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Education Law

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Administrative Complaints

Whether it’s DESE, OCR, the EEOC, or another agency with jurisdiction over schools, administrative complaints can be burdensome for school officials. Spencer Fane’s Education Law attorneys have experience dealing with administrative agencies and can assist school clients through the stages of an administrative complaint. Our attorneys also have experience negotiating favorable dismissals of all types of charges. Spencer Fane’s attorneys enjoy a reputation among governmental agencies for high quality and credible work.

Board Policies

Our Education Law attorneys believe quality leadership in schools starts with the Board of Education. Accordingly, the Board’s policies must not only comply with frequently changing laws, but must also help in setting the strategic direction of the school district. Without encroaching into the Board of Education’s discretion, our attorneys can assist schools in drafting effective governing policies. For school districts using MSBA or other policy services, our attorneys answer questions or recommend modifications which may be in a district’s best interest.

Constitutional Issues

Questions about Constitutional rights arise in a variety of public school settings, including employment of teachers, discipline of students or recognition of outside groups. Other constitutional issues which arise frequently in schools include freedom of speech or religion questions, student attire, school publications or extracurricular clubs. Spencer Fane’s attorneys have experience handling these constitutional issues and others. Our attorneys work with parents or civil liberties advocates in addressing and solving issues of a constitutional nature.

In-Service Training

It’s no secret that proper training of teachers, staff and school administrators is key to avoiding costly legal troubles. Our Education Law attorneys would rather help schools prevent legal trouble than defend schools against claims of unlawful conduct. To that end, our attorneys frequently speak to school employees on hot topics such as harassment, discipline, special education, and confidentiality of student records. We firmly believe that quality training, repeated at least annually, is the most effective way to maximize compliance with the many laws governing schools.

Open Meetings (Sunshine Law)

As political subdivisions of the state government, public school districts are subject to open meeting and open record laws. These laws can be complicated and even inadvertent noncompliance can be problematic. Our attorneys can help administrators comply with open meeting requirements while also conducting sensitive business consistent with state law. Spencer Fane can help balance the public’s right to information with a school district’s need to conduct certain business in confidence.

Special Education

Providing appropriate services to children with disabilities as required by state and federal law may be one of the most difficult challenges school districts face, and Spencer Fane attorneys are uniquely qualified to help. Our attorneys have technical training and practical experience in guiding school districts through the complexities of Section 504, IDEA, ADA, and other statutes governing services for children with disabilities, and includes conducting in-service training, providing counseling advice on discipline and related issues, investigating and responding to administrative informal parental complaints and vigorously representing our district clients in due process hearings, state and federal court.

Student and Staff Handbooks

If drafted carefully, student and staff handbooks provide notice of important practices and policies. Likewise, well drafted handbooks can be a district administrator’s first resource when facing a potentially difficult situation. Like Board policies, handbooks must be reviewed frequently and updated to comply with current legislation and current practices. Our attorneys have experience reviewing proposed handbooks and recommending language to position a school most favorably.

Student Discipline

Spencer Fane’s Education Law attorneys have experience handling all types of questions regarding discipline of students, including those with disabilities. Our attorneys assist immediately when a discipline situation arises, attend discipline hearings, or participate in discipline appeals before the Board of Education (or its designated committee). If a family retains legal counsel during any stage of the discipline process, our attorneys work with opposing counsel to make sure the proceedings are smooth, efficient and otherwise productive. Our attorneys also help draft effective discipline policies and insightful student handbook provisions. Well written policies and handbooks are critical in preventing many student discipline issues or in defending schools against allegations of unlawful disciplinary action.

Student Records

The confidentiality of students’ educational records is protected by federal law. Although the general rule is clear, sometimes the precise definitions and exceptions raise difficult questions. Therefore, our attorneys work closely with school officials to insure full compliance with FERPA and its implementing regulations. Although FERPA questions arise in a variety of contexts, we frequently see them in litigation between separating parents. Our attorneys work with administrators, teachers and parents to cooperate in custody proceedings while also protecting confidentiality interests.

Teacher Discipline/Termination

Although many teachers have a legal interest in continued employment, schools and parents have clear interests in the protection and education of students. If a teacher fails or refuses to fulfill teaching responsibilities, there must be consequences. Therefore, Spencer Fane’s Education Law attorneys help school districts take appropriate remedial measures within constitutional bounds. We assist in the informal discipline of a teacher, a formal termination or non-renewal of a teacher, or the revocation of a teacher’s certificate.

Vendor Contracts

Often, providers of services or products tender form contracts to school officials with pages of “legalese” and small print. While expert legal review of all such contracts may not always be necessary, our attorneys have experience protecting schools’ interests when significant contractual issues arise. Therefore, even language proposed by a trusted provider may place the school district at a significant disadvantage should a dispute arise. Our attorneys recommend or negotiate changes with the district’s interests in mind.