Colleges, universities, schools and boards of education face a myriad of legal issues, many of them unique to education. Womble Carlyle’s multi-disciplinary Education and School Law Team has decades of experience helping educators, educational institutions and service providers meet everyday business, legal and regulatory challenges.
We understand that the success of our education clients is reflected in the accomplishments of their students and programs in place to support them. Working together with our clients, we develop a customized service and communication plan to meet their unique needs and business objectives.
Our education lawyers aim to be true business partners with our education clients. We monitor trends to anticipate upcoming challenges and opportunities and actively support the improvement of the education industry through participation and leadership in educational organizations such as the National Association of College and University Attorneys (NACUA), Colleges and University Personnel Association (CUPA), the National School Boards Association and the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys.
Representative clients served:
- Public and private colleges and universities, including research institutions and medical centers
- Community colleges
- Pre-K-12 schools, boards of education, and school administrators
- Education industry associations and supporting foundations
- Education management organizations
- Lenders to educational institutions, and related associations and foundations
Our Experience (click on each heading below for more information):
- Board and committee meetings
- Student code of conduct, including social media, student discipline, bullying/cyberbullying and school safety
- Special education, including IDEA and Section 504 compliance
o Staff code of conduct (including social media usage)
o Employee due process and special issues for coaches
o Religion, discrimination and harassment claims
o Staff grievances, transfer requests, teacher termination and teacher tenure
o Handbook and contract preparation
- Educational privacy and data protection, including FERPA, Health Insurance Privacy Protection and Portability Act ("HIPAA") and state freedom of information laws
- Freedom of information requests, including FOIA requests
- Negligence claims
- Charter applications
- Non-profit business and tax considerations
- E-rate funding
o Obtaining and maximizing funding
o Appeals of SLD funding denials
o PIA audit assistance
- Federal and state legislative, policy and government affairs
- Technology procurement, licensing and implementation
Public and Private Universities and Colleges
- Experience serving as general counsel or primary outside counsel to higher education institutions for more than 30 years.
- Consult with senior college administrators on matters of corporate governance, business and finance, advancement/development, residence life, student affairs, admissions, athletics, tenure and promotion, faculty and staff employment, and human resources.
- Policy, procedures and corporate documents
- Student and faculty hearings and grievances
- Federal and state regulatory compliance, including implementation of Title IX, financial aid, HIPAA, Campus Security Act and other HEOA requirements, OCR compliance and investigations
- Board/committee meetings
- Workshops and in-service training such as ADA compliance, sexual harassment awareness and prevention, basic employment practices relevant to campus hiring, student due process issues, other topics of special interest.
- Employment including defense of charges made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Office of Civil Rights; tenure disputes; realignment of college programs and related restructuring/reductions in employment
- Employee benefits including tax qualified retirement and welfare benefit plans, non qualified retirement arrangements, and executive compensation programs and ERISA compliance.
- Non-profit corporation/affiliated foundations such as planned giving, wills and estates, charitable donations, endowment, etc.; establishment of private foundations; alumni clubs.
- Town/gown relations including land use, planning and development.
- Real property transfer/receipt and construction
- Intellectual property including acquiring, protecting and commercializing intellectual property and other proprietary rights; ownership of concepts, writings, inventions and derivative works; protection against liability for student or faculty copying or infringement.
- Technology/telecommunications such as technology transfer, distance learning, e-commerce, telecommunications, licensing, information security, federal and state Internet requirements.
- Audits including environmental, employee benefits, and employment practices.
- Represent the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and constituent institutions of the University of North Carolina in issuing special obligation (revenue) bonds to finance improvements on the University's campuses
- Assist school systems and counties with public school financing through the issuance of General Obligation Bonds and annual appropriation non-voted debt
- Assist private education institutions on financings of improvements to their campuses through the North Carolina Capital Facilities Finance Agency
- Contested or protracted tenure dispute matters, retaliation claims, poor performance and discrimination claims
- Review and preparation of policies, handbooks, and codes of conduct as well as college faculty and staff handbooks
- Designing and delivering interactive training programs for non-harassment, investigations, and ADA/FMLA compliance
- Workforce restructuring programs, including selection processes, voluntary and involuntary severance programs, and early retirement options. Program discontinuances and academic program closures.
- WARN and Older Workers Benefit Protection Act (OWBPA) issues in rollout of restructuring programs
- Severance plans and phased retirement agreements
- Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)-compliance and audits
- I-9 compliance and human resources issues involving expatriates and employee relocation domestically and internationally
- President and senior administrator contracts and compensation
- ADA and Rehabilitation Act compliance for faculty, staff and students
- College affiliation and internship agreements
- Representation before EEOC and Office for Civil Rights
- Employee data-related privacy concerns
- Tax qualified retirement and welfare benefit plans, non qualified retirement arrangements, and executive compensation programs and ERISA compliance.
Intellectual Property / Patent
- Patent investigations and analyses
- Procurement of patents in the U.S. and internationally
- Trademark and copyright registrations
- Monetization of intellectual property rights
- Complex administrative patent actions including ex-parte and inter-partes Reexaminations, Reissue actions, Interferences, Oppositions and Cancellations
- Confidentiality agreements
- Government research funding
- University-industry relations
- License agreements
- Corporate sponsored research contracts
- Development agreements,
- Joint ventures
- Due diligence strategies
- Technology transfer agreements
- Software protection
- OEM Agreements
- Material Transfer Agreements
- Strategic Alliance Agreements
- IP Audits
- IP due diligence and handling IP aspects of equity and secured debt financings, including security interests in intellectual property
- Preparation and negotiation of software license agreements, enterprise-wide IT system implementations, and outsourcing agreements
Womble Carlyle attorneys have tried dozens of cases for our education clients on subjects including employment discrimination, student discipline, breach of contract, and personal injury. Published decisions include:
Guiliani v. Duke University, Slip Copy, 2010 WL 1292321, M.D.N.C. 2010 (suit by member of golf team).
Smith v. Cabarrus County Bd. of Education, Slip Copy, 2009 WL 3435522, M.D.N.C., October 16, 2009 (Race Discrimination)
Shavitz v. Guilford County Bd. of Education, 100 Fed.Appx. 146, C.A.4 (N.C.),2004. (traffic camera case)
Cox v. Guilford County Bd. of Education , 117 F.3d 1413 (Table) C.A.4 (N.C.),1997 (constructive discharge)
TWAM, LLC v. Cabarrus County Board of Education, 182 N.C. App. 530 (2007) (Suit by developer over easement)
Richardson v. Cabarrus County Board of Education, 111 Fed-Appx. 173 (4th Cir. 2004) (Race Discrimination)
Dabbs v. Amos, 70 F.3d 1261 (4th Cir. 1995) (Political speech by employee)
Boring v. Buncombe County Board of Education, 136 F.3d 364 (4th Cir. 1998) (Landmark case on academic freedom and teacher dismissal)
Additional Education Business Services
- Federal and state legislative, policy and government affairs
- Licensure in multistate environments
- Training Centers
- Venture capital and other investment firms in the education arena