7:50 Registration and Continental Breakfast
8:20 Welcome and Introductions
8:25 Academic Freedom in Publicly Funded Schools, Colleges and Universities
Kristi L. Graunke, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, Raleigh Neal Ramee, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh Thomas C. Shanahan, University of North Carolina Health, Chapel Hill
This session explores academic freedom and how it manifests in K-12 as compared to higher education settings, as well as the thorny issues of academic freedom, free speech and tenure in higher education. Panelists from different perspectives offer advice for attorneys providing counsel to school districts and institutions of higher education around politically charged legal issues of the day.
9:50 Internal Investigations in Educational Institutions: Choose Your Own Adventure? No, the Adventure Chooses You
Shana L. Fulton, Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Raleigh Benita N. Jones, Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP, Research Triangle Park
This session takes lawyers through the various twists and turns commonly involved in internal investigations in educational institutions. Attendees wind through scenarios and issues that attorneys may face when guiding clients and parties through such investigations, including Title IX issues, answering questions along the way, such as: When is an investigation needed? Is a lawyer really necessary, and if so, what is the role of the lawyer? How do I set up an investigative plan? What is trauma-informed interviewing? What do I do if there are minor witnesses? What do I do if criminal liability could be an issue? Who do I talk to if leadership is being investigated? What about mandatory reporting laws? How do I assess credibility in a virtual interview? How should I respond if allegations go viral? And more…
11:00 Order in the Board Room: How to Navigate Infighting and Political Lightning Rods, and Uphold Your Ethical Responsibilities to Your Client, as Attorney for an Educational Institution's Governing Board *
Ken Soo, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh
How can the board attorney best navigate those times when the superintendent/chancellor (and senior staff) and the board vehemently disagree about an important issue? How do you advise a board when the position it wants to take is so legally untenable that you're concerned about defending it? How do you maintain strong working relationships with board employees when they have an increasing tendency to "bad-mouth" their board (or specific board members)? The COVID era has presented all education attorneys with fertile ground for close examination of how we can uphold our ethical responsibilities as attorneys when faced with the personality and political dynamics of an educational institution's governing board.
12:00 Lunch Break
12:45 Navigating Conflicts Between First Amendment/Religious Freedom Rights and Nondiscrimination/Equal Protection Rights of Transgender Individuals in Education Settings
Sheena J. Cobrand, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Greensboro Elizabeth L. Troutman, Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP, Greensboro Craig White, Campaign for Southern Equality, Asheville
Students', faculty members' and parents' freedom of expression and religious freedom rights face off with students' and employees' nondiscrimination and privacy rights related to their gender identity on a regular basis in educational settings. Whose rights take precedence can change depending on whether the educational institution is private or public, whether the transgender person is a student or an employee, the age of the right-holder, and what the relationship is between the right-holders. Educational institutions want to be inclusive of all viewpoints and identities and uphold their obligations not to allow hostile environments based on protected characteristics — but how? This session addresses four practical issues attorneys face when advising clients facing these conflicts: (1) names, pronouns, and honorifics; (2) shared facilities, such as housing and sex-segregated private spaces; (3) "outing" and privacy concerns; and (4) issues unique to nonbinary individuals.
1:55 Addressing Student Mental Health in the Current Educational Climate: Local Education Agency Obligations and Considerations
Rachel Nicholas, Poyner Spruill LLP, Raleigh
As of March 2021, the proportion of emergency department visits by children ages 5–11 due to a mental health crisis increased by 24% compared to 2019. The corresponding proportion of 12- to 17-year-olds seeking such emergency intervention increased by 31%. Between February and March 2021, mean weekly emergency department visits for attempted suicide was 50.6% higher among girls aged 12–17 compared with the same period in 2019. The American Academy of Pediatrics, among other professional organizations, has declared a National State of Emergency in Children's Mental Health.
School districts play an important role in promoting the mental well-being of students. This presentation reviews current authority pertaining to school districts' obligations to its students with mental health needs, and provides practical considerations. This presentation also includes an overview of common claims brought against school districts related to student mental-health issues, including claims arising out of self-harm.
3:05 Transitions: Legal Rights, Services and Other Considerations for Students With Disabilities in College
Eva DuBuisson, Tharrington Smith LLP, Raleigh Dekendrick Murray, North Carolina Central University, Durham Ann Paradis, Gahagan Paradis PLLC, Durham
Learn about the issues involved when students with disabilities transition from K-12 schools to colleges and universities. Topics include the legal rights of K-12 students with disabilities afforded under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and how they differ from rights in a college setting, as well as campus services and programming available to students with disabilities in college. Also, hear advice and considerations for school attorneys advising districts that are preparing students with disabilities for higher education and for parent attorneys whose clients want to see those students be more autonomous.
4:15 The Case Law Update
Brian Shaw, Poyner Spruill LLP, Raleigh
Brian Shaw returns for his annual case law update, bringing us the latest developments in education law.
5:00 Adjourn * Indicates portion providing Ethics/Professional Responsibility credit
Legal practitioners and educational professionals come together to discuss 2022's hottest topics facing educational institutions and their constituents, including parents, students, employees, board members and administrators.
Sheena J. Cobrand
Sheena J. Cobrand is Deputy General Counsel at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro. She joined the Office of Legal Affairs in April 2020.
Immediately before joining the office, Sheena was an attorney with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, Division of Employment Security (DES). Her representation included judicial review proceedings, injunction matters, employment grievances, discrimination claims, and confidentiality matters. As DES's Rulemaking Coordinator, Sheena drafted and oversaw the adoption of more than 100 rules in the North Carolina Administrative Code. She also led a multi-work unit team that brought DES into compliance with the U.S. Department of Labor’s (USDOL) second-level appeal standards after more than 30 years of monthly noncompliance. The process changes implemented have allowed DES to remain compliant since 2014.
Sheena has litigated hundreds of cases including employment, unemployment insurance benefits and tax, dependency, termination of parental rights, and criminal matters. She also presided over and participated in hundreds of administrative hearings.
Sheena is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Law where she was a member and Articles and Notes Editor for the
Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law. She also earned a journalism degree from Florida A&M University. Sheena is a North Carolina-certified public manager and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in North Carolina. She is also admitted to the Florida Bar and State Bar of Tennessee.
Click here for more information about Sheena.
Eva DuBuisson is a partner at Tharrington Smith LLP in Raleigh. She specializes in education law; she has represented public school systems across North Carolina with Tharrington Smith since 2007 and serves as general counsel to multiple boards of education. She has successfully represented her clients in state and federal court and the N.C. Office of Administrative Hearings, and before agencies including the EEOC, U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, and N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
Eva has served as a member of the Education Law Section Council for the N.C. Bar Association and has been named a "Rising Star" by North Carolina Super Lawyers. She is a frequent speaker to legal and educational audiences on legal issues impacting public schools.
Eva received her law degree with high honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, and has earned a Master of Public Policy degree from the Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy at Duke University.
Click here for more information about Eva.
Shana L. Fulton
Shana L. Fulton is a partner at Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP in Raleigh. She represents businesses and individuals in criminal and civil litigation, under government investigation or in conducting internal investigations. As a defense attorney and former Assistant U.S. Attorney, she has experience litigating and investigating high-profile and complex matters at all levels of federal and state trial courts. She loves using her deep experience as a defense attorney and federal prosecutor on complex matters that feature a mix of criminal, civil and regulatory issues.
Shana represents individuals and businesses facing white-collar criminal prosecution and government investigations. A former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, she has extensive experience handling trials and hearings in state and federal courts of all levels.
Shana is a member of the North Carolina, Wake County and Federal Bar Associations, North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers and the Capital City Lawyers Association. She received her B.A. degree with highest honors, with distinction in English and Political Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998 and her J.D. degree from Columbia University School of Law in 2001.
Click here for more information about Shana.
Kristi L. Graunke
Kristi L. Graunke is the Legal Director of the ACLU of North Carolina (ACLU-NC) in Raleigh, where she leads litigation and other legal advocacy to advance and defend the rights of North Carolinians under the federal and state constitutions. Under Kristi's leadership, ACLU-NC has litigated multiple matters in federal and state courts to protect the constitutional rights of North Carolinians to freely protest, speak, and associate.
Before joining ACLU-NC in 2020, Kristi worked as an attorney with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). There, Kristi focused primarily on enforcing the civil rights of low-income immigrant workers in the southeastern United States; she also worked on litigation to defend the civil rights of LGBTQI individuals and incarcerated children and adults. In 2015, she received Public Justice's Trial Lawyer of the Year Award as part of a team that tried a human trafficking case to a $14 million verdict for the plaintiffs.
Prior to working with SPLC, Kristi was an Equal Justice Works law fellow with the Farmworker Division of Georgia Legal Services.
Kristi holds a B.A. from Cornell University and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Following graduation from law school, she clerked for Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Click here for more information about Kristi.
Benita N. Jones
Benita N. Jones is of counsel with Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP in Research Triangle Park where she is a member of the firm's Education and School Law Team. She has extensive experience providing legal support and counsel to educational institutions on a broad array of state and federal legal issues including Title IX, VII, Americans with Disabilities Act, constitutional law, contract law, tort law, policy development and governance, employment law, and student legal issues. She has worked collaboratively on litigation matters with the North Carolina Attorney General's Office and attorneys from the UNC System Office.
Immediately prior to joining Womble Bond Dickinson, she served as the Assistant University Legal Counsel at NC Central University. In this role, she represented the University in administrative complaints before the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and provided trainings to University administrators, faculty, and staff on a variety of legal and policy issues. In addition to her experience providing legal counsel in higher education, Benita has worked previously with a number of North Carolina school districts across the broad range of K-12 matters.
magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University before earning her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center.
Click here for more information about Benita.
Keir D. Morton-Manley
Keir D. Morton-Manley is assistant university legal counsel at North Carolina Central University (NCCU), first joining NCCU's Office of Legal Affairs as the Higher Education Legal Fellow. She is a graduate of Campbell Law School and holds a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a bachelor's from Duke University.
Prior to joining NCCU, Keir worked in the Education Section of the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, externed with the Special Education Attorney Team at Disability Rights North Carolina and served on the Education Law Section Council. Her prior professional experience includes 20 years in housing and community development, including fourteen years with the State of North Carolina.
Click here for more information about Keir.
Dekendrick Murray is the Director of Student Accessibility Services at North Carolina Central University in Durham. He leads the campus' charge in providing access through academic accommodations, educational consultation, and enrichment services for scholars with documented disabilities and/or medical conditions. He also oversees the new federally funded $1.3 million TRIO Student AcceSSS Program (SASP) that provides proactive support services to SAS Scholars who are first-generation and/or limited-income.
Prior to this role, Dekendrick served as the assistant director for the Office of Academic Support (OAS) at the University of Florida, where he oversaw the day-to-day operations of the office's Student Success Programs and departmental services targeting students who were first-generation, were limited-income, had a documented disability and/or had an academic need. During this time, he championed access and opportunity — working with the Campus' Disability Resource Center to remove barriers for student access and success, overseeing the coordination of academic intervention and retention initiatives for over 1,200 OAS scholars, aiding in successfully writing a $1.3 Million TRIO Student Support Services Grant to serve students, co-founding a nationally recognized Biological Science Conference for underrepresented students, and leading the annual distribution of over $59K in academic year scholarships for OAS program participants. He also served on various institutional committees and the FL TRIO State Association Board of Directors and led the successful proposal writing for a comprehensive campus living-and-learning community to support first-time-in-college students.
He is also a four times TRIO alumni (Upward Bound, Upward Bound Math Science Regional Institute, Educational Talent Search, and Ronald E. McNair Scholars) who has worked with the TRIO program professionally for over 5 years. He holds a M.S. in Instructional Leadership and Organizational Development from Jacksonville University and a B.S. in Family, Youth and Community Sciences from the University of Florida.
Rachel Nicholas is an associate at Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh in the Education Law Practice Group.
Rachel brings her previous experience as a second-grade public school teacher and passion for the education system to her practice. She is the past president of the Education Law and Policy Society and was a member of the Holderness Moot Court Bench at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a member of the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys and the National Council of School Attorneys.
Rachel is a Council member of the Education Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and is an active member of the Young Lawyer’s Division of the North Carolina Bar Association. In 2019, Rachel was one of 16 attorneys selected to participate in the North Carolina Bar Association's Leadership Academy.
Rachel earned her B.A. in Political Science from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and her J.D. from UNC School of Law.
Click here for more information about Rachel.
Maura O'Keefe specializes in education law at Tharrington Smith LLP at Raleigh. She joined Tharrington Smith's Education Section in mid-2016 following a two-year fellowship at the Office of University Counsel at UNC, where she focused on student and employment matters.
Maura received her undergraduate degree in 2009 from the University of Virginia, where she was a recipient of the Jefferson Scholarship. After graduating, she taught high school English as a member of Teach for America's Eastern North Carolina corps. In 2014, Maura received her law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. During law school, Maura was a member of the Holderness Moot Court National Team and certified student lawyer in the Juvenile Justice Clinic.
Click here for more information about Maura.
Ann Paradis is a partner at Gahagan Paradis PLLC in Durham. Licensed in Massachusetts in 1991 and then in North Carolina in 1993, Ann has a broad and extensive background providing services including legal services to low income individuals, elderly persons, students, children and their families, and people with disabilities including mental disabilities. She believes that every person needs to be listened to and understood.
Ann has worked for Legal Service and Legal Aid organizations in Massachusetts and North Carolina. She has worked in private practice in Johnston County and Wake County. As a member of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, the North Carolina Bar Association and the Council of Parent, Attorneys and Advocates, Ann is passionate about protecting people's rights.
Ann studied law at Western New England College School of Law in Springfield, MA. She is admitted to the state courts in North Carolina and the United States District Court, Eastern District of North Carolina.
Ann lives in Apex, North Carolina with her husband and children.
Click here for more information about Ann.
Grace S. Pennerat
Grace S. Pennerat an associate in the Education Law Section at Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh. She regularly presides over routine and special board meetings and committee meetings for local boards of education. She also advises local boards of education, superintendents, and central office personnel regarding student, employee, and community matters.
Grace earned her B.A. in Political Science and Global Studies, with a Minor in Art History, from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law. In law school, she served as the 2016-17 Student Bar Association President, a member of the Journal of Law of Policy, and an active participant in the Pro Bono Project.
Click here for more information about Grace.
Neal Ramee is a partner in the Education Section at Tharrington Smith LLP in Raleigh. His practice is dedicated to education law, with a particular focus on the state and federal constitutions, appellate practice, student discipline, student assignment, and immigration issues arising in the public school context.
Before joining the firm in 2005, he served for two years as a law clerk to Justice Mark Martin at the North Carolina Supreme Court. He has litigated cases in state and federal court involving the First Amendment, contract and employment disputes, student assignment, the Fair Labor Standards Act, negligence claims, and federal civil rights issues, among other matters.
Neal received his undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Virginia and his law degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law, where he was inducted into the Order of the Coif. While in law school, he served as Managing Editor of the First Amendment Law Review and as an Honors Writing Scholar.
Click here for more information about Neal.
Sarah M. Saint
Sarah M. Saint is an attorney in the Greensboro office of Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP, where she counsels and litigates on behalf of school boards, private schools, and institutions of higher education so that they can focus on what they do best: educating students. Sarah's background in school counseling informs her practice as she helps school districts navigate complex laws that impact students and educators. She has a particular focus on broadening awareness of diversity issues within organizations and counseling educational institutions on compliance with state and federal civil rights laws and regulations. Sarah's pro bono practice focuses on representing trans individuals in discrimination litigation and aiding trans individuals obtain legal name- and gender marker-changes.
Sarah is the YLD Liaison and a Council member of the NCBA Education Law Section, as well as a delegate to the ABA House of Delegates, the Bar Outreach Division Director for the North Carolina Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and a member of the NCBF Pro Bono Committee. Sarah has been recognized by The Best Lawyers in America as "One to Watch" for Labor and Employment Law – Management.
Sarah went to Wake Forest University School of Law, where she was recognized by the North Carolina State Bar for her pro bono service and National Jurist as a "Law Student of the Year." Sarah also holds a Master's degree in School Counseling and uses her experience to counsel educational institutions on state and federal regulatory compliance and civil rights issues.
When not practicing law, Sarah enjoys playing board games, kayaking, cooking, and hiking with her wife and their three dogs.
Click here for more information about Sarah.
Thomas C. Shanahan
Thomas C. Shanahan is the System Vice President and Deputy General Counsel at the University of North Carolina Health in Chapel Hill.
Prior to joining UNC Health, he was General Counsel and Senior Vice President for Legal, Risk, and Compliance for the seventeen-campus University of North Carolina System. He oversaw legal services for the University and provides advice and counsel to the President, the Board of Governors, and the senior officers of the University with regard to legal and policy issues affecting the University. Thomas joined the University from the U.S. Department of Labor where his practice included trial litigation and advice concerning employee benefits law, Fair Labor Standards Act matters, immigration, ethics, and administrative law. Thomas served in various Labor Department leadership positions in Atlanta, including Deputy Regional Solicitor and Deputy Regional Director in the Employee Benefits Security Administration.
Thomas received his law degree from the University of Georgia School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from Cornell University.
Click here for more information about Thomas.
Brian C. Shaw
Brian C. Shaw is a partner at Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh. He has extensive education law experience and provides counsel to public school systems throughout the State. Brian is also an Adjunct Professor at the Norman A. Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University.
Brian is a Past Chair of the Education Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association and has served on the Board of Directors of the National Council of School Attorneys. He is a member of the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys and the National Council of School Attorneys. He is a frequent speaker at the district, state and national level on many different topics dealing with education law.
After serving as law clerk for the Honorable Edward J. Schwartz, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court in San Diego, California, and graduate work at Oxford University in England, Brian joined the law firm of Jensen Baird Gardner & Henry in Portland Maine, where he served as Chairman of the Education Law Department. In 1993, he joined then Richard A. Schwartz & Associates, became Partner in 1997, and the law firm changed its name to Schwartz & Shaw PLLC.
cum laude in 1976 from Harvard College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and received his J.D. degree, cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1980.
Click here for more information about Brian.
Ken Soo is an attorney at Tharrington Smith LLP in Raleigh. His areas of practice include public school law, employment law and civil litigation.
Ken's first career was as a wire service and newspaper reporter in Ohio, North Carolina and Florida, including stints with United Press International and The Charlotte Observer. He joined Tharrington Smith in 1994 and has served as a board member and secretary for the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys. In 2019, Ken became a Professional Registered Parliamentarian through the National Association of Parliamentarians, providing leadership to public school boards whose open meetings are grounded in parliamentary procedure.
Ken received his law degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1991. During law school, he was a note editor for the North Carolina Law Review. He completed his bachelor's degree in comparative area studies at Duke University.
Click here for more information about Ken.
Elizabeth L. Troutman
Elizabeth L. Troutman is a partner with Brooks Pierce McLendon Humphrey & Leonard LLP in Greensboro. She advises public school boards of education, private educational institutions, colleges and universities on a wide range of education issues, and litigates on behalf of educational institutions in state and federal courts. She also helps clients in a variety of industries navigate the complexities of human resources and employment law issues, including employment policies and employee separation.
With prior experience working with the North Carolina School Boards Association, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Education and the Workforce, the Council for Children's Rights in Charlotte, and the Education Innovations Group, as well as conducting extensive research on rural education policy issues, Elizabeth brings a valuable perspective to Brooks Pierce and the Firm's education clients. Elizabeth serves on the Executive Committee of the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys and is a frequent speaker at education law conferences.
Elizabeth earned her B.A.,
cum laude, in School of Public and International Affairs, cum laude, from Princeton University, her M.P.P. from Duke University and her J.D., with highest honors, from University of North Carolina School of Law.
Click here for more information about Elizabeth.
Craig White is the Supportive Schools Director and Special Projects Advisor for Campaign for Southern Equality in Asheville. He provides training, policy guidance, and assessment services to assist Southern schools in becoming more inclusive and welcoming for students of every sexual and gender identity. He also advises and advocates on other LGBTQ youth-related issues and policies. As Special Projects Advisor, Craig plays a support role for CSE's equity work and policy advocacy work, and supervises many of CSE’s interns in social work and other field placements.
Outside of his CSE work, Craig is the lead facilitator for Craig White Consulting, a private consulting practice through which he does racial equity training and consulting with schools, nonprofits and foundations around the US. He also teaches as an adjunct faculty member in the Education Program at Warren Wilson College, and is a co-leader of the Leadership Learning Exchange for Equity organized by the Maine Community Foundation.
Craig holds an undergraduate degree from Brown University and an M.S.W. from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and is a William C. Friday Fellow for Human Relations through the Wildacres Leadership Initiative.
Rebecca M. Williams
Rebecca M. Williams is an associate in the Education Law Practice Group at Poyner Spruill LLP in Raleigh. She assists public school systems in all aspects of education law.
Rebecca previously taught Spanish at the high school, community college, and college levels. She is a member of the North Carolina Council of School Attorneys, the National Council of School Attorneys, and the Education Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association.
Rebecca received her B.A. in Foreign Languages, and received her M.A. in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of New Hampshire. Rebecca graduated with her J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law.
Click here for more information about Rebecca.
If you did not attend this program in its entirety, please fill out a
to ensure that we report your credit accurately.
partial credit form
Please send your completed form to
within seven days of this program.
As an attendee at this CLE program, your feedback is important.
to fill out the program evaluation.
to view Forms and CLE Policies, Terms and Conditions.
If paying by check,
for a printable registration form. Please reference the live webcast program code click here 988EDM.