Overview

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.

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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.

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 your reference our most recent Education Law Notes posts are highlighted below.  For a complete list of all of our firm's advisories related to COVID-19, please visit our FOCUS-Responding to COVID-19 page.

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
The U.S. Department of Education Student Privacy Policy Office recently provided more in-depth information regarding FERPA and virtual education – here are some clarifying answers. 

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.

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