Primary and Secondary Education Law

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.

Marc Terry quoted in Education Week "School Boards Are Limiting Public Comment. Will That Erode Trust?"

[ read full story ]

Ashlyn Dowd featured in Community Legal Aid

[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: Public School Did Not Violate Parents' Constitutional Rights When School Staff Spoke To Their Children About Gender Identity

01/19/2023[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "Massachusetts "CROWN" Law Prohibits Discrimination Based on Hairstyle"

07/28/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "Remote Public Meetings Extended Through March 31, 2023"

07/19/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "Scope of Supreme Court Decision Allowing Coach to Pray on Field Limited"

06/29/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "U.S. Department of Education Releases Proposed Revisions to Title IX Regulations"

06/28/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "Recent Federal Court Case Changes Rules on Authority Over Voluntary Transfers"

06/21/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: 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!

04/08/2022[ read full story ]

Public Education Legal Update: "Remote Public Meetings Authorized Through July 15, 2022"

2/22/22[ read full story ]

U.S. Department of Education Announces Timeline for Revisions to Title IX Regulations

12/14/2021[ read full story ]

Massachusetts Legislature Enacts School Anti-Lunch Shaming Law

12/02/2021[ read full story ]

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

10/14/2021[ read full story ]

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

6/25/2021[ read full story ]

Remote Public Meetings Authorized Through April of 2022

6/18/2021[ read full story ]

Juneteenth and the School Year Calendar

5/4/2021[ read full story ]

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 ]

New Municipal Relief Act has Important Provisions for School District Service Contracts and Emergency Educator Licensing

6/17/2020[ read full story ]

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

5/15/2020[ read full story ]

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

3/30/2020[ 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 ]

U.S. Dept. of Education Interim Guidance to Schools and Colleges for Addressing Sexual Misconduct on Campus

09/27/2017[ read full story ]

U.S. Department of Education Issues Revised FERPA Regulations

December 23, 2011[ read full story ]

Our Practices