We are passionate about education. Each Miller Johnson attorney chose this field, just like our clients did, to support and foster future generations.
Our Education Law practice provides solutions to public and private school clients on the practical and legal facing educators.
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Our team has a deep reservoir of experience in the following specific areas:
Student Rights and Discipline
Student Discipline and School Code of Conduct are important elements in maintaining a safe and effective environment for teaching and learning. We lead investigations into reported student misconduct. We counsel administrators when conducting student discipline hearings and provide guidance on implementing discipline while protecting students, professors, teachers, and staff.
Labor and Employment Relations
We advise our clients in collective bargaining negotiations. This includes the content of proposals, strategies, mediation, fact finding and implementation. If requested, we are prepared to act as the chief spokesperson for the board. We also advise clients on the wide range of employee issues that arise in the school setting, from hiring to discipline and termination.
Special Education and Section 504
Disability law affects all aspects of any educational institution, from access to facilities and services to instruction and learning. The major federal and Michigan disability laws – the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) and Michigan’s Persons with Disabilities Act – are detailed, prescriptive and sometimes counter-intuitive. We have special expertise and experience with assisting educational institutions comply with disability law and defend against disability claims from parents, employees and students.
School Election and Financing Issues
We represent school districts in matters regarding campaign finance, voting rights, ballot filing, lobbying, bond and note transactions, millage proposals and renewals, ethics, advocacy rights, and real property use for political purposes.
Open Meetings Act and Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
We ensure compliance and provide strategic guidance so requirements are met regarding public notice, keeping minutes, creating access, and other regulatory permissible actions with sessions are adhered to.
Privacy Rights and Constitutional Issues
We work closely with our education clients to assure all rights are protected as stipulated in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. We guide our clients on First Amendment guarantees about religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.
Real estate decisions can have a tremendous impact on the growth, financial performance and long-term sustainability of academies, districts, colleges, and universities. Risk management associated with property acquisition and sales, land use, and financing and capital costs is becoming increasingly sophisticated. We represent clients on land use matters of all kinds, including zoning, planning, special use permits, variances and related local and state regulation.
Miller Johnson’s environmental experience extends from counseling on permitting, compliance, reporting and transactions to mediation and litigation of disputes in federal and state courts. We recognize that a vast array of concerns from storage tank regulations to land use restrictions to waste management, disposal and cleanup will continue to affect the operations of our clients. We can support the professional staff clients maintain to handle these issues or counsel and defend a client facing an environmental claim for the first time.
We have represented many school district clients in proceedings before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (“MERC”), including some of the leading cases decided by the agency. Our attorneys are regularly called up to present to professional groups regarding the law developing under the Public Employment Relations Act (“PERA”).
Other State and Federal Agency Representation
Our attorneys regularly represent clients before state and federal agencies regarding wage and hour claims, overtime disputes, work safety matters and unemployment compensation appeals.
Discrimination / Harassment
Miller Johnson represents employers charged with discriminating against or harassing an employee because of the employee’s race, gender, age, disability, religion or some other characteristic protected by law. At the administrative level we assist employers with responding to charges of discrimination or harassment filed by or with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and state equal employment agencies such as the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. At the litigation stage we represent employers sued in court based on charges of discrimination or harassment. We also counsel employers regarding how to structure their operations and manage their employees to avoid claims of discrimination.
Legal issues can arise even when you have taken all reasonable precautions. Allegations of sexual harassment made by one employee against another; concern that an employee is engaged in inappropriate conduct on or off site; disputes between employees premised on any number of situations; and complaints by students and parents are common. We are integrally involved in our clients’ strategic plans to draft, provide training, and implement effective anti-harassment policies and procedures, or review existing policies to ensure compliance with current legal standards. When needed, we conduct comprehensive, unbiased investigations of allegations of harassment and counsel clients on the appropriate remedial action to be taken if harassment or other inappropriate workplace conduct has occurred.
Revised School Code
Our team of education lawyers is well-versed and steeped in experience dealing with all aspects of Michigan’s Revised School Code Act.
We provide our clients with contract administration services in these areas: analysis of grievances filed by unions; preparation of responses to grievances and representation at grievance arbitration hearings.
We are active within the area of labor arbitration and have developed an excellent working relationship with the American Arbitration Association (“AAA”). We also have an excellent professional rapport with the local core group of labor arbitrators and have thorough insight regarding their reputations and predilections.
Teachers’ Tenure Act
We regularly advise our clients in meeting their obligations under the Teachers’ Tenure Act. We typically become involved early in determining whether a professional staff member should be continued in employment and offer guidance throughout the process. We draft all required documents for the school district. Where matters proceed to a request for a hearing, we have negotiated settlements in many matters and handled more than one hundred cases before the State Tenure Commission.
In representing our education clients, our attorneys have drafted and negotiated contracts covering a wide range of subjects, including real estate transactions, construction-related contracts (including contracts with architects, construction managers and general contractors), and more general agreements. We have been actively involved in all aspects of the privatization of services, including the development of Requests for Proposals (“RFPs”) and other related documents and working with our clients throughout the process.
General Business Matters
We represent clients in commercial agreements, entity formation, fiduciary duties of officers, joint ventures, licensure, zoning, taxation, and funding needs. Our attorneys assist clients in analyzing the terms and availability of competing sources of capital; structuring and negotiating investment terms with investors and lenders; preparing documentation; and complying with securities laws.
Employee Benefits and Executive Compensation
We help our education clients navigate the maze of nondiscrimination rules and legal requirements which apply to their employee benefit plans. We are adept at designing cafeteria plans that enable our clients to offer flexible benefit options and control costs simultaneously.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
Our team of attorneys are leaders in the area of Title IX, regularly providing in-servicing for school staff on all aspects of Title IX compliance, including the requirements introduced by the new regulations issued in 2020. Our group has compiled training videos, draft policies, and administrative guidelines, as well as offered comprehensive Title IX Coordinator training. Our group regularly works with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights on issues associated with Title IX compliance.
LGBTQ+ Students Rights
The education attorneys at Miller Johnson are recognized experts in the area of LGBTQ+ student rights, having been directly involved in landmark federal litigation with respect to same and having been invited by the State Board of Education to participate in the preparation of its Statement on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students. Our attorneys regularly present and provide in-servicing on this important topic.
Our attorneys have created Miller Johnson School Policy Services, which supports school districts and boards of education with comprehensive and legally-compliant bylaws, policies, and administrative regulations that are easy to understand and don’t require a forklift to carry around. Please visit our School Policy tab to find out more.