Every school district in New Jersey is governed by a school board. These school board members are guardians of the public trust and make the interests of their community’s youth their priority. But school boards in New Jersey do much more than hold meetings and plan calendar events.
They create the vision and goals for the district and adopt policies to pursue those goals. School board matters require an intimate knowledge of the law, which is why finding an education law attorney is so essential.
At Weiner Law Group, we represent boards of education across New Jersey as they shape policy and serve the state’s youth and their families. To speak with an education law attorney, please contact us today.
What Is Education Law?
Education law covers many topics addressing students, teachers, and school rights. On the federal level, the U.S. Department of Education oversees the public school system.
However, individual states are responsible for keeping public schools compliant with state and federal laws. In New Jersey, it is the New Jersey Department of Education’s responsibility to ensure all local schools comply with state and federal laws and regulations.
These laws cover the right to education, special education, discrimination, financial disclosure, and more. State laws cover a wide range of topics, as well, from governing prayer to student record privacy.
These laws dictate public school funding, how the state’s government interacts with teacher unions, and curriculum requirements for schools.
Common issues that arise under education law include Title IX cases, discrimination cases, special education, bullying, and personal injury lawsuits.
Title IX is a section of the United States Education Amendments of 1972. It prohibits sex discrimination when individuals are engaged in education programs and other activities that receive federal financial assistance.
In fact, Title IX expressly prohibits sexual harassment, pregnancy discrimination, and failure to give equal opportunity in athletics.
The Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, a federal agency, oversees the enforcement of Title IX. The office has the authority to investigate instances of discrimination, as well as negotiate potential remedies.
It can refer cases for administrative law proceedings to cut off federal funding or for trial through the Department of Justice. Title IX also gives individuals a private right of action to bring a lawsuit for injunctive or monetary relief; however, the latter is only available for cases involving intentional sex discrimination.
Students in public schools enjoy constitutional protection from discrimination on the basis of sex, race, age, disability, color, creed, national origin, and religion.
The federal laws prohibiting such discrimination include Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Title VI prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.
IDEA and Title II protect individuals with disabilities from discrimination in educational contexts, and Title II provides comprehensive civil rights protections to specific disabled individuals.
On a state level, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination forbids schools from discriminating against students due to race, creed, sex, handicap, or national origin.
The Individual’s with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is the primary law covering special education in the United States. It gives disabled children equal access to the education system, and allows those students with specialized needs to have individualized education plans (IEPs) developed specifically for them.
In addition, the law has a provision that allows parents with disabled students to settle disputes with a school district through an impartial administration proceeding.
Bullying and Harassment
In 2011, the New Jersey Legislature enacted the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, or ABRA. ABRA forbids harassment, intimidation, and bullying in New Jersey schools, which it defines as:
- Actions that someone should know would physically or emotionally harm a student or their property,
- Insulting or demeaning a student or group, or
- Creating a hostile educational environment for a student by interfering with their education or causing physical or emotional harm.
If a school is informed of such harassment and fails to take action within a reasonable time, the student or parent can file a formal complaint with the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights.
Personal Injury Claims
Another issue a district might deal with is the aftermath of an injury on school property. The New Jersey Tort Claims Act creates legal liability for public schools for injuries caused by the negligence of school employees while acting within the scope of their employment.
However, the injured party must file a claim within 90 days of the accident or date of injury and a lawsuit within 6 months. Private schools do not have the same requirements, and injuries are treated as if they occurred in a private business.
Many teachers and other education personnel belong to a union. These unions bargain with federal, state, and local officials to set:
- Working conditions,
- Grievance procedures,
- Evaluation process,
- Vacation and sick leave, and
- Retirement or pension.
This list is not exhaustive, and an attorney may address other issues during the negotiation process. Education lawyers represent both school boards and unions during these negotiations, intending to improve the quality of education for students.
What Does an Education Lawyer Do?
Education lawyers support the rights of students, parents, teachers, administrators, and other stakeholders. They handle various issues, including civil rights violations, Title IX offenses, special education issues, contracts, and personal injury lawsuits.
In addition to these matters, education law attorneys must understand the intricacies of education law and how it impacts the system overall. They can also represent educational institutions in contract or salary negotiations with unions or individuals.
How Can We Help Your Board of Education?
Weiner Law Group helps boards across New Jersey as they work to shape the future of education in the state. Each school board has a dual role:
- Represent the concerns of the citizens, taxpayers, and parents to school administrators; and
- Represent the needs of students and the school district to citizens, taxpayers, and parents in the community.
Our team of experienced education law attorneys can handle the legal subtleties of running an efficient board, and we take pride in helping school boards better serve the people of New Jersey. Our attorneys can help school boards with:
- Preparing contacts and other legal documents,
- Negotiating with teachers and other unions,
- Negotiating and drafting documents for real estate transactions,
- Responding to litigation filed against a school district, and
- Implementing rules and governance policies.
Our attorneys can attend school board meetings, help committees review and prepare official documentation, and mediate critical labor disputes.
If you are on a school board and facing a possible legal issue, it’s essential to work with an attorney who understands how to protect you and the communities you hope to educate.
Let Weiner Law Group Empower Your Educational Goals
School board matters require extensive knowledge and experience. Because educational matters are so diverse and can have such a significant impact, it’s vital to have the right education law attorney on your side.
At Weiner Law Group LLP, we make it our business to handle the complexities of running a functioning board of education.
From financial disclosures and collective bargaining agreements to leasing contracts and civil rights protections, we are here to empower you to deliver the best educational opportunities to the people of New Jersey. Contact us to schedule a consultation, or fill out our online contact form to get started today.