – 12:30 p.m., “From the Outside In: Learn How School Bus Drivers and Aides Can Report Suspicious Activity Before It Enters Your School Doors” in the Cooper Levenson Learning Lab. (Lab #8). Speaker Sean F. Dalton, Former Assistant Attorney General, will discuss school district security plans, the role of the police and school security specialists, suspicious activity training, and the how, when, and to whom aspects of reporting.

On Tues., Oct. 23, from 2:00-2:30 p.m., School Security: Avoiding the “Information Bermuda Triangle” in the Cooper Levenson Learning Lab (Lab #8). Without information, there cannot be knowledge. This presentation will provide practical and important strategies for school districts to enhance security in their schools and communities.  It will provide a step by step approach to building a healthy, positive network of professionals focused on school security. We will also review current law and how it can be applied to build relationships and enhance security through information sharing.  Speaker Sean F. Dalton, Former Assistant Attorney General.

 On Wed., Oct. 24, from 11:30 a.m.– noon, Sean F. Dalton will present “Interview Techniques” in the Cooper Levenson Learning Lab (Lab #8). Speaker Sean F. Dalton, Former Assistant Attorney General, will provide an overview of training programs for school officials on appropriate interview techniques for HIB and/or School Code of Conduct investigations. He will cover foundational questions, the order of interviews in an investigation, non-verbal cues, phrasing your questions, how to deal with uncooperative interviewees, and more.

On Wed., Oct. 24, from 12:45 – 1:45 p.m., see us on the Mock Board on the Investors Bank Theater stage. This legal program, presented in a school board meeting format, will present several controversial issues likely to come before your board in the coming school year. You will certainly want to attend this session to be better prepared. Some of the best legal minds in the state will role-play critical issues in an informative and engaging format on the main stage. Following the main presentation, the public will have an opportunity to present general school law and labor relations questions to this panel of distinguished school board attorneys. Bring your school law questions to the professionals!

On Wed., Oct. 24, from 2:00-2:30 p.m. and again from 3:00-3:30 p.m., William S. Donio and Kelli A. Prinz will present “Walkouts, Sit-ins, Protests ~Oh My!”  in the Cooper Levenson Learning Lab (Lab #8). This presentation will focus on the various legal and policy mechanisms that are available to administrators and a board of education during student walkouts, sit-ins, protests and other student events that are being taken under the general umbrella of First Amendment rights. Emphasis will be placed on not only legal rights but also positive ways to divert potential safety issues and parent concerns.

Sponsored by New Jersey School Boards Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, Workshop 2018 is the largest training conference for the state’s local school officials. Last year’s event drew nearly 8,000 attendees and featured more than 250 training and information sessions for school board members, superintendents, school business administrators and other district staff, including IT directors, buildings-and-grounds supervisors and curriculum supervisors.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 75 attorneys and New Jersey offices in Atlantic City and Cherry Hill. The firm also has offices in Bear, Del., Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and Las Vegas, Nev.

Cooper Levenson Welcomes Camille L. McKnight, Esquire to the Firm

Cooper Levenson is pleased to announce that Camille L. McKnight has joined the firm. McKnight will work in the firm’s Atlantic City office, in the Education Law Practice Group.

McKnight comes to the firm from the New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division-Family Part, Vicinage 1, Atlantic County, where she served as a Judicial Law Clerk to the Honorable Susan F. Maven, J.S.C. from August 2017 – September 2018.

McKnight was a Legal Intern for the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office and a Student Assistant for Rutgers University Public Policy Department. She served as a Judicial Intern to the Honorable Michael A. Toto in the New Jersey Superior Court, Law Division – Criminal Part, Vicinage 8, Middlesex County, and as a Certified Legal Intern at Rutgers University Civil Practice Clinic, Camden.

“Camille brings an impressive background and will be a great addition to the Education Law Practice Group,” said Kenneth J. Calemmo, chief operating officer of Cooper Levenson.

McKnight was active in the Black Law Students Association, the Rutgers Intellectual Property Law Association, Phi Alpha Delta, and served as a mentor for the Minority Students Program. She has volunteered as a mentor for Big Brothers/Big Sisters and for Peers for Professional Presentations.

McKnight graduated from Syracuse University, New York with a B.A. in Political Science and received her J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law – Camden, where she was a Marshall Brennan Fellow and the 2016-17 winner of the Hunter Moot Court Competition. She is admitted to practice in New Jersey.

McKnight is a resident of Galloway Township, N.J.

Cooper Levenson is a full service law firm since 1957, with 70 attorneys and offices in New Jersey, Delaware, Florida and Las Vegas

Schools Need to “Ace” New Jersey’s New Employee Background Law

In a cautionary tale for all school districts in New Jersey, on August 21, 2018, a Federal court ruled a $600,000 settlement must be paid by that school district’s taxpayers and not its insurance carrier because the district failed to notify authorities and agreed not to tell potential future employers about a teacher’s resignation stemming from sex abuse allegations involving students. Jason Fennes, the former Montville teacher was subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison after leaving the Montville School District after admitting to sexually assaulting 6 students in three different schools.

“Schools must provide a safe environment where children can learn,” noted Wil Donio, Esquire chairman of the Education Law Practice Group at Cooper Levenson, P.A. “What you know, but don’t say, can hurt you and others.”

On finding Montville School District’s insurance carrier Zurich American not responsible for paying this settlement,  U.S. District Court Judge Kevin McNulty ruled Zurich did not have a duty to defend the school district because it knew about “abusive acts” prior to the effective date of the policy and failed to disclose the same.  The underlying lawsuit filed by the student alleges the teacher engaged in “various acts of sexual molestation and/or child abuse against other students…and caused the student’s exposure to a known pedophile and child molester.”

The Montville suit was one of several in New Jersey which precipitated the passage of the “Pass the Trash” Law on June 1, 2018.  All New Jersey public, charter, and private schools, as well as contract service providers holding a contract with a school, must comply with stringent background requirements for all applicants for employment having contact with students.  This includes, but is not limited to, teachers, administrators, janitors, bus drivers, lunch staff, and aides.

Among other requirements, schools must obtain from applicants employment information including any prior school employment or jobs that involved regular contact with children for the past 20 years, a written authorization requesting release of information from prior employers, and a written statement certifying whether  the applicant has ever been the subject of a child abuse or sexual misconduct investigation by any employer, law enforcement agency, licensing agency or the Department of Children and Families.

Cooper Levenson can assist school districts and contractors comply with the “Pass the Trash” law as well as provide training seminars on a variety of  school issues for your employees. For more information, please contact Sean F. Dalton, Esquire at (609)344-3161.