Charter School Law

Public charter schools in Massachusetts face an ever expanding set of increasingly complex legal obligations. Mirick O’Connell’s Education Lawyers partner with our charter school clients to provide timely, cost-efficient advice and representation to assist them in delivering educational services to their students. We are one of few Massachusetts firms that can meet all of charter schools’ legal needs in-house from labor and employment to school building leases and construction projects to students’ rights, policies and discipline.

Labor and Employment

Our School Law Team advises our clients on all labor and employment matters. We regularly assist them with issues involving labor relations and personnel issues.

  • union avoidance
  • election campaigns and written majority authorizations
  • collective bargaining
  • grievance arbitration
  • unfair labor practices
  • discipline
  • leaves of absence
  • reductions-in-force
  • managing employees with medical conditions
  • sexual harassment investigations
  • wage and hour laws
  • drafting of employment policies
  • employment agreements for non-union employees
  • employee benefits

Mirick O’Connell has become a statewide leader in representing charter schools at which employees have chosen to unionize. We represent and advise charter schools in all aspects of labor relations from union avoidance efforts to election campaigns to collective bargaining and litigation. We have prevailed at arbitrations involving both contract interpretation and disciplinary grievances, and accomplished the removal of non-performing employees in a manner that avoided legal action against the client.

Our Education Lawyers represent our clients when they are the subject of governmental investigations and defend them against claims before state and federal agencies and courts and in arbitration, including:

  • United States Department of Education
  • Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
  • Massachusetts Department of Labor Relations
  • American Arbitration Association
  • Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • United States Department of Labor
  • Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office
  • state and federal courts

General Counsel

As General Counsel, we routinely advise our charter school on issues such as:

  • Board of Trustee Policies & Bylaws
  • Interpretations of Chapter 71, including charter school provisions
  • Open Meeting Law
  • Public Records Law
  • Conflict of Interest Law
  • public procurement requirements and the budget process

Serving as General Counsel, we have recently advised charter schools regarding their public comment policies and interpretation of their Bylaws, and have negotiated vendor contracts such as school bus service and food service contracts.

Student Rights, Policies and Discipline

Our Education Lawyers advise our clients on issues of student rights, student discipline and student handbooks. As well, we routinely advise clients on matters involving:

  • bullying
  • allegations of sexual harassment against other students
  • student records
  • discipline for violence
  • drug/alcohol use
  • absenteeism
  • participation in student activities

Our recent engagements include the expulsion of students for the use of drugs on a school field trip, the analysis of a school’s potential liability for students’ participation in an
out-of-state trip and the determination of the permissible scope of student drug testing.

Real Estate and Construction

Our Real Estate Lawyers and our School Construction Lawyers have extensive experience in advising charter schools regarding site acquisition, leases, and construction projects. We advise clients on complex real estate transactions and the intricacies of public sector governance of land and building acquisition. We also counsel clients on all aspects of public construction projects, review bid documents and draft and negotiate contracts with architects, construction contractors, and vendors. We also represent our clients in defending bid protests, project closeout issues and, when necessary, pursue warranty claims and surety payment on performance bonds.

We have recently advised and represented clients in connection with both new building and school renovation/expansion projects as well as school leases.

Special Education

Mirick O’Connell’s Special Education Lawyers represent and advise our clients on special education matters with a full understanding of the difficult dynamic that exists among our clients’ limited resources, their legal obligations and the ongoing relationship between the school and the student and the student’s family.

Our Special Education Lawyers focus on providing pragmatic advice and early resolution of these disputes. When this approach is not successful in accomplishing our clients’ goals, we aggressively represent their interests before the Bureau of Special Education Appeals and in court as appropriate. We also counsel our clients on related issues under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Ashlyn Dowd featured in Community Legal Aid

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Extended Closure due to COVID-19 Raises Multiple Issues for Schools

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