Labor and Personnel Matters
Collective bargaining strategies should be driven by the need to preserve and maximize the conditions necessary to achieve outcomes consistent with goals and objectives set by the Board of Education, the Superintendent, and the administrative team. Because each client’s relationship with its labor unions varies, we work with the client to determine the tone, style, and substance to be brought to negotiation sessions with the relevant employee groups.
We represent our clients in all areas of employment law and routinely advise our clients with the goal of proactively managing personnel issues before they escalate. When employees do file claims or charges, we have consistently defended our clients in court, in arbitration and before administrative agencies such as the Office of Civil Rights, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board, the Illinois Department of Labor, the Illinois Department of Human Rights, and the Illinois Human Rights Commission. We regularly advise clients regarding the Family Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Business and Operations
As stewards of the public purse, our clients possess the highest fiduciary and ethical responsibilities to operate schools with efficiency and in the public’s interest. We regularly collaborate with and counsel school business officials on all matters of operations, including contract review and negotiations, bidding and procurement, school finance, budget and levy processes, risk management and mitigation, threat assessments, data privacy and records management, property transactions, and intergovernmental relations. We intervene on behalf of public institutions in property tax appeal matters and defend against tax rate objections. When debt issuances arise, we serve as issuer’s counsel and work with the bond counsel and the issuing agent to ensure a successful bond event. We are also well-positioned to assist our clients with detachments/annexations that can adjust their jurisdictional reach. When development is desired to increase the public body’s commercial tax base, we stand ready to counsel you on tax abatement opportunities. And when residential development threatens to increase enrollment rates and operating costs, we are there to assist with developer impact negotiations.
We regularly counsel boards of education and their members on all manner of corporate governance issues arising under the Illinois School Code and various other state and federal laws. Our attorneys are there to ensure board meetings run efficiently and in compliance with the Open Meetings Act, administrators are equipped to properly and timely comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, board policies and administrative procedures align with new statutes affecting a district’s operations, and board members’ legal and ethical obligations are always met. We also strive to provide our clients with innovative solutions to the complex challenges they face, all while helping to respond to their community’s needs.
Our attorneys advise clients with regard to student rights and responsibilities, including, but not limited to bullying and harassment, equity and educational access and student codes of conduct. In addition to counseling and representing clients through every aspect of the student discipline process, we represent districts in state and federal constitutional cases (including cases regarding a student’s right to privacy, free speech issues, search and seizure issues, and discrimination claims). We assist you with attendance and residency issues, student records issues, time-out and physical restraint requirements and threat assessments. We guide you throughout the Title IX grievance process for complaints of sexual harassment.
Additionally, we advise clients on education technology issues, including First Amendment issues, the Student Online Personal Protection Act (SOPPA), the Children’s Internet Protection Act, use of social media by students, student misuse of information technology, privacy issues, searching student personal technology, and remote learning.
We counsel you on all aspects of special education law and litigation. We regularly attend IEP meetings and assist school teams to prepare legally compliant Individualized Education Programs. Our attorneys provide counsel regarding special education discipline matters, including manifestation determinations and interim alternative educational settings. We represent schools in mediation, due process hearings and related court proceedings, and in State and federal complaint investigations. Our development and review of special education and disability related policies, procedures and forms, and our in-service training on a broad range of federal and State special education issues under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Illinois School Code, the Public Community College Act and their implementing regulations, assist our clients to be proactive and prepared for the sometimes complex and challenging issues that arise when educating students with disabilities.
The Firm’s litigation experience is vast. Though we pride ourselves in dispute resolution and creative problem solving, we won’t hesitate to defend your interests when litigation is necessary. From administrative tribunals to the Illinois Supreme Court, we advocate for our clients in a wide variety of legal challenges requiring judicial resolution. And because we are approved defense counsel for several school insurance cooperatives, our clients can take great satisfaction in knowing that a trusted partner that specializes in the practice of school law will defend their interests.
We are experienced in Federal and State courts and in proceedings before federal agencies such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) and the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education (“OCR”), and also before Illinois State agencies such as the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the Illinois Human Rights Commission, the Illinois Department of Employment Security, the Illinois Department of Labor and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board and New Mexico State agencies such as the New Mexico Department of Labor’s Human Rights Bureau (“HRB”), the New Mexico Public Employees Labor Relations Board (“PELRB”) and the New Mexico Public Education Department. We regularly represent our school district clients in special education due process hearings and tenured teacher dismissal hearings before the Illinois State Board of Education and residency hearings in front of regional offices of education.