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 ]

Don’t Delay: MA Employers Are Now Strictly Liable for Three Times the Amount of Wages for Late Payments With No Safe Harbor for Paying in Full Prior to Suit!

Under the Massachusetts Wage Act (the “Wage Act”), if an employee voluntarily quits their employment, the employer must pay the employee their final wages, including any earned, unused vacation pay, on the employer’s next regular pay day. However, when an employee …

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The Times They Keep A-Changing: The New Illinois Restrictions on the Use of Non-Compete and Non-Solicit Agreements

The state-by-state non-compete reform movement keeps rolling – this time in the state of Illinois.  Effective January 1, 2022, the Illinois Freedom to Work Act has dramatically changed the landscape for employers in that state who desire to use non-compete …

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OSHA Withdraws COVID-19 ETS, But Signals That It Is Moving Forward with Final Rule

On January 25, 2022, OSHA announced the withdrawal COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (the “ETS”). In the announcement, OSHA stated that although it “is withdrawing the [ETS] as an enforceable emergency temporary standard, [it] is not withdrawing the …

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Supreme Court Stays OSHA’s COVID ETS

The OSHA COVID ETS is once again stayed. On January 13, 2022, the United States Supreme Court stayed OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard which required that employers with 100+ employees require employees to either (a) become vaccinated against COVID-19; or (b) …

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The District of Columbia’s Aggressive Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Likely to Take Effect in 2022

In December 2020, the District of Columbia Council passed and in January 2021, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed legislation entitled the Ban on Non-Compete Agreements Amendment Act of 2020 (the “DC Act”).  While the effective date of the Act was delayed …

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Don’t Forget! Minimum Wage Rates in Massachusetts Increase, Effective January 1, 2022

The minimum wage in Massachusetts will increase from $13.50 to $14.25 an hour, effective January 1, 2022. In addition, the minimum wage for tipped employees who make more than $20/month in tips will increase from $5.55/hour to $6.15/hour. Employers may …

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CDC Shortens COVID-19 Related Isolation and Quarantine Period, and Distinguishes Between Vaccinated Individuals With/Without Booster

On December 27, 2021, the CDC issued updated guidance which significantly shortens the periods of isolation and quarantine it recommends for COVID-related diagnosis and/or exposure. Specifically, the CDC now recommends that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 (regardless of vaccination …

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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Adopts FLSA’s Joint Employer Test

Jonathan R. Sigel and Ashlyn E. Dowd On December 13, 2021, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) considered whether the so-called “ABC Test” set forth in M.G.L.c. 149, §148B (“Section 148B”) should be applied to determine whether an entity is …

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OSHA Exercising Discretion in Enforcing the ETS Until January 10

As posted here, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals lifted the stay of the Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (the “ETS”) issued by OSHA. The Department of Labor announced on Saturday, December 18 that OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion …

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Court Lifts Stay on OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard Regarding COVID-19

On Friday, December 17, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted the stay on OSHA’s Emergency Temporary Standard that mandates employers with 100 or more employees to require unvaccinated workers to wear a mask on …

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