Walter Haverfield Attorney

Miriam M. Pearlmutter

  • Associate
  • Cleveland Direct: 216.619.7861
  • Cleveland Fax: 216.916.2418

Overview

Miriam’s practice focuses on school law, including special education, labor and employment issues, and bullying/harassment complaints. Among other matters, she advises clients on issues of employment discrimination, student discipline, disability accommodations, constitutional rights, policy drafting and implementation, and public records requests. Miriam also assists school boards with all aspects of the special education process, including training staff, attending ETR and IEP meetings, and reviewing documents for compliance.

Miriam represents her clients in state and federal courts, at both trial and appellate levels, as well as before the Office for Civil Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the Ohio Department of Education. In her previous career, Miriam was a school psychologist and special education director, and she applies that unique perspective to the practice of law.

Experience

SPECIAL EDUCATION
  • Assists schools district teams in developing quality ETRs, IEPs, BIPs, and FBAs, through training, review, and guidance.
  • Resolved due process hearing requests and ODE complaints, through cost-effective mediation and early complaint resolution.
  • Represents school districts in IDEA hearings alleging denial of FAPE, violations of Section 504, and Child Find claims, among others.
  • Provides legal advice and support to clients in addressing contentious and volatile special education situations.
BOARD GOVERNANCE AND GENERAL COUNSEL SERVICES
  • Drafts board policies, guidelines, and forms, including those related to sexual violence and bullying complaints.
  • Counsels clients faced with records requests, both from private parties and federal agencies.
STUDENT ISSUES
  • Defends clients in constitutional lawsuits, state complaints, and agency charges related to harassment, bullying, discrimination and student deaths.
  • Represents and defends school districts before the United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights in allegations of discrimination based on race, religion, nationality, disability and gender.
  • Defends school districts in discipline appeals, both at the administrative level and before formal tribunals.
  • Mediates cost-effective and confidential settlement agreements related to high-profile media cases.
  • Counsels clients on First Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment law as applied to student discipline, bullying, and social media.
  • Counsels clients on the Family Education Rights Privacy Act, its application to student records requests, and its intersection with OCR notice requirements.
EDUCATION - LABOR AND EMPLOYMENT
  • Represents school districts in proceedings before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Ohio Civil Rights Commission in charges of race and gender discrimination.
  • Defends districts in arbitration proceedings related to employee grievances.
  • Defends districts in federal and state courts in employment lawsuits alleging religious and race discrimination, breach of contract, and state law violations.
  • Mediates cost-effective settlement agreements with hostile opposing counsel and pro-se litigants.
LITIGATION
  • Defends clients in employment contract and discrimination claims, as well as bullying/harassment lawsuits.
  • Manages and handles employment and school law matters at every stage of the litigation process.
  • Drafts answers, briefs, motions, discovery requests, discovery responses, and settlement agreements.
  • Represents clients before the Ohio Supreme Court and in preliminary United States Supreme Court proceedings.
  • Prepares witnesses for testimony, and takes and defends depositions of parties and witnesses.
  • Orally argued motions and appellate briefs, including before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Recognition

Articles

Presentations

Miriam regularly presents in a variety of areas, including:

  • Limiting Liability for Bullying Lawsuits and Agency Complaints
  • Guidance from the Office for Civil Rights
  • Compliance with federal and state Regulations in Sexual Violence, Discipline, and Title IX matters
  • Legislative and Legal Updates

Associations

  • Ohio School Boards Association’s Ohio Council of School Board Attorneys
  • Ohio State Bar Association
  • Federal Bar Association
  • American Bar Association

Podcasts

Our hosts for these podcasts are Miriam M. Pearlmutter and Lisa H. Woloszynek

Episode One: Pending Before the Court, Part One

In our inaugural episode we talk about Fry v. Napoleon Community Schools, an education law case pending before the Supreme Court this term. What is the difference between IDEA and Section 504? What remedies are available to parents under these laws and how will the Court's decisions affect school districts? Can parents take claims straight to court and will this circumvent the administrative process? For an update explaining the Court’s recent decision in this case, please take a look at this alert.

Episode Two: Pending Before the Court, Part Two

In the second part of our Supreme Court term preview, we explore Endrew F. v. Douglas County Schools, a case that addresses the most fundamental question in special education today: What level of education does a school district have to provide to its IEP students to meet federal FAPE obligations? Is any educational benefit enough to comply with the IDEA or must districts provide meaningful educational benefits to their special education students? And what is a meaningful educational benefit anyway? For an update explaining the Court’s recent decision in this case, please take a look at this alert.

Episode Three: Transgender Issues in Public Schools

Class Act tackles a fascinating and controversial topic: What does the federal government require of school districts serving transgender students and how did we get here? Lisa and Miriam summarize recent regulations issued by the Office for Civil Rights and discuss some of the more prominent case law, including Gloucester County School Board v. G.G., the famous Virginia case pending before the Supreme Court. We chat about why this topic is so controversial and how school districts across the country are reacting to these developments. For an update explaining the new administration’s perspective on transgender issues, please take a look at this alert.

Episode Four: Religion and Schools: Part One

In this episode, Miriam and Lisa tackle a sometimes-thorny issue: students' religious rights and how the First Amendment sometimes collides with school policies and practice. Learn about the law and enjoy a plethora of fascinating cases from all around the country! Can a district require students to cut their hair? Is student-led prayer before football games allowed? What about at graduation? What if a child writes an essay about her faith?

Episode Five: Update on the Goldendoodle Case: Fry v. Napoleon

Here's our update on the Supreme Court's decision in Fry v. Napoleon, the case looking at whether parents need to go through the special education hearing process or can go straight to federal court when they have a conflict with their child's school. Turns out that it depends on the central issue in the dispute: Is the conflict about special education services or one relating to disability in general?

Episode Six: Update on Endrew F.: How Much Special Education Must Districts Provide?

The Supreme Court recently ruled on whether school districts are obligated to provide more than just a minimal benefit to students with special education needs. Here's our update and analysis of what this decision means practically for you. Enjoy the episode and let us know what you think!

Episode Seven: Update on Transgender Issues in Public Schools

A lot has happened since our last episode on districts' obligations towards transgender students! Today we talk about the new administration's rescission of the guidance issued by the Office for Civil Rights, the Gloucester case development, and what to watch for in the months ahead.

Episode Eight: Religion and Schools: Part Two

In part two of our series on religion, we tackle common questions that school districts face when employees assert their religious rights. Does a teacher have a First Amendment right to teach creationism? What precautions should be taken during the interview process? How should districts handle requests for schedule changes and time off for religious holidays?

Episode Nine: Bullying and the Law

Bullying lawsuits and agency complaints are on the rise across the nation. What does the law say about bullying and what criteria do courts and agencies use in deciding legal liability? How can districts avoid being found deliberately indifferent to bullying? Miriam and Lisa start off our series on bullying with a brief overview of the laws and how they apply to school districts and their employees.

Episode Ten: Bullying and How to Minimize Liability

Continuing our series on bullying, Lisa and Miriam talk about ensuring that your district is in the best position when faced with a bullying lawsuit or agency complaint. Policies, paper trails, and anti-bullying programs are important features of a comprehensive approach to this nationwide challenge.

Episode Eleven: Immediate Steps When a Bullying Complaint Is Filed

What are the immediate steps your administrators and staff should take when a bullying complaint comes in? How does this look on a practical day-to-day basis? This episode addresses the key steps in a comprehensive response to bullying complaints and offers an often-skipped strategy to avoid these complaints in the first place.

Episode Twelve: Public Records, Student Records, and Privacy Laws

School districts are obligated to follow not only state public records laws, but also federal and state student privacy statutes and regulations. In this episode, Lisa and Miriam talk about the specific statutory requirements, particular exceptions allowed by the law, and complicated situations that districts sometimes encounter.

Episode Thirteen: Fighting in the Cafeteria, Student Discipline: Part One

Joined by Christina Peer, a partner at Walter | Haverfield, Lisa and Miriam begin a three-part series on discipline. In today's episode, we explore the due process rights all students are entitled to and take a look at some common challenges that school districts encounter in meting out disciplinary consequences. Imagine a group of children fighting in the cafeteria. You've decided that Bobby is the troublemaker and would like to suspend him immediately. What steps must you take first? What are your deadlines? What will courts look at if Bobby's parents challenge your decision?

Episode Fourteen: Children with Disabilities, Student Discipline: Part Two

In the second segment of our series on discipline, Lisa and Miriam are joined by Christina Peer for a discussion about students with special education needs. When facing disciplinary consequences, children with disabilities are often entitled to additional legal protections, including manifestation determination reviews, functional behavior assessments, and behavior intervention plans. But it is not always clear when these legal protections come into play. Do these regulations apply to students who are in the process of being evaluated or only those already eligible? What triggers a school's obligation to conduct a manifestation determination review? What are some common mistakes schools make when disciplining children with disabilities?

Episode Fifteen: Manifestation Determination Reviews, Student Discipline: Part Three

Joined by Christina Peer, Lisa and Miriam delve into the depths of manifestation determination reviews for students with disabilities who have violated their school's code of conduct. Was the behavior related to or a result of the student's disability? How do teams decide? Learn about the key issues to keep in mind and how to avoid some of the common mistakes teams make in conducting these reviews.

Episode Sixteen: Weapons Drugs, and Serious Bodily Harm

In our last episode on discipline, Christina, Lisa, and Miriam talk about some unusual situations and what the law allows school boards to do in terms of imposing discipline when weapons, drugs, or serious bodily harm are involved.

Episode Seventeen: Whatever You Do, Don't Hit Send

In this End-of-the-Year Bonus episode, Christina, Lisa, and Miriam talk about emails and texts that you and your colleagues should not be sending. Enjoy and have a fantastic winter break!

Season 2 Episode 1: Hanky Panky in the Classroom, Part One

Welcome back to the second season of Class Act: Updates in Education Law. Joined by Attorney Sara Markouc, Lisa and Miriam start off the new year by diving into employee discipline. What are the basics that an investigator must keep in mind when a school staff member is accused of violating district policy and/or the law? What are the most critical steps that administrators sometimes miss? Join our conversation and learn more about conducting defensible investigations that are upheld on review.

Season 2 Episode 2: Hanky Panky in the Classroom, Part Two

Joined by Attorney Markouc, Lisa and Miriam continue discussing the investigative process in disciplining employees. Imagine a paraprofessional who meets with the school's HR director and informs her that the special-education teacher she assists behaves inappropriately and unkindly towards the children in class, many of whom have severe disabilities. What are the immediate initial steps the HR director should take? What are the key DOs and DON'Ts in conducting such an investigation? Does it matter if the teacher's aide is a repeat complainer?

Season 2 Episode 3: Hanky Panky in the Classroom, Part Three

In our final episode on employee investigations, Attorney Sara Markouc discusses employee rights, including Weingarten and Garrity rights. Attorney Markouc also offers insight in conducting the critical employee interview, tips to remember in speaking with witnesses, and ideas for drafting the investigatory report in a thorough and specific way.

Season 2 Episode 4: Goodbye Facebook, Hello Insta! What Apps Are Your Students Using and Misusing?

Joined by James McWeeney, an attorney at Walter Haverfield, Lisa and Miriam kick off a new series about social media challenges that school districts face on a daily basis. You're probably familiar with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but what are some of the other apps most popular with adolescents and preteens? How do students misuse apps and what can school districts and parents do about it?

Season 2 Episode 5: What Can Schools and Parents Do When Kids Misuse Social Media?

How can parents monitor inappropriate app use? Why would we want to limit our digital footprints? What is the school district's role in addressing technology misuse? Today's episode addresses all of these questions and more. Attorney James McWeeney joins Lisa and Miriam to discuss how schools and families can work together to approach these challenges in a proactive way.

Season 2 Episode 6: Is My School Board on Facebook?

Rounding out our three-part series on technology, we are joined by James McWeeney who discusses what happens when school districts use social media to interact with their communities. Can a district-sponsored Facebook page, for example, delete a parent's unflattering comments? When does deleting comments implicate First Amendment issues and public-records questions? What is a public forum and how should school districts organize their social media presence to protect themselves from constitutional claims? Join us for a fascinating look at these and other challenges faced by school districts who use technology in communicating with the public.

Season 2: Episode 7 BONUS EPISODE: A Much Higher Education

In this timely bonus episode, Lisa and Miriam are joined by Attorney Kathy Perrico to discuss how recent medical marijuana legislation affects school districts' obligations. For example, are students with disabilities entitled to use medical marijuana on school grounds? What happens when federal and state laws collide and how have some school districts navigated this legal quagmire?

Season 2: Episode 8: Section 504 Basic Overview

You've probably heard of Section 504, but sometimes laws can be confusing and the details may be a bit fuzzy. What's the difference between eligibility under Section 504 and IDEA? Is the "free appropriate public education" standard different for kids who have a Section 504 disability versus those who qualify under the special education statute? What's the difference between accommodations and modifications anyway? Join Lisa and Miriam for a fantastic overview of Section 504 with Attorney Kathy Perrico who often advises districts on Section 504 laws and regulations.

Season 2: Episode 9: Section 504 Plans- Common Challenges and Pitfalls

Hope your summer has been relaxing and productive! In this timely episode, Kathy, Lisa, and Miriam continue discussing Section 504 Plans and common pitfalls that school districts encounter. Do all children with qualifying disabilities need a 504 Plan? What are the basics that must be included in a 504 Plan? How specific should the plan be and why? Join us for an informative and lively chat on these and other disability-related questions.

Season 2: Episode 10: Extracurricular Activities for Children with Disabilities Under Section 504

Rounding out our series on Section 504, Kathy chats with Lisa and Miriam about nonacademic and extracurricular activities for children with disabilities. What does the term "extracurricular" include? What are districts' obligations to accommodate children with disabilities who want to participate in standard team sports? What might try-outs look like for a student who requests such an accommodation? Join us for an insightful and interesting discussion of the challenges school districts face.

Submit comments or questions