Students and Teachers
Disputes arising in an educational context can be deeply personal and are often bitterly contested. Parents insist on what is right for their children. Administrators cautiously guard both the schools as a whole, and their own authority. Administrative and legal matters move quickly, and the stakes are high: an education and a future are sometimes on the line. Emotions also run high, and money lacks the power it has to resolve other disputes. Negotiated resolutions require tenacity, creative thinking and a careful respect for the rights of the student and the needs of the school. We know, because we have been there. Partner Ray Vasvari has represented a wide variety of adversaries in school-based disputes – including students, teachers, administrators, school board members and professors – and has done so in a variety of contexts. He brings with him a comprehensive knowledge of civil rights and constitutional law, and the experience to navigate the complex sensitive disputes that can get in the way of an education.
Know Your Rights
Conflict between families and school officials is common. Before formally challenging the way in which a student has been treated, it is important to distinguish between actions which may seem unfair, and those which are illegal. Public schools and universities – we’ll say more about private institutions below – are governed by a web of rules and requirements as lofty as the Constitution and as local as their own internal policy manuals. Knowing which requirements apply, and how, is crucial to shaping a plan of action.
Constitutional Rights like free expression, the free exercise of religious, due process of law, and equal protection apply to every governmental body, including Boards of Education and public universities. How these rights apply to public education has been defined in thousands of court cases decided over the decades. As seasoned civil rights lawyers, we understand how to bring that body of law to bear in particular cases.
Federal Statutes and Regulations provide another source of rights and responsibilities. The Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title IX of the Education Amendments, the Federal Educational Right to Privacy Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and No Child Left Behind all provide students with substantive rights. They also mandate certain procedures when dealing with students, based on their gender, physical and educational disabilities, and academic status. A body of regulations implementing these laws, and the court cases interpreting them shape their application in individual cases.
State Laws like the Ohio Revised Code and the Ohio Administrative Code govern almost every aspect of how the public schools are run, from the powers of school boards and superintendents, to the content of curricula, from the promotion and graduation of students to their punishment and expulsion. These rules exist beside, and should be read together with federal law, providing the basic framework for the relationship between students and the public schools.
Local Rules and Regulations also matter. Boards of Education can and do adopt handbooks, policies and procedures governing the way in which school is conducted. Students – who are offer punished for violating those regulations – are also entitled to the benefits and procedural safeguards they provide.
Private Schools are another matter. While subject to state and federal laws regarding things like disability and curriculum, private institutions have more latitude than public schools in many ways, including student discipline. But students still have rights. Enrollment agreements are subject to fair interpretation by the courts like any other contracts. In schools receiving public funding – which is most – additional rules may apply.
Help Us to Help You
Cases involving student rights are fact-intensive. It is important to keep documents, progress reports, correspondence, emails and other records to help substantiate your side of the story. Keeping detailed, dated contemporaneous notes of meetings, conversations and events will help your lawyer get up-to-speed quickly and accurately. Knowing who, what, when, where, why and how are fundamental to every case. Keep accurate records. Help us to help you.
What We Have Done
Over twenty-five years, partner Ray Vasvari has represented parents and students in a variety of cases involving both public and private schools. He has handled cases involving educational planning for disabled students, discrimination based on sexual preference, religious indoctrination in the public schools and students facing expulsion for both in-school and off-campus speech. He brings his deep experience as a civil rights litigator to every case.
Ray has also represented administrators charged with harassment, professors facing discipline, and board members who have been sued or threatened with suit in disputes with teachers and other elected officials.