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Archive for the ‘Education Law’ Category

Warning to Parents: Be Aware Of Yik Yak

Thursday, May 1st, 2014

Parents, have you heard of Yik Yak?  If not, you’d better get educated, and fast.  Yik Yak is a new a very popular social media app.  Think of Twitter with anonymity and you’ve got the basic idea.  The other major catch is that Yik Yak is limited to a specific radius, as little as 1.5 miles and, some say, as much as 10 miles.

Why is Yik Yak dangerous?  Because it is the new app of choice for cyber bullies.  It has already shut down schools due to misuse.  Students are hiding behind Yik Yak’s anonymity to make bomb threats, sexually harass others and spread false rumors.  There is no limit to the potential havoc that could ensue.

What can be done?  First, educate yourself.  Go online and read more about this and then sit down and discuss it with your children.  As always, knowledge is power.  Next, encourage your children not to engage in the mayhem.  In my practice I have often seen victims of bullying become accused of bullying when they retaliate.

Where will it end?  The company behind Yik Yak has already agreed to restrict access to a school district in Connecticut.  Encourage the administrators at your school district to do the same.  This won’t stop kids from using the app, but it will stop them from using it at school.

If your child is the victim of cyber bullying or has been accused of this, do not hesitate to contact a qualified attorney.  Whether it is a matter in the juvenile courts or a school disciplinary matter, attorney Mark Zimmerman can help you navigate these complex systems.

Four Manatee County School Administrators Charged with Felonies in Rod Frazier Case

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Four Manatee County school administrators are charged with felonies for not reporting child abuse.  The charges are related to Manatee High football coach Rod Frazier, who was arrested last week on 7 counts of misdemeanor battery and 3 counts of interference with the attendance of a student.   Frazier was accused of inappropriately touching female students. He has since resigned from his coaching job.  The administrators facing charges include Robert Gagnon, a former Manatee County assistant superintendent; Greg Faller and Matt Kane, both former assistant principals at Manatee High; and Debra Horn, who served as the school district’s internal investigator during the Frazier case.   Click here to read the entire police investigation.

The Administrators Could Get More Jail Time than The Coach

The school district employees could each face a 5 year jail sentence for the charge of not reporting abuse.  However, Frazier only faces the possibility of a 1 year sentence for the simple battery charges.  So why is this?  A big reason is a new law passed in Florida after the Penn State sex abuse scandal.  The law, called the Protection of Vulnerable Persons Act,  says that anyone who fails to report suspected abuse faces a 3rd degree felony charges. The law took effect on October 1, 2012 and is one of the strictest reporting law in the nation.

Law Over-Criminalizes Failure to Report

From a criminal defense perspective, the state attorney’s office may have a difficult time prosecuting this in court.  While the new law is meant to protect children from abuse, it’s untested, with almost no case law behind it,  and it overly criminalizes the situation.  For example, if a high school math teacher notices bruises on a student’s arm and reports it, will the other 5 or 6 teachers who saw the student earlier that day, but did not report the bruises face felony charges? The answer is, probably.  But it’s up to the State’s Attorney to use discretion about which cases to charge.

If you’re being investigated by a school district or by law enforcement, contact Mark Zimmerman, an board certified criminal defense attorney with experience representing school employees in Sarasota and Manatee Counties.    



Two North Port Students Arrested for Bringing Gun to Imagine School

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Police arrest two boys at Imagine School in North Port for bringing a gun on campus. According to news reports, a 12 year old boy gave a 9mm handgun to a 13 year old boy, who had the weapon inside his backpack. Another student saw the gun and told a teacher. Police don’t know where the 12 year old got the gun from yet. Both of these young teenagers are now charged with possession of a firearm on school property. They also face a long suspension and could be expelled from school.

3 Steps the Family Should Take to Protect Rights

  1. Understand that each of these boys has TWO different cases to deal with: A criminal charge and a school discipline issue. These are VERY different situations and have to be dealt with independently because they are NOT related to each other. An attorney experienced with the school system and in the juvenile justice system can make a complicated case much easier on the family.
  2. Decide whether to cooperate with the investigation or not. That decision is a tough one to make. An attorney can help the family decide when it makes sense to cooperate or fight the cases in court. These boys’ future is at stake here, so it’s important to get advice from an experienced criminal and education law attorney before talking to anyone.
  3. How to deal with the single most explosive issue in the America today: Guns in schools. Because of tragedies like what happened in Newtown, Connecticut, the tolerance for any types of gun related incident in our schools is zero. Public opinion may not have an official role in court or in a school discipline hearing, but it does affect how these cases are treated. In the past there might have been more leeway for a first time offense, but today it’s common for the system to come down hard on every case of guns in schools.

The common thread in all three of these steps is the need for an experienced criminal law and education law attorney. A lawyer experience in both is ideal. These boys are facing serious criminal charges that could keep them in juvenile detention for up to 21 days if a judge orders it during their probable cause hearing in the next few hours. What happens next can turn into a nightmare for a child who’s made a bad decision, but who isn’t a bad kid.

Hiring an Attorney

Mark Zimmerman is a board certified Criminal Defense Lawyer and an Education Law Attorney. He’s been helping families and students dealing with criminal and school discipline hearings in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 2000. Mark understands how tough these situations are for the whole family and has helped many students successfully get their lives back. Contact Mark Zimmerman for a free comprehensive case evaluation at (941) 364-8503 or fill out our online form at the top left side of this web page.

Teen Arrested for Making Facebook Bomb Threat at Manatee High

Saturday, August 18th, 2012

A facebook post leads to the felony arrest of a 15 year old Manatee County student.  Newspaper reports say the male teenager threatened to bomb Manatee High on the first day of school.  A parent saw the post online and alerted police, who began their investigation on July 29th.  According to a police press release, there was no evidence at the boys’ house that he had any type of bomb making materials, other than the threats he posted.  The 15 year old was a student at Manatee High last year but news reports indicate he is not currently enrolled at that school.   Now the teenager faces an investigation between law enforcement and the Manatee County School District.

Bomb Threats: Getting Arrested and Getting Expelled

Anyone charged with making a bomb threat needs to hire a criminal defense lawyer immediately.  But when the charges involve a student and a school system, it’s even more important to hire a lawyer with Education Law experience in addition to Criminal Defense.  Making a bomb threat in Florida is an automatic felony charge, but it can also mean getting expelled from school.

In this case, newspaper reports say the teenager’s status in the Manatee County school system will be decided after the police investigation.  However, these two situations need to be handled simultaneously because one investigation directly affects the other.  It’s important for the parents and family to know that the student still has rights and there are steps to protect his future. An experienced juvenile criminal defense/education law attorney can defend this teenagers’ rights in both investigations.

Education Law and Criminal Defense Lawyer

Mark Zimmerman is a board certified Criminal Defense Lawyer and an Education Law Attorney.  He’s been helping families and students  dealing with criminal and school discipline hearings in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 2000.   Mark understands how tough these situations are for the whole family and has helped many students successfully get their lives back.   Contact Mark Zimmerman for a free comprehensive case evaluation at (941) 364-8503 or fill out our online form at the top left side of this web page.


Expelled From School: Now What?

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

An expulsion notice starts a countdown ticking. As parents, you have only 10 days or less before the expulsion hearing. That means you have to get ready right away. Here are five steps you should take to prepare your family for an expulsion hearing:

  1. Ask to see your child’s school record. Reading the record will help you understand what the school believes has happened. It should have information about the incident, including names of witnesses that the school might ask to testify at the hearing and documents the school may use as evidence at the hearing.
  2. Talk to witnesses. Try to talk to as many of the school’s witnesses as you can before the hearing to find out what they plan to say.
  3. Make a list of people who can be witnesses to help you tell your side of the story. Talk to these people so you will know what they will say and ask them to come to the hearing. You may also want to find some “character” witnesses. A good character witness would be an adult from outside the family, such as a scout leader, someone from your church, or a coach who knows your child and can say some positive things about him or her.
  4. Plan your strategy for the hearing. Remember the two issues that will be decided at the hearing:  1) whether the child should be expelled and;  2.)how long the expulsion should last.
  5. Ask for help if you need it or contact an attorney. If you have trouble doing things on time or keeping track of paperwork, ask a friend or family member to help you prepare for the hearing. Practice what you would like to say before you’re at the hearing. If you’re nervous about the hearing, ask someone you trust to drive you there and stay with you for support. If possible, talk to an education attorney.


What if My Child has been Arrested and has to Appear in Juvenile Court?

It is not unusual for a child to face expulsion and criminal charges for the same incident. The school can expel the child even if the criminal case is resolved, so the child should be careful not to make statements at the expulsion hearing which could be used against him/her later in the Criminal or Juvenile Court. Be sure to consult with the criminal defense attorney handling the criminal matter about what, if anything, your child should say at the expulsion hearing.

Attorney Mark Zimmerman has been helping to guide students and their families in dealing with school disciplinary matters and related criminal charges in Sarasota and Manatee Counties since 2000.

Contact the Zimmerman and Zimmerman Law Firm today at (941) 364-8503 so that your child doesn’t have to go it alone.