Primary and Secondary Education

Primary and secondary schools in Massachusetts face an ever expanding set of increasingly complex legal obligations. Mirick O’Connell’s Education Attorneys partner with our school clients to provide timely, cost-efficient advice and representation to assist them in delivering educational services to their students. Our school clients include municipal and regional school districts, charter schools, collaboratives and private schools.

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.

  • collective bargaining
  • grievance arbitration
  • unfair labor practices
  • discipline
  • leaves of absence
  • reductions-in-force
  • compliance with state certification requirements
  • non-renewal of teachers without professional teacher status
  • managing employees with medical conditions
  • sexual harassment investigations
  • wage and hour laws
  • drafting of employment policies
  • employment agreements for non-union employees

We are one of only a few Massachusetts law firms with an education law practice that also maintains an extensive employee benefits practice.

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

We have also successfully negotiated numerous union concessions to help our clients manage their budgets and further their educational vision, 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.

General Counsel

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

  • School Committee Policies
  • Interpretations of Chapter 71
  • 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 clients in connection with amendments to their regional school district agreements, superintendency union agreements and the use of executive session. We have also 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 district’s potential liability for students’ participation in an
out-of-state academic competition and the determination of the permissible scope of drug testing at school-related activities.

School Construction

Our School Construction Lawyers have extensive experience in advising public school districts regarding school building projects from the appointment of an Owner’s Project Manager through the resolution of post-construction warranty claims. We counsel clients and draft and negotiate contracts associated with the hiring of architects under the Designer Selection law, the pre-qualification of bidders, and the award of general contracts for construction. We also represent our clients in 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.

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 district 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.

e-Alert: Handling Public Comment and Public Records Requests in Light of Critical Race Theory, COVID-19 and Other Contentious Issues

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e-Alert: Supreme Court Finds School District Violated First Amendment for Off-Campus Speech

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e-Alert: Remote Public Meetings Authorized Through April of 2022

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Amanda Baer Named Partner

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PODCAST: Marc Terry discusses Reopening of Public Schools during COVID-19 Pandemic

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e-Alert: The Next Phase in the COVID-19 Battle for School Districts: Budget Cuts, Furloughs, Layoffs and Collective Bargaining

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PODCAST: Marc Terry discusses School Law and COVID-19 (4.3.20)

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

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Mirick O'Connell Featured in Worcester Telegram

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Worcester Chamber Salutes Mirick O'Connell on 100 Years of Excellence

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Mirick O'Connell Celebrates 100th Anniversary!

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Juneteenth and the School Year Calendar

5/4/2021[ read full story ]

Governor Files Bill to Help Delay Town Meeting Season During COVID-19 Emergency

03/16/2020[ read full story ]

e-Alert: Decision in Spaulding v. Town of Natick School Committee is a Message to All School Committees

3/15/2019[ read full story ]

e-Alert: Federal District Court Ruling Raises Questions About Secret Audio Recordings of Public Officials

1/14/2019[ read full story ]

Student Free Speech Rights

09/20/2017[ read full story ]

e-Alert: What Should School Districts do When ICE Comes Knocking?

4/18/2017[ read full story ]

Quick Hits from the National COSA Conference

04/07/2017[ read full story ]

Dartmouth College Men’s Basketball Team Held to Be Employees of Institution and Allowed to Unionize

In the Matter of Trustees of Dartmouth College & Service Employees International Union, Local 560, Case 01-RC-325633 (2024), the Regional Office of the National Labor Relations Board (the “NLRB” or the “Board”) has provided yet another expansion of the Board’s on-going …

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New California Non-Compete Law Prohibits Almost All Non-Compete Agreements and Requires Notice to Certain Current and Former Employees by February 14

California has long taken an extremely strong position against non-compete agreements, but new laws which took effect January 1, 2024 make that prohibition even stronger and impact employers nationwide who have any employees in California.  California now expressly prohibits any …

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Navigating Pay Transparency Laws: What Employers Need to Know

Over the last several years, in an effort to close the gender pay gap, several states and localities across the country have enacted pay transparency laws that, generally, require employers of certain sizes with employees in those locations to disclose …

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Private Employers Take Note: Overbroad Non-Disparagement & Confidentiality Restrictions in Severance Agreements Run Afoul of the National Labor Relations Act

As many employers well know, it is customary to include non-disparagement and confidentiality provisions in severance agreements that prohibit departing employees from (i) making disparaging, critical, or otherwise detrimental comments concerning the employer and (ii) disclosing information concerning the substance, …

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Is Your Company in Compliance With Executive Order 13706?

In September 2015, Executive Order 13706 was signed, requiring employers that enter into covered contracts with the federal government to provide covered employees with up to seven days (56 hours) of paid sick leave annually, including paid leave allowing for …

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SJC Finds Public Meeting Comment Restrictions Unconstitutional

Government boards and committees should review their public comment policies following a decision this week by the Supreme Judicial Court holding that a “civility code” violated the Massachusetts Constitution’s Declaration of Rights and the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act. In Barron v. …

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The FTC’s Proposed Ban On Noncompetes – Predictions

Following his election, President Biden issued “The Biden Plan for Strengthening Worker Organizing, Collective Bargaining and Unions,” in which he promised to work with Congress to “eliminate all non-compete agreements” with very limited exceptions. While a bipartisan bill, the Workforce …

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Update Policies to Comply with the Massachusetts CROWN Act

At the end of October 2022, the Massachusetts Act Prohibiting Discrimination Based on Natural and Protective Hairstyles (the “CROWN Act”) went into effect. The CROWN Act expands the definition of “race” under Chapter 151B to include “traits historically associated with …

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2023 Changes in Massachusetts Employment Laws

            Beginning January 1, 2023, changes to the Massachusetts Minimum Wage Law, retail premium pay, and Massachusetts Paid Family and Medical Leave Law take effect. Changes to Minimum Wage & Premium Pay Changes to Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML) …

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Employers Must Remember Their Obligations under the Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

The Massachusetts Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (the “Act”), which went into effect on April 1, 2018, amended Massachusetts General Law c. 151B to include “pregnancy or a condition related to pregnancy, including, but not limited to, lactation, or the need …

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