Walter | Haverfield is one of the few law firms in Ohio with a designated Education Law practice group. We provide attentive, cost-effective legal services to public school districts and private schools of varying sizes throughout Ohio. We meet the needs of our clients in numerous areas, including:
- General Counsel
- Labor and Employment
- Collective Bargaining
- Special Education
- Student Issues
- Board Governance
- Sunshine Law/Public Records
Our clients also benefit from the knowledge and experience of attorneys at the Firm who practice in the areas of litigation, public law, real estate, intellectual property and environmental law. Attorneys in these areas are available to our education clients to assist with projects.
Walter | Haverfield’s Education Law team believes in the importance of education and that knowledge is power. Our numerous professional development offerings are designed to keep clients abreast of the ever-changing laws that govern school districts. We provide complimentary professional development sessions through partnerships with several Educational Service Centers and via customized on-site training to address specific client needs. Our goal is to make sure our clients have the knowledge they need to effectively manage their workforce and educate their students.
Walter | Haverfield’s Education Law attorneys routinely serve as general counsel to school districts. In this role, we we are ideally positioned as a “one-stop shop” for the legal issues that face school districts. This experience allows us to identify risk in the general operations of the district, not just on the education front. After identifying an operational issue, we then are able to utilize the breadth and depth of our Firm resources in a wide variety of non-education areas, such as real estate, zoning and property matters, environmental issues, taxation, healthcare and other areas that may impact the district’s business operations. Given our Firm’s full-service resources, we are able to meet the needs of our school district clients – in all facets of their operations – in an efficient, cost-effective manner.
Labor and Employment Law
All of Walter | Haverfield’s Education Law attorneys are well-versed in the labor and employment issues that face public school districts. This experience includes handling a myriad of personnel issues, such as hiring, firing, evaluation, corrective action counseling and internal investigations. We have also successfully handled numerous arbitrations involving employee discipline and contract interpretation challenges. Additionally, our attorneys assist districts with processing grievances and consult on the interpretation and application of collective bargaining agreements.
Our attorneys also counsel districts regarding compliance with various federal, state and local employment and civil rights laws, including the FLSA, FMLA, Title VII, Title IX, the ADA and the Ohio Civil Rights Act. In addition to general counseling, we represent school districts before administrative agencies, such as the EEOC and OCRC, and in state and federal court when employment claims are filed.
Walter | Haverfield’s Education Law team also includes skilled negotiators who have successfully negotiated numerous collective bargaining agreements with both teaching and non-teaching personnel. Through this representation, our attorneys can either serve as the management spokesperson or assist the board from behind the scenes. We understand the importance of preparation and assist districts in setting the stage for successfully asserting positions at the bargaining table. We also recognize the vital importance of the attorney-client relationship during contract negotiations. We work to gain a full understanding of our clients’ interests so that we can best help advance them through the negotiation process.
Special Education Law
Special education law is a unique practice due to the complex laws governing the education of students with disabilities. We believe special education matters are best handled proactively, so we routinely assist clients regarding evaluation, identification, IEP development, least restrictive environment and disciplining students with disabilities. We also frequently represent clients in IEP, MFE or Section 504 meetings and review draft documents to provide feedback prior to meetings.
In the event of a dispute, we counsel clients on dispute resolution strategies to attempt to resolve the matter without the need for a formal complaint. This collaborative approach saves district resources and allows parents and schools to work together as the child continues his or her education. If alternative resolution efforts are not successful and a complaint is filed, we represent clients in all phases of due process proceedings from the administrative hearing and through the appeal process. Our attorneys are also well-versed in handling complaint proceedings before the Ohio Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
Our attorneys assist districts on a daily basis in handling a myriad of student-related issues, including student discipline, student records, student residency and custody issues. In the realm of student discipline, we recognize that not all matters require legal counsel. However, in tough situations where counsel is needed, we have represented districts in all aspects of the discipline process, e.g., initial investigation, provision of due process, board-level appeal hearings, and hearings in the court of common pleas. We also assist districts in responding to requests for access to or revision of educational records. Finally, we work with districts in residency and custody matters ranging from routine review of court documents to residency hearings.
Sunshine Law and Public Records
The advent of new technologies has added new challenges to compliance with Ohio’s Sunshine Law. Our attorneys are well-versed in basic compliance requirements, as well as the more challenging scenarios created by text messages, Google Docs and social media. We also routinely assist districts with responses to requests for public records. While these requests can be voluminous and time-consuming, we have technology in place to make the task of producing required records less onerous.
The Education group’s experience and services include the following:
- Representation of school districts with respect to the development of legally defensible IEPs and ETRs and all aspects of IDEA procedural compliance.
- Representation of school districts in due process cases filed with the Ohio Department of Education. These matters involved requests for private placement, allegations of denial of FAPE, and student discipline issues.
- Representation of school districts in federal court litigation involving alleged violations of constitutional rights and Section 1983 (e.g., bullying, harassment, etc.)
- Representation of school districts in class action complaint proceedings before the Ohio Department of Education’s Office for Exceptional Children.
- Obtained precedent-setting decision from the Ohio State Employment Relations Board in favor of a board of education when a teachers' union attempted to prevent the school district from implementing a policy to put into operation the Ohio teacher evaluation system.
- Defended boards of education using Ohio Tort Liability Act in multiples causes of action including student-on- student violence and student injuries
- Defended board of education in student discipline matter for possession of drugs on school property, including defense of plaintiff motions for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction.
- Defended school district before the U.S. Supreme Court against a parents’ challenge to their child’s special education program.
- Defended school district against a coach’s claim of defamation.
- Representation of school districts in numerous cases involving the United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights including issues of disability discrimination, race discrimination, harassment, and bullying.
- Representation of school districts regarding regular education and special education student discipline issues.
- Representation of school districts in teacher termination/discipline proceedings.
- Representation of school districts in proceedings regarding discipline/termination of classified employees.
- Counsels school districts faced with voluminous public record requests.
- Assisted in development of Section 504 policies for boards of education after statutory revisions.
- Counsels clients on public records and the Sunshine Law, addressing the privacy concerns of employees and students
- Counsels clients on student legal issues, including challenges to board policies, discipline, and First Amendment issues.
- Advises client how to navigate potential violations of the Establishment Clause and Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
- Assisted in protecting tens of thousands of public dollars in a contract dispute between a school district and a services vendor.
- Prevented the loss of tens of thousands of dollars in property tax revenue by protecting school district interests at hearings before the local Board of Revision and Board of Tax Appeals.
- Attended numerous IEP and ETR meetings on behalf of school districts to provide legal support to teams in contentious situations.
- Resolved numerous due process complaints in mediation in a cost-effective and expedient manner.
U.S. News - Best Lawyers® 2015 “Best Law Firms” rankings:
- METROPOLITAN TIER 1: Education
U.S. News - Best Lawyers® explained that, "Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity."
- Metropolitan Tier 1 – Education Law