General Counsel

 

At EdCounsel,  we frequently engage in matters involving all aspects of general school law, employee and labor relations, contracting and procurement, board operations and governance, vocational education, school finance,  election law, tort claims, real estate matters, and  insurance.

EdCounsel attorneys are commonly  called upon for their experience in working with school leaders to  implement practical and efficient  legal solutions.   Because EdCounsel attorneys work exclusively with public school districts,  we have invaluable experience in the wide range  of legal issues that schools must be prepared to address.  In sum, we are very familiar with the general counsel work expected of us as counsel for a school district of all sizes and complexities.

General Counsel

Board Operations

At EdCounsel, our attorneys regularly advise Boards of Education in the exercise of general supervision over the schools of the district.

Board Governance

We routinely provide counsel to boards to ensure that the schools are operated as provided by the state statutes, the rules and procedures of the State Board of Education, and the policies, rules and procedures of the school district. Our attorneys are experienced in providing guidance to boards for conducting their various functions as the legislative and policy-making authority for their respective districts.

Policy and Procedure

Firm attorneys draft, review and revise proposed board policies, administrative procedures and forms for districts on a routine basis. We are familiar with the model policies provided by the Missouri and Kansas policy services and likely used by your District. We often work in tandem with the District’s policy service to tailor proposed policies for individual school districts. Firm attorneys have also on occasion assisted the policy services in the development of Board policies and administrative procedures.

Open Records and Board Meetings

Firm attorneys frequently assist public school districts in responding appropriately and efficiently to requests for records under the Missouri Sunshine Law or the Kansas Open Records Act. We also routinely advise districts regarding the closure of records and meetings. Our attorneys have successfully defended districts, boards and board members in claims arising under the Sunshine Law. We also regularly advise districts regarding the procedure for meetings including public participation in meetings, formulation of appropriate board resolutions, electronic board meetings, and other issues relating to meeting procedures.

Ethics and Conflict of Interest

Our attorneys regularly advise board members and staff regarding the numerous and somewhat complex ethical standards for public officials and employees. As community members, school board members and employees often have financial or professional responsibilities that need to be taken into account when business of the district is involved. Our attorneys often counsel board and staff members as to how best to adhere to all laws regarding conflicts of interest, but also in avoiding situations that may have the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Purchasing

Firm attorneys frequently assist public school districts in responding appropriately and efficiently to requests for records under the Sunshine Law. We also routinely advise districts regarding the closure of records and meetings. Our attorneys have successfully defended districts, boards and board members in claims arising under the Sunshine Law. We also regularly advise districts regarding the procedure for meetings including public participation in meetings, formulation of appropriate board resolutions, electronic board meetings, and other issues relating to meeting procedures.

Contracting

Our attorneys are trained and experienced in drafting, reviewing, revising and negotiating contracts. We assist districts in minimizing disputes with vendors by reviewing and revising vendor contracts. Firm attorneys are also called upon to assist districts in disputes with individual vendors. We are also frequently called upon to negotiate equipment lease agreements, as well as service agreements involving student transportation, food service, and maintenance. Regardless of whether these arrangements are straight lease, lease purchase or purchase contracts, we have successfully negotiated contracts ensuring district benefit, student safety, and cost savings. We will review all contracts to be submitted to the Board for approval. In doing so, we will prepare modifications and recommendations in the best interest of the District.

Construction and Real Estate

Firm attorneys have substantial experience in assisting districts in the acquisition of building sites and the disposal of real and personal property. Our representation routinely includes advice on real estate contracts, including easements, licenses, leases, and usage agreements. We have represented districts in condemnation proceedings including pre-petition negotiations and litigation seeking condemnation of real property interests for school purposes.

Our representation of school districts in the area of construction law involves contracting, contract administration, and construction disputes. First is the pre-construction phase. We prepare or review and revise bidding specifications, general conditions, architect, construction manager, and general contractor contracts. We also provide general counsel to districts throughout the project in the administration of the contract for construction.

Finally, we represent schools in construction disputes when it becomes necessary to either litigate or arbitrate contested issues that arise related to construction. We regularly represent school districts in construction disputes involving all aspects of projects including failure to timely complete, construction defects, construction bids and construction inquiries.

Compliance

Federal employment statutes like the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and Federal Labor Standards Act create numerous complex requirements for public schools. Our attorneys work with districts in the development and implementation of appropriate and effective Board policies and practices to ensure compliance with these federal laws. Our attorneys have successfully counseled clients regarding the implementation of appropriate practices and to avoid lawsuits. In those instances when district practices are challenged, our attorneys have defended school districts in FMLA and FLSA actions in federal court.

Discrimination Claims

Our attorneys defend schools and school leaders against claims of employment discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination. We regularly provide legal counsel to administrators and boards on their rights in an employment dispute and the proper steps to effectively defend against the allegations. We prepare responses to charges of discrimination before such agencies as the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, Kansas Human Rights Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Office of Civil Rights. Our attorneys regularly advise districts regarding the merit, if any, of an employee claim and on the best plan of action to obtain dismissal of the claim or minimize liability. If a subsequent lawsuit is filed based upon the claims, our attorneys aggressively defend schools and school leaders in the litigation.

Teacher Tenure Act

Our attorneys are regularly called upon to represent school districts in matters involving teacher tenure, including termination proceedings of tenured teachers. Our attorneys routinely walk districts through the complex process of terminating teachers under the law. We frequently represent districts in termination proceedings before the board of education and when necessary, on appeal in circuit court. We also regularly advise districts regarding compliance issues associated with teacher employment, including contracting, salary schedules, non-renewals, and acquisition of tenure.

Collective Bargaining

Our attorneys have extensive experience representing public school districts in collective bargaining matters involving teacher and non-teacher groups. Our attorneys served as lead counsel in the landmark Missouri Supreme Court decision that established public sector bargaining rights in Missouri and have successfully defended public schools at trial regarding bargaining issues. Our attorneys also assist public schools in preparing effective bargaining strategies and, depending on the client’s needs, serve as a consultant and/or as the chief negotiator at the bargaining table. Our attorneys also have extensive experience representing districts in union representation elections and in bargaining with both certified and non-certified employee groups. Our attorneys also regularly provide training to administrators, school boards and attorneys regarding bargaining issues.

Residency Issues

Our attorneys routinely advise school administrators regarding residency, which is one of the trickiest issues facing school administrators. Because there is a widespread misunderstanding of what makes a student a resident student for the purposes of school admission, our attorneys frequently work with administrators to simplify the most commonly confused student residency issues surrounding student transfers, homeless students, residency waivers, and other issues associated with student residency.

Bullying

One of the most common legal issues facing school administrators on a daily basis relates to the successful regulation of student on student misconduct. Understanding the legal aspects of the concepts of bullying, harassment, discrimination and retaliation is absolutely critical to mitigating legal risks in today’s legal landscape. Our attorneys routinely work with school administrators in development of strategies for addressing legal risks associated with student on student misconduct including bullying, harassment, discrimination and retaliation. Our attorneys also frequently represent districts and assist them in successfully responding when administrative charges are filed with State human rights agencies, the Office of Civil Rights or other administrative agencies regarding student on student misconduct.

Disabilities

Our attorneys are experienced in assisting districts in complying with the substantive and procedural requirements of IDEA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the special application of FERPA to the educational records of special education students. We also have experience in resolving disputes between school districts and parents of disabled students under both IDEA and Section 504. Our experience includes representation of schools in Office for Civil Rights investigations, child complaints, and state and federal litigation.

 

 

Student Rights

Our school attorneys have broad experience handling student rights issues, such as access to student records, student privacy issues under FERPA, locker searches, dress codes, school district control over student newspapers, and other forms of student speech. Moreover, we have expertise in the sometimes difficult area of student expressions, religious clubs, distribution of religious materials, and protection of students’ rights to religious expression.

Our attorneys also regularly advise school districts in the successful management of student discipline while honoring constitutional and statutory rights of students. We often represent districts in suspension and expulsion proceedings necessary to successfully address student misconduct. We are also experienced in defending disciplinary actions of school districts in state and federal court.