Pullman & Comley’s School Law practice works with public school districts to find practical, innovative and cost effective solutions to the array of legal issues they face. Our attorneys have won groundbreaking cases in both state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court, and have established legal precedents that are repeatedly cited by courts and scholarly works on education law. We represent the interests of local and regional school districts in the areas of education, labor and employment law, board governance, special education, vendor relations and student issues. We also work directly with general counsel, senior management, and boards of directors and trustees to provide legal advice and representation in the areas of the law that affect educational institutions.
We have extensive experience in school board governance and provide legal counsel to boards of education as they negotiate contracts, review and revise policies and procedures, develop budgets, respond to Freedom of Information Act requests, draft model policies on federal and state mandates and address other challenges. To assist school boards in remaining focused in serving the school district, our attorneys advise boards of education on board members’ rights and responsibilities and work with school boards when there are conflicts among board members. When necessary, our attorneys have defended client interests in both federal and state courts, as well as in proceedings before numerous administrative agencies including the Freedom of Information Commission, the State Elections Enforcements Commission, and the Commissioner of Human Rights and Opportunities.
Our attorneys continuously represent school boards in special education hearings and advise clients on issues arising under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and matters relating to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. We assist school district administrators in carrying out the terms of negotiated labor contracts and advise school boards regarding changes in insurance providers or plan provisions, revisions to job descriptions, organizational changes and sub-contracting of bargaining unit work. When labor disputes advance to formal complaints or grievances, we defend school boards before the State Board of Labor Relations, the State Board of Mediation and Arbitration, the American Arbitration Association and other similar administrative agencies, as well as handling cases in state and federal courts.
Our School Law team includes attorneys from practice areas including business organizations, government finance, property valuation, employee benefits, technology and intellectual property, energy, real estate, environmental and land use, nonprofit organizations, labor and employment, litigation, and cybersecurity, privacy and infrastructure protection. Our team has represented educational institutions on matters ranging from retirement and compensation plans, endowment issues and management of institutional funds, to real estate, financing of capital projects and energy procurement. Additionally, our attorneys provide legal counsel in the areas of contract negotiations and drafting, statutory and regulatory compliance including Title IX, municipal taxation and exemption issues, student affairs and athletics, litigation and alternate dispute resolution, and Constitutional law issues.
Members of the School Law practice publish "Education Law Notes," a blog alerting readers to, and providing insights on, new developments in education law. "Education Law Notes" covers legal matters that pertain to public school districts, as well as private schools, colleges and universities ranging from issues in academics, labor and employment and gender equality to disability rights, social media, bullying and administrative policies and procedures. Visit schoollaw.pullcomblog.com.
News & Insights
- CT Examiner, 03.19.2020
- GoTo Meeting Webinar, 08.17.2020
- GoTo Meeting Webinar, 08.20.2020
- Zoom Webinar, 07.29.2020
- GoTo Meeting Webinar, 07.10.2020
- Zoom Webinar, 06.25.2020
- Zoom Webinar, 06.10.2020
- GoToMeeting Webinar, 06.04.2020
- GoTo Meeting Webinar, 05.12.2020
- demio Webinar, 04.15.2020
- School Law Attorneys Kaufmann, Schurin and Sommaruga Lead Workshops at November CABE/CAPSS ConventionMystic Marriott Hotel, Groton, Connecticut, 11.15.2019
- Holiday Inn Hartford Downtown Area, 11.01.2019
- The Connecticut Association of Schools, 11.01.2019
- Courtyard Waterbury Downtown, 10.29.2019
- Sheraton Hartford South Hotel, 10.22.2019
Pullman & Comley assisted the Southport School and its board with navigating the legal requirements for an historic name change, which included a restatement of its certificate of incorporation.
A Pullman & Comley's School Law attorney's case in a recent Connecticut Superior Court
decision was among the first in the country to interpret and apply the Supreme Court’s new standard under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act.
The firm's Education Law attorneys are well-versed on the emerging legal considerations pertaining to transgender students in schools, colleges and universities.
Education Law Notes Blog
Education Law Notes Blog
Attorneys from Pullman & Comley's School Law practice publish "Education Law Notes," which alerts readers to, and provides insights on, new developments in education law. "Education Law Notes" covers legal matters that pertain to public school districts, private schools, colleges and universities ranging from issues in academics, labor and employment and gender equality to disability rights, social media, bullying and administrative policies and procedures. For your reference our most recent Education Law Notes posts are highlighted below.
We have been closely monitoring the legal implications of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic for educators, and have been responding to a broad range of client questions. For a complete list of all of our firm's advisories related to COVID-19, please visit our FOCUS-Responding to COVID-19 page.
Reopening Connecticut's Schools (Objectively But With Flexibility): The Latest State Guidance – August 3, 2020
On the date (July 24, 2020) that public schools were supposed to file their reopening plans with the State Department of Education (“SDE”), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) updated its guidance concerning the reopening of schools.
School Reopening and Labor and Employment Matters – July 6, 2020
On June 29, 2020, the State of Connecticut issued “Connecticut’s Learning Plan to Learn and Grow Together,” setting forth a myriad of requirements that school districts must complete in order to open in the fall.
Federal District Court Rules That Special Education Students Who Have Not Received a High School Diploma Continue to be Eligible to Receive Special Education Until Age 22 - June 22, 2020
The Federal District Court of Connecticut, in A.R. v. Connecticut State Board of Education, recently ruled that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) students in Connecticut have the right to special education through their twenty-second birthday or upon high school graduation – whichever comes first.
To Sign or Not to Sign – The New Dilemma for Title IX Coordinators - June 11, 2020
The new Title IX Regulations that go into effect on August 14, 2020 allow for a formal complaint investigation only when there is a formal complaint signed by the student, the student’s parent/guardian (at the elementary or secondary education level) or the Title IX coordinator.
Summer School in Connecticut in 2020: An Answer from the State? - June 5, 2020
The Governor’s office issued the final version of its “Rules for Operating Summer School During COVID-19.” For districts intending to have summer school, what can they expect?
What Happens on September 9, 2020 When the Executive Orders All Expire? - June 2, 2020
The Governor’s authority to issue Executive Orders comes from Connecticut General Statutes Section 28-9(b)(1). Unless any of the Executive Orders are “sooner revoked”, the state of emergency and the Orders expire on September 9, 2020.
No Winning: Connecticut’s Transgender Athlete Policy Deemed a Violation of Title IX - May 29, 2020
The United States Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has determined that the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference [CIAC] policy on transgender athletes violates Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972.
Part III in a Series: Is Your District Prepared to Implement the New Title IX Regulations at the Start of the 2020-2021 School Year? The Formal Complaint Process - May 29, 2020
The new Title IX regulations proscribe very specific things that must occur whenever a formal complaint of sexual harassment is filed, whether against another student or a staff member. These provisions may, in some cases, require the hiring of new staff to fill the required roles, and most definitely will require significant training for staff assigned to the roles required by the Regulations including the Title IX Coordinator, investigator and decision makers.
Part II in a Series: Is Your District Prepared to Implement the New Title IX Regulations at the Start of the 2020-2021 School Year? Initial Response to Allegations of Sexual Harassment - May 27, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education has placed much emphasis lately on its concerns over sexual harassment occurring on college campuses and how colleges are investigating complaints and disciplining students accused of harassment and assault. A major focus in the Regulations is to ensure that alleged victims and perpetrators are treated equitably during any complaint process.
Virtually Summer: Extended-School-Year Services in the Age of Coronavirus – May 26, 2020
On May 20, 2020, the state of Connecticut Department of Education’s Bureau of Special Education issued guidance regarding the provision of extended-school-year [ESY] services to special education students during the COVID-19 pandemic, acknowledging that ESY services may not look the same as they have in prior years.
Part I in a Series: Is Your District Prepared to Implement the New Title IX Regulations at the Start of the 2020-2021 School Year? - May 21, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education issued the first revision to its Title IX regulations in 45 years and make sweeping changes in the way that elementary and secondary schools must investigate and address claims of sexual harassment.
The Latest: Executive Order 700 and the Rescheduling of Certain Local Elections and Appointments – May 18, 2020
EO 7OO provides a measure of protection to voters and poll workers by delaying certain in-person voting, which will ostensibly permit safer proceedings.
It’s the Same, Only Really, Really Different: Reopening Connecticut’s Colleges, Universities, and Boarding Schools – May 8, 2020
On May 6, 2020, Connecticut’s Higher Education Subcommittee — which is an arm of the task force that has been charged with recommending appropriate procedures for “reopening” Connecticut in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic – issued guidelines for the resumption of college and university campus-based activities.
The Commissioner of Education has Modified the Non-Tenured Teacher Non-Renewal Process – April 14, 2020
On April 13, 2020, the Commissioner of Education issued “guidance pertaining to the flexibilities for local or regional boards of education related to non-renewal notifications and tenure impacted as a result of COVID-19.”
U.S. Department of Education Clarifies That Video Recording Virtual Lessons and Making Them Available to Students Does Not Violate FERPA and Provides Other Advice on FERPA Compliance in the Age of Virtual Learning – April 2, 2020
Executive Order 7R: Its Impact and Obligations on Connecticut School Districts – April 2, 2020
On April 1, 2020, Governor Lamont issued Executive Order 7R which directs districts to maintain individuals’ employment “to the greatest extent practicable” and to negotiate agreements with their providers that will look to cover certain actual costs incurred by their bus contractors and certain service providers.
Must School Districts Pay for Bus Transportation and All Employee Salaries While Schools Are Closed? What the “CARES Act” May Mean to Connecticut School Districts – March 29, 2020
A brief summary of what the CARES Act means for public schools, including a possible mandate to continue to pay all employees and contractors, even if they may not be providing services.
Dispelling the Myth: Yes Virginia, You Can Use Interactive Videoconferencing with Students as Part of Distance Learning – March 27, 2020
Despite the protestations of some teachers and their unions, there is nothing illegal about directly teaching students through videoconferencing. This neither violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) nor state law regarding data privacy.
Happy Talk! Connecticut’s Bureau of Special Education Issues Guidance for the COVID-19 Era – March 27, 2020
On March 24, 2020, the Bureau of Special Education issued guidance on the provision of special education during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided districts with some wiggle room as they try to fit a school-based IEP into the virtual confines of distance learning.
Teach On! Remote Group Instruction, Student Privacy, and FERPA in the Age of the Coronavirus – March 24, 2020
A particularly pressing concern has been determining how to handle student privacy rights in the course of providing remote instruction.
“How About Never!?” – COVID-19, School Closures, and Planning and Placement Team Meetings – March 19, 2020
There has been some confusion as to whether school districts are currently permitted to unilaterally decline parent requests to PPT meetings or to otherwise indefinitely postpone them.
Governor Lamont’s Executive Order Regarding the Municipal and Regional School District Budget Deadlines (and Waiver of Certain Educational Mandates) – March 18, 2020
With “Executive Order 7C,” Governor Lamont has ordered that notwithstanding any contrary statutes, charters or local ordinances, all municipal budget deadlines occurring on or before May 15, 2020 that pertain to the preparation of a municipal budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year are extended by 30 days.
OCR Issues Guidance on Nondiscrimination in the Age of Distance Learning – March 18, 2020
The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a fact sheet entitled “Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Schools While Protecting the Civil Rights of Students,” addressing various types of discrimination that must be avoided while providing education to students in these uncertain times.
Complying with FERPA During COVID-19 – March 17, 2020
A school district’s obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act are not relaxed during these difficult times where school districts are trying to cope with COVID-19. However, schools should understand the “health or safety emergency” exception to FERPA’s general consent requirements.
How to Implement Distance Learning and Still Comply with Existing State and Federal Laws - March 17, 2020
As a return to regular school seems less likely in the near future, schools need to devise creative ways to provide high quality education to their students. Yesterday, the Connecticut Commissioner of Education issued two letters aimed at making this easier for schools to accomplish.
Governor Lamont’s Executive Order and the FOIA’s “Open Meetings” Requirements – March 16, 2020
The outbreak of COVID-19 has caused practical concerns regarding how public agencies can comply with Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and its posting and open meeting requirements when large gatherings have been prohibited.
Special Education in the Age of the Coronavirus – March 16, 2020
Connecticut’s mandated closing of school districts up to March 31, 2020 in response to COVID-19 has left school districts struggling with how they can best continue to provide legally mandated specialized instruction and related services to special education students.
Addressing Your Labor Matters While Closing Your District Due to COVID-19 - March 16, 2020
Connecticut school districts have been directed to be closed until at least March 31, 2020. The CIAC has cancelled winter sports playoffs and schools have cancelled extracurricular activities. So, what happens next?
What If Your District Shuts Down and Cannot Meet the 180 School Day Minimum for Instruction? - March 13, 2020
Governor Lamont issued an Executive Order waiving the 180 days as long as certain conditions are met.
Guidance to Address COVID-19 - March 10, 2020
What school districts in Connecticut should know.
Superintendents' Legal Issues Forum
Superintendents' Legal Issues Forum
The Superintendents’ Legal Issues Forum is a professional group organized to address the specific needs of Connecticut superintendents. Now more than ever, this platform will provide members with an opportunity to meet with peers, engage in enriching discussions and develop a network of well-informed colleagues.
Under the guidance of our School Law attorneys, the Forum provides its members with the latest legal advice on topics relevant to superintendents, their school districts and their administrations. Meeting five times each year, the Forum offers members the opportunity to interact with fellow superintendents, discuss important issues, receive concrete legal advice and learn the impact of recent court decisions and new legislation.
For more details on the 2020-2021 Superintendents' Legal Issues Forum, please click here.