Areas of Law
Appeals and Writs
Trial is not the end of the story for many cases. For an administrative lawsuit, a party can file an appeal to a federal court or the California State Courts. For lawsuits that originate in those forums, there are appeals courts to review the lower courts’ decisions. But appeals are not a second bite at the apple—they are narrow requests for a higher court to look at specific issues, and to determine whether those issues made the underlying result incorrect. Because of this, it takes specialized knowledge to handle appeals of all types, especially those concerning the byzantine world of education law.
Child Abuse, Child Injury, and Sexual Misconduct
While abuse of any kind is appalling, abuse against children is particularly abhorrent and even more so when the abuse is caused by the failure of our trusted schools to adequately care for and supervise students. Parents of minor children that have been physically or sexually abused by their teachers, day care providers, coaches, or other school staff can bring a lawsuit on behalf of their child, not only against the perpetrator, but against the school for their own negligence in hiring and retaining the perpetrator and failing to supervise their staff and students. School districts may also be held responsible when their failure to supervise the student resulted in injury either by forceable accident or abuse by another student. Lawsuits against public and private schools require a depth of knowledge and experience to navigate the different options available to parents and students depending on the facts of their unique case.
“Civil rights” is a broad term encompassing many areas of law. But at its core, civil rights law is about ensuring that the government does not infringe on liberties that all persons enjoy. In the education context, that means ensuring that students’ Constitutional rights—such as free speech and privacy—are protected. It also means that—in addition to claims under the Individuals with Disabilities Act or Americans with Disabilities Act—there may be claims under the Equal Protection Clause or other provisions of State and Federal constitutions. This area of law requires a specialized attorney who understands how students’ civil rights are enforced, and what the boundaries of those rights are.
Students of every age and at all levels, from elementary school through college and graduate school, may be subject to disciplinary actions. Education is the cornerstone to a successful future. School discipline, such as suspensions or expulsion, may jeopardize that future. A suspension or expulsion may be part of the student record forever and may have to be reported on college applications. This may negatively impact college acceptance, scholarship eligibility, and thus affect future employment opportunities. School expulsion proceedings are a very specialized area of law, and there are additional rules and protections that apply to children with special education needs. Everyone makes mistakes. From them we learn and grow. But when children make mistakes that result in discipline from the school, it is important to protect their rights in order to protect their future.
Every American child is entitled to a free and appropriate public education, also known as FAPE. Federal laws such as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provide for equal access to all students in the least restrictive educational environment. Students with Autism, other health impairments such as ADD/ADHD, hearing impairments, visual impairments, intellectual disability, traumatic brain injury, physical disabilities, speech and language impairment, emotional disturbance, and learning disabilities may be entitled to special education with a 504 Plan or an Individual Education Plan (IEP) specifically designed to meet their unique needs.
A specific type of school discipline involves Title IX and applies to any school receiving federal funding, including Universities, Colleges, Elementary and Secondary Schools. Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 bans discrimination on the basis of sex in educational settings. Courts have ruled that sexual harassment and assault are forms of gender discrimination prohibited by Title IX. Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome conduct that a reasonable person would determine is so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive that it denies a person access to the school’s education program or activity.” This includes dating violence, domestic violence and stalking.