McLane Middleton's education group represents a large number of colleges and independent schools in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, and provides consultation and training services to schools and school associations in New England and nationwide. The Group has extensive experience in understanding the unique nature of the governance of educational institutions as well as in handling difficult issues that may arise such as relating to tax exempt status, restrictions on endowment, faculty compensation and tenure issues, and student discipline, to name a few.
Because education law requires multidisciplinary depth and knowledge, attorneys in the group are drawn from a wide range of legal areas, including business, administrative, employment, health care, immigration, litigation, and taxation law. Our focus and dedication to the needs of this industry is unparalleled.
Representing colleges and independent schools in all aspects of operations, the education group advises on a wide range of issues, from administration, employment and fiscal matters to risk management, managing and defending personal injury claims, training, regulatory compliance and immigration issues. We have significant experience counseling schools on risk management issues, including conducting training programs on such matters as reporting laws, sexual harassment, hiring and firing, performance management, and professional boundaries for teachers. Our attorneys conduct internal investigations and should the need for litigation arise, McLane Middleton's seasoned litigation attorneys represent schools before federal and state courts, as well as governmental agencies.
Examples of the broad spectrum of services we provide to our education clients include:
- Risk Management and Counseling: We provide day-to-day counseling assistance on every aspect of school operations, such as faculty performance management, terminations, investigations and leave of absence issues. We also provide counseling regarding student matters, such as student discipline, leave of absence and tuition issues. We also assist in drafting student and employee policies and documents such as handbooks, enrollment agreements, employee contracts and permission slips.
- Trainings: We train school human resources personnel and managers on avoiding wrongful discharge and discrimination claims, hiring to firing strategies, and conducting investigations. Our education group provides risk management training for key administrators working with students on high risk issues such as student misuse of social media (including sexting), acquaintance rape and underage sexual relations, and drug and alcohol abuse. We train school health care providers on high risk issues such as dealing with students and their parents about eating disorders; managing psychotropic medications for students; balancing the need for information sharing; and confidentiality and privacy protections. We also provide trainings on all aspects of safe schools such as preventing and responding to harassment, hazing, bullying, abuse reporting and mandatory reporting obligations. Our attorneys create and tailor workshops to fit the unique needs or interests of the school. Among our popular programs are: "Your Role in Maintaining a Safe School Environment," "Setting and Maintaining Appropriate Boundaries with Students," and "Coaching Legally and Safely."
- Student Issues: We routinely respond to student and parental complaints about discipline, and provide training on how to prevent hazing, harassment and other misconduct and how to respond to such claims. We advise schools on compliance with mandatory reporting laws and dealing with the police about student criminal behavior.
- Crisis Response: McLane Middleton is experienced at dealing with virtually every kind of crisis a school might experience. These include natural disasters such as severe flooding, tornadoes, and ice storms and the resulting damages to school facilities, operations and infrastructure. We also assist schools in responding to discovery of extreme misconduct toward students and employees by current or past employees. We assist schools in responding to, identifying and investigating financial misdealing and other types of fraud.
- Litigation: McLane Middleton is a regional leader in litigation involving education institutions. We handle all types of litigation against schools and their employees, including employment, environmental, criminal, construction, and insurance litigation.
- Criminal: We assist schools in dealing with the police and prosecutors when students are arrested. We assist in arranging for defense counsel for students and, as needed, in dealing with the parents of the arrested students.
- Probate/Cy Pres: Our education group attorneys assist schools in evaluating whether gifts and bequests require modification due to changed circumstances and obtaining court approval for necessary changes.
- Intellectual Property: We routinely assist schools with intellectual property matters, such as how to best protect their valuable intellectual property rights as well as how to avoid infringing the rights of others. In the area of trademark protection, we secure U.S. protection/registration of school names and crests/logos (service marks). In addition to protecting the school's name/logo for educational services, we advise and assist schools with expanding trademark protection to various school publications, clothing and other merchandise (trademarks). Federal registration provides important remedies that help protect the school's name and crest/logo from third party misuse and infringement. We also advise schools on copyright matters, including securing copyright ownership and infringement matters. Every day, schools create copyrightable works and use third party protected works. Schools need to know how to secure rights and avoid infringement claims in the copyright area. Learn more about the firm's intellectual property practice group.
- Governance: Our attorneys counsel several independent schools relating to their governance matters, including updating Bylaws, ensuring compliance with state and federal non-profit regulations and filings, as well as establishing gift acceptance and conflict of interest policies. Our attorneys have served as former board chairs and long-term members of the board of trustees of independent schools and, as a result, have unique insight to the issues and oversight responsibilities of trustees of independent schools. In addition, McLane Middleton attorneys have chaired the search committee for a Head of School, including the creation of the position description, interview and decision making process, as well as the crafting of an employment contract.
- Environmental Issues: Campus growth and real estate projects can result in environmental issues. Our team has assisted in environmental auditing as well as compliance work including hazardous waste and asbestos issues.
- Health Care: We assist on a broad array of health care matters, including: compliance with all relevant state and federal laws and regulations for school health care centers; drafting and negotiating employment agreements for health care providers; handling such issues as licensure of facilities and individuals; confidentiality; consent forms; and general risk management regarding the provision of health care services.
- Immigration: We assist private schools in coping with international faculty and student immigration issues. This includes helping schools to qualify for participation in the Student and Exchange Visitor Program; assisting foreign students with Consular Processing applications for student visas; advising parents and families of foreign students on options for visits; attending graduations; helping obtain non-immigrant visas petitions and green cards for faculty; dealing with summer program visitor visa applications; I-9 compliance; E-verify electronic employment verification program enrollment; and J-1 Exchange Visitor Program sponsorship. Learn more about McLane Middleton's immigration practice group.
- Corporate Bond Financing: Our education group has represented New Hampshire private secondary schools and colleges as Institution counsel in public and private bond financings in the New Hampshire Health and Education Finance Authority's annual aggregated tax-exempt bond offerings. We have also represented private secondary schools in NHHEFA public and private single-institution offerings.
McLane Middleton attorneys are members of NAIS (the National Association of Independent Schools), ISANNE (the Independent School Association of Northern New England), AISNE (The Association of Independent Schools in New England), the National School Boards Association, and the New Hampshire Council of School Attorneys. We are also involved in activities for the Nonpublic School Advisory Council, the New Hampshire School Administrators Association and the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.