8:55 Welcome and Introductions
9:00 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.
10:20 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…
11:35 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.
12:36 Lunch Break
1:06 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.
2:07 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.
3:18 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.
4:20 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.
* Indicates portion providing Ethics/Professional Responsibility credit
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