Missouri Education Law
The law firm of Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt P.C. (the "Firm"), has one of the largest and most successful education law groups in the country. The Firm regularly serves the legal counsel needs of approximately 150 school districts throughout Missouri. The Firm also has one of the largest school law practices in Central and Southern Illinois.
From some of the largest to the smallest school districts, school administrators and boards of education regularly consult with the Firm's experienced education attorneys on a wide range of school legal matters. Our education attorneys have broad experience in every important area of education law, including human resources, teacher termination and discipline, teacher tenure, student rights and responsibilities, special education, school finance, the No Child Left Behind Act, construction, architecture, real estate, contracting and leasing, open meetings and records, policy development, vocational education, elections, tort issues, insurance, and general educational issues.
The Firm's lawyers have litigated many important school law cases in recent years. Firm attorneys have won numerous jury trials and appeals on behalf of school districts in Missouri and Illinois federal and state courts.
In addition, for the past ten years, the Missouri United School Insurance Council (MUSIC), a self-insured pool of school districts, has retained the Firm to defend its over 350 Missouri school district members against litigation claims in state and federal courts throughout Missouri. In addition to its work on behalf of MUSIC, the Firm has been appointed by numerous private educational insurers, including many of the nation's most prominent and well-respected insurance companies, to represent Missouri and Illinois schools. The Firm is one of approximately twenty law firms in the entire nation that have been appointed to act as Select Counsel to represent higher education institutions insured by United Educators Insurance Risk Retention Group, Inc., the nation's largest insurer of colleges and universities. In this capacity, the Firm is integrally involved in handling some of the most challenging and cutting-edge education litigation in the nation. Because of its deep and wide-ranging expertise in the defense of claims against educational institutions, the Firm maintains one of the most active and prominent education litigation groups in the Midwest.
The Firm's recent addition of three well-respected, experienced Illinois school attorneys has resulted in a significant expansion of the Firm's Illinois education practice. The expansion of the Firm's Illinois practice has also enhanced the Firm's depth and expertise in collective bargaining and special education representation, as well as general counsel services for both K-12 and higher education institutions.
Firm attorneys include a former teacher, college instructors, board members and officers of the National Council of School Attorneys and the Missouri and Illinois Councils of School Attorneys. Many of our Firm's attorneys are from families of educators.
Firm attorneys are recognized as experts by their attorney peers and have been authored the Missouri Bar's official publication on school law for practicing attorneys, the Missouri School Law Deskbook.
General Counsel Services
Experienced attorneys who devote their practice to representing school districts are available to confer as needed with school administrators on various legal issues. Our attorneys are well-qualified to answer questions relating to a wide variety of areas - such as employment matters, election law issues, open meetings and records, use of school premises by outside groups, purchasing and contracting, school policy development, and citizen complaints.
Because of the depth of our expertise, our education attorneys can often provide needed advice without spending extensive time on costly legal research. This service is part of the Firm's preventative law program, designed to help clients avoid litigation. Occasionally, a brief telephone conversation will save an education client literally thousands of dollars in future loses, damages, or litigation fees. One of the characteristics of the Firm's education attorneys is their ability to provide clients with a full range of up-to-date legal advice in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Our attorneys pride themselves on always being available when our clients need us, whether day or night.
A mainstay of our Firm is its active school litigation practice. The Firm's attorneys have tried education cases in state and federal courts throughout Missouri and have argued appeals in state and federal courts of appeal and in the Missouri Supreme Court. Our education attorneys have tried all types of education cases, from civil rights cases in federal court to breach of contract and personal injury suits in state court. We take pride in our record of success in education litigation.
During 2003, for instance, the firm obtained a complete defense verdict on behalf of a large public school district in an important, cutting-edge Americans with Disabilities Act retaliation case brought by a teacher in federal court. The Firm also obtained a complete defense verdict against the ACLU in a free speech case that upheld the authority of a Missouri School District to respond to student threats in the post-Columbine era.
Firm attorneys have also had great success in disposing of claims through summary judgment prior to trial. We pride ourselves on the depth of our knowledge of the complex legal issues often emanating from education litigation, knowledge that is invaluable in preparing persuasive and effective motions to dispose of cases prior to costly and time-consuming trials.
Our litigation expertise has been enhanced by our regular appointment to represent Missouri and Illinois schools by leading insurers of educational institutions, including United Educators Risk Retention Group, Arthur J. Gallagher & Co., Gallagher-Bassett Services, Royal-Sun Alliance, Liberty Mutual, Zurich, COREGIS, Great American, Hartford, NAICO, and AIG, among others.
A significant portion of the Firm's school law practice is devoted to assisting school districts in dealing effectively with problem teachers, both probationary and tenured. Our attorneys not only advise school administrators on legal requirements in terminating incompetent teachers, they also help draft warning letters, notices of deficiencies, statements of charges, and other statutorily required notices.
The Firm handles dozens of teacher termination matters each year, several of which involve contested due process hearings. The Firm's education attorneys have successfully represented school districts in numerous appeals of employee terminations.
In addition, the Firm's attorneys have experience in representing school districts in the whole gamut of employment problems: probationary teacher non-renewals, employee arbitrations, sexual harassment, unemployment compensation appeals, reductions-in-force, Americans with Disabilities Act issues, and discrimination complaints by employees and former employees. Our education attorneys not only lecture extensively to groups of school board members, school administrators, principals, and other attorneys on employment law topics, but have given major presentations to school lawyers at national seminars sponsored by the National School Board Association's Council of School Attorneys, the National Organization on Legal Problems of Education, the Education Law Association, and other national education groups.
Our education attorneys have broad experience handling student rights issues, such as access to student records, locker searches, dress codes, school district control over student newspapers and other forms of student speech. Moreover, our attorneys have expertise in the complicated area of student religious activities at school - religious clubs, distribution of religious materials, and students proselytizing on school grounds.
Our attorneys regularly represent school districts in student suspension and expulsion proceedings. In the course of a typical school year, our attorneys represent school districts in numerous student discipline hearings.
Numerous Firm attorneys provide special education services to school districts as part of the Firm's multi-state special education practice. Several attorneys devote all or a substantial part of their practices to counseling clients on special education matters and administrative hearing work before state-level hearing panels.
The Firm represents a number of special education cooperatives throughout Missouri and Illinois. In this capacity, the Firm's attorneys are regularly called upon to provide special education advice not only to the cooperatives themselves but, also, to the component school districts.
Our attorneys assist school districts in complying with the substantive and procedural requirements of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We also have extensive experience in resolving disputes between school districts and parents of disabled students under both IDEA and Section 504. Our special education experience spans the spectrum from basic administrative proceedings through complex litigation - including Office for Civil Rights investigations, due process hearings, state level review proceedings, and state and federal litigation culminating in settlement, trial, or resolution on appeal.
Our special education litigation experience also includes the defense of lawsuits challenging systemic special education programming. We have represented a school district in a class action suit brought by parents seeking systemic changes in the delivery of special education services throughout the district.
Firm attorneys work hard to deliver special education information in an informative yet understandable manner. Our attorneys regularly speak to national, regional, and state groups of attorneys and educators on special education law issues.
During the past few years, our Firm's special education attorneys have been hired to defend dozens of school districts in state-level administrative due process hearings. The Firm has successfully handled numerous due process hearings in both Missouri and Illinois.
Negotiations with Employee Groups
Our Firm's attorneys have extensive experience with the meet-and-confer process in Missouri, regularly advising school district clients on the process and assisting them with related legal issues.
Our attorneys have negotiated working agreements with unions representing classified staff in Missouri, and have been called upon to shepherd school districts' opposition to union organizing campaigns.
In Illinois, the Firm's lawyers bargain aggressively and effectively on behalf of the interests of public schools. The Firm's experience in representing Illinois districts in collective bargaining distinguishes our Firm from other law firms in Missouri. Our expertise gives our attorneys a unique perspective when advising Missouri school administrators and boards of education on the implications of collective bargaining on Missouri's public schools.
Our attorneys have prevailed on the merits of numerous labor arbitrations and unfair labor practice charges brought by Illinois teachers. Our attorneys have successfully represented many school districts in union representation elections and in bargaining with both certified and non-certified employee groups.
School Funding Issues
Firm attorneys have significant experience in representing educational institutions regarding funding and other finance issues. Our representation has included:
Opposing requests by not-for-profit corporations for property tax exemptions.
Obtaining the release of impounded protested tax monies for education clients.
Successfully challenging a law limiting the ability of political subdivisions in St. Louis and St. Louis County to make adjustments in their property tax rates to compensate for inflation.
Successfully challenging a statute passed by the Missouri General Assembly in 1991, which required Missouri school districts to provide early childhood special education, but did not fully fund the new requirement. The Missouri Supreme Court held that the State violated the Hancock Amendment by funding only ninety percent of the program.
Obtaining a Missouri Supreme Court ruling that the Hancock Amendment requires the State to maintain the same proportion of the cost of financing special education in local school districts as existed in 1980-81.
Successfully defending several educational entities against a Hancock Amendment challenge to the entities' annual adjustments to property tax rates.
Our education attorneys are frequently called upon to assist school districts in the area of election law. Our representation in this area has included such diverse areas as obtaining court orders to add, delete, or modify ballots involving bond issues, tax levies, and school board elections. We are frequently called upon to advise concerning campaign laws, financial disclosure, and nepotism issues. We have successfully litigated election law and financial disclosure matters in state courts and before the Missouri Ethics Commission.
Because our school district clients include some of the fastest growing school districts in the country, we have substantial experience in assisting districts in the acquisition of building sites. Our representation routinely includes advice on construction, architect, contractor, and construction matters. We are quite experienced in advising and negotiating TIF issues on behalf of client districts. Finally, we have also assisted districts in the disposal of surplus real and personal property.
AVOIDING LITIGATION BY INCREASING CLIENT AWARENESS
Our education attorneys pride themselves on their client training activities - training that is designed to increase client awareness of potential legal problems.
For the past fifteen years, our education attorneys have presented client seminars twice each year on current developments in school law. These comprehensive half-day programs (which are offered to clients at no cost) stress actual problems faced by school administrators and board members, and offer practical suggestions to reduce liability. One of the annual seminars is devoted exclusively to special education issues and the other to regular education. Another preventative law service (also free of charge to clients) is the publication of newsletters email groups, Missouri professional development consortiums, and MCASE.
Our commitment to continuous communication with our clients helps them know when they should call for legal advice. This advice often results in a substantial savings in legal fees by preventing problems and reducing litigation. Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt, P.C. is one of a select few firms nationally to provide these client-awareness services to school clients.
The law firm of Tueth, Keeney, Cooper, Mohan & Jackstadt P.C. has one of the largest and most successful education law groups in the country. The Firm regularly serves the legal counsel needs of approximately 150 school districts throughout Missouri.