Primary and Secondary Education

Public schools in Massachusetts face an ever expanding set of increasingly complex legal obligations. At Mirick O’Connell, we partner with our public school clients to provide timely, cost-efficient advice and representation to assist them in delivering educational services to their students. 

Labor and Employment

We advise our clients in all labor and employment matters. We regularly advise our clients concerning their labor relations, including collective bargaining, grievance arbitration and unfair labor practices. We also provide advice concerning personnel issues such as reductions-in-force, discipline, compliance with state certification requirements, the non-renewal of teachers without professional teacher status, managing employees with medical conditions, sexual harassment investigations, and wage and hour laws. In addition, we draft employment policies and employment agreements for non-union employees such as superintendents, principals and business managers. We are one of only a few Massachusetts law firms with a public school practice that also has an extensive employee benefits practice.

In addition, we represent our clients in governmental investigations and defend them against claims before state and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Education and Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, as well as before state and federal courts. 

We have successfully negotiated numerous union concessions to help our clients manage their budgets, prevailed at arbitrations involving both contract and disciplinary grievances and accomplished the removal of non-performing administrators in a manner that avoided legal action against the client. 

Student Rights, Policies and Discipline

We advise our public school clients on issues of student rights, student discipline and student handbooks. As well, we routinely advise clients on matters such as bullying; allegations of sexual harassment against other students; student records; discipline for violence; drug/alcohol use and absenteeism; and 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. 

Special Education

We represent and advise our clients in special education matters with a full understanding of the difficult dynamic that exists among our clients’ limited resources, its legal obligations and the ongoing relationship between the school district and the student and the student’s family. We, therefore, focus on providing pragmatic advice and early resolution of the dispute. 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 Americans with Disabilities Act.

We have recently represented clients in LEA Assignment matters and negotiated to have the DESE assume financial liability for a student’s placement. We have also represented clients in special education appeals, including cases involving students with autism.

School Construction

We have extensive experience in advising public school districts on 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. 

General Counsel

We routinely advise our public school districts in issues such as interpretations of Chapter 71, the open meeting law, public records law, the state conflict of interest law, public procurement requirements and the budget process.

We have recently advised clients in connection with their regional 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.

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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Client Alert: Juneteenth and the School Year Calendar

5/4/2021[ read full story ]

e-Alert: Education Models Impacted by DLR Decision and Possible Change in Learning Hours

2/25/2021[ read full story ]

e-Alert: Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Adopts Emergency Regulations Addressing Student Learning Time

12/16/2020[ read full story ]

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

03/16/2020[ read full story ]

U.S. Dept of Education and U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services Updates Joint Guidance on the Applicability of FERPA and HIPAA to Student Records

01/28/2020[ 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 ]

Spring Webinar Series: Workplace Investigations in Today's World

5/21/21[ read full story ]

Spring Webinar Series: Paid Family Medical Leave: Are We Having Fun Yet?

04/29/2021[ read full story ]

Spring Webinar Series: What Employers Need to Know About the American Rescue Act of 2021 and the anticipated MA COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave

04/16/2021[ read full story ]

Spring Webinar Series: Should Employers Mandate Vaccinations and Mandate Remote Workers to Return to Working On Site?

03/31/2021[ read full story ]

Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Sick Leave – Benefits Extended

As employers know, in May 2021, Massachusetts passed a law, “An Act providing for Massachusetts COVID-19 emergency paid sick leave,” which requires employers to provide employees up to 40 hours of paid leave for reasons related to the effects of …

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EEOC Recognizes “Long COVID” as a Disability

Last week, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the “EEOC”) formally recognized that “long COVID” may be a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. “Long COVID” occurs when an individual had COVID-19 and continues to suffer from a …

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What Employers Need to Know About President Biden’s “Path Out of the Pandemic” COVID-19 Action Plan

Last Thursday, President Biden announced a broad sweeping, 6-part COVID-19 Action Plan entitled, “Path Out of the Pandemic” (President Biden’s COVID-19 Plan | The White House) aimed at combatting the spread of COVID-19 and its variants. Below are a few of …

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COVID-19 and Masks: Updated Guidance from OSHA and Massachusetts

On the heels of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (“CDC”) revised guidance that fully-vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks in many indoor or outdoor settings, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) announced May 17th …

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US Department of Labor Withdraws Independent Contractor Rule

On May 6, 2021, President Biden’s administration halted implementation of a rule published under the Trump administration which would have made it easier for businesses to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees. The Trump regulation was supported by …

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Employer Tax Credits for Employee Paid Leave Due to COVID-19 Applies to Government Entities

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently published guidance defining “Eligible Employer” for purposes of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) tax credits.     Under ARPA, certain employers can claim refundable tax credits that reimburse them for the costs of providing …

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COVID-19 Mandates in the Workplace

As we pass the one year anniversary of the COVID-19 Pandemic, new rules regarding COVID-19 mandates in the workplace are imminent. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) is preparing an Emergency Temporary Standard (the “Emergency Standard”) to better protect …

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American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 and the anticipated Massachusetts COVID-19 Emergency Paid Leave

In lieu of our annual Employment Law Seminar, Mirick O’Connell’s Labor, Employment and Employee Benefits attorneys are hosting a Spring Webinar Series focusing on hot topics in employment law. Attorney Kim Rozak and I presented the second program in the …

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DOL Publishes Model Notices for COBRA Subsidies

As we previously reported, on March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA”) into law, which includes a COBRA premium assistance program. Pursuant to ARPA, the Department of Labor (DOL) was instructed to issue model notices …

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American Rescue Plan Act Contains COBRA Subsidies

On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (“ARPA” or the “Act”) into law. The Act creates a six-month subsidy period, from April 1, 2021 to September 30, 2021, during which individuals who lost health …

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