Higher Education and K-12
Goldberg Segalla offers an all-inclusive suite of services to clients in all parts of the education sector, including public and private colleges and universities, public and private K-12 schools, school districts and boards of education, boards of trustees, and others.
Like experienced educators, our attorneys have deep and diverse areas of specialization, and call on each other to meet all of our clients’ needs, providing truly comprehensive counsel.
Like experienced administrators, we know how to deliver that counsel efficiently and on a budget—eschewing Big Law practices that drive up billable hours and court costs, and opting instead to tailor services to clients’ needs and means.
With a team including former independent counsel to school districts and state-appointed reform commissions, former corporation counsel, and lawyers who previously worked in-house as college administrators, we provide superior understanding and exceptionally informed perspectives to the challenges facing educational institutions at every level.
We provide counsel to presidents, administrators, trustees, and staff on pressing issues including financing, governance, day-to-day operations, and ethics and regulatory compliance. With a team of attorneys drawing on deep backgrounds in higher education—including former Human Resources administrators and former general counsel to public universities—Goldberg Segalla brings to every client valuable knowledge of trends and current issues in higher education, an appreciation for budgetary restraints and priorities, and an inherent sensitivity to media exposure.
Serving public and private universities across several states, our attorneys offer counsel on the full range of concerns that educational institutions face, in areas including operations, governance, budgets and finances, academic affairs, labor and employment, business services and contract management, facilities, student and residential life, disability accommodations, student athletics, and regulatory agency compliance.
Student and Residential Life
We assist colleges and universities with student life matters, beginning with drafting and revising policies, procedures, and student handbook language for areas including:
- ADA accommodations
- Auxiliary services corporations
- Campus judicial procedures
- Campus safety and security
- Computer use
- Drug and alcohol use
- Human rights
- Residential life issues
- Sexual harassment and assault
- Student clubs
In the event that a student life matter proceeds to an external investigation or to litigation, we are fully prepared to counsel and defend our clients with the utmost tact and discretion.
Goldberg Segalla provides counsel to public school districts, private educational institutions, and charter schools on all current issues and needs arising in the primary and high school setting. Our attorneys have handled all aspects of litigation representing school districts, private schools and charter schools in both state and federal courts offering defense and counsel on the full range of legal issues that may arise, including liability issues, civil rights claims, student as well as employee disciplinary issues, and government investigations. In addition, our team has provided counseling to school district administrators on an array of labor and employment issues, including leave of absence administration, disciplinary action, workplace investigations, investigations into alleged harassment and discrimination and abuse, as well as legal issues affecting student privacy rights and disciplinary issues.
Our attorneys are known for defending and counseling schools, districts, and their administrators when the stakes are highest, and are frequently called upon to provide counsel when clients face the most complex matters, often involving overlapping issues of municipal, employment, traditional labor, civil rights, and other areas of the law. We have defended public and private schools, districts, and administrators in both state and federal court and before administrative agencies such as the National Labor Relations Board, state Public Employment Relations Boards, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, State Divisions of Human Rights, the federal Department of Labor, and state Departments of Labor. Our experience covers:
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act
- Civil rights violations
- Claims filed under the American with Disabilities Act
- Discrimination and retaliation
- Due process hearings regarding expulsions
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Negligent security
- Premises liability
- Rehabilitation Act
- School fights/assault
- School transportation issues including bus altercations
- Sexual abuse (between teacher and student as well as student and student)
- Sexual harassment and discrimination
- Sports injuries
- Students’ rights and discipline
- Teacher’s Disciplinary Hearings Including Classified and Certified Employees
Our attorneys advise public and private entities on best practices in corporate governance—with particular attention to the latest developments and trends affecting education at every level—and counsel committees and boards on their responsibilities, including their fiduciary obligations under applicable state laws, as well as board and committee composition and practices, codes of conduct, and conflicts of interest. We assist institutions during audits and review policies and procedures to ensure compliance with all applicable laws, including:
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
- Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- First Amendment issues
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA)
- Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA)
- Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act
- The Taylor Law
- Title IX
- Individual state privacy laws
- New York Civil Service Law
- New York Executive Law
- New York Public Officers Law
- New York State Tuition Assistance Program (TAP)
- Other statutes and regulations pertaining to education
We also have significant experience defending and guiding boards and administrators through internal and external audits and accreditations, including everything from the Middle States accreditation process to harassment and discrimination investigations by the federal Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to audits by state comptrollers.
We draft and review policies and procedures concerning ADA, Title IX, and civil rights law compliance, and train staff at all levels on responsibilities in these areas. Our attorneys are fully equipped and experienced to guide the provision of accommodations for faculty and students with disabilities and to ensure compliance with all anti-discrimination laws. We also have experience representing clients in administrative actions before regulatory and investigative bodies including:
- U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights
- U.S. Department of Justice
- U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
- New York State Division of Human Rights
- New York City Commission on Civil Rights
We have also handled litigation before federal and New York State courts, and are well-equipped to handle appeals, drawing on the robust services of our national Appellate practice.
Our attorneys defend institutions and administrators against employment-related matters such as employment discrimination, wage/hour issues, wrongful discharge matters, and constitutional claims. We regularly advise our clients in conflicts and litigation related to tenure, promotion, and termination of faculty and staff, with an unfailing sensitivity to the labor and employment concerns unique to the field. Our attorneys also provide proactive counsel and preventive policy development to avoid the cost and reputational damage of disputes before they can begin. We assist with all phases of the employment cycle, from drafting job descriptions through evaluation or termination. We provide our clients with ongoing guidance on the evolution and interplay of complex labor laws and leave of absence statutes, including the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, state workers’ compensation laws, military leave laws, New York Paid Family Leave, and more.
Goldberg Segalla is a renowned traditional labor law powerhouse. Our attorneys have considerable experience negotiating collective bargaining agreements between our clients and faculty and staff unions in both the public and private sectors. We advise clients regarding the interpretation and administration of collective bargaining agreements, represent employers in arbitration hearings, and appear on behalf of employers at all levels of the court system, as well as before the New York Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Our attorneys have experience negotiating contracts with faculty and administrators as well as blue-collar and white-collar units.
Negotiation and Administration of Collective Bargaining Agreements
Our negotiation experience includes subjects ranging from wages, health insurance, and employee health insurance contributions to the implementation of drug and alcohol testing policies, layoff procedures, outsourcing, and reductions in force.
Grievance Administration and Arbitration
Our team has experience administering collective bargaining agreements with faculty, blue-collar, white-collar, and police or security unions working at educational institutions. We have successfully reduced the amounts of grievances filed by the unions by instituting labor management meetings and working with administrators and officials to develop productive relationships with the unions. In addition, our team has prior experience and roles on governance and multidisciplinary committees providing additional useful perspectives when working with unions in the educational environment.
As a go-to firm for municipalities and public entities of all types, and a preeminent Employment and Labor firm practicing in New York State, we have represented many public school boards and districts statewide in matters involving Article 14 of the New York State Civil Service Law, known as the Public Employees Fair Employment Act (or Taylor Law).
Our team provides counseling and assistance to school boards on compliance with open meetings laws, creating and drafting educational and administrative policies and resolutions, and complying with evolving state and federal legal requirements. We frequently provide public school boards as well as public, charter, and private university and secondary school boards of trustees with day-to-day legal advice on issues impacting educational institutions.
The members of our Education team work closely with attorneys in the firm’s Construction and Real Estate Litigation practices to help our clients handle the construction, leasing, and real property projects and challenges that are unique to this sector. Our service begins with developing an understanding of each institution’s short-term goals and long-term objectives, with an eye toward how the construction, acquisition, sale, and leasing of properties fits into each client’s educational mission, strategic development initiatives, and budget. Our attorneys have helped institutions and boards monetize existing assets through leases of commercial real estate such as office space, parking lots, and radio and cell towers. We have also assisted clients in rezoning or securing variances for property; selling and acquiring property; and navigating estate proceedings for institutions named as beneficiaries of wills or trusts. In addition, we have teamed up with members of our nationally renowned Construction practice to assist at every stage of construction projects, from project inception, planning, and financing, through completion. We have successfully worked with institutions to negotiate Project Labor Agreements and work through contracts with service providers, providing counsel on recommended insurance and indemnification to manage and minimize risk.
A short list of our construction, leasing, and real estate services includes:
- Coverage investigation, response, recoupment, and litigation
- Equity analysis surrounding mortgages, property liens, and subrogation
- Litigation of lease disputes
- Lobbying efforts to resolve issues with prior governmental properties
- Project Labor Agreements
- Property conveyance negligence actions
- Real estate transfers under the Religious Corporations Law, membership agreements, partnerships, and not-for-profit corporations
- Representing institutional beneficiaries of real property bequests and donations
- Survey and property description errors
- Tax certiorari proceedings
- Title and priority issue litigation concerning property line disputes, mechanic’s liens, easements, notices of pendency, and adverse possession claims
- Transfer of ownership
- Zoning, rezoning, and variances
Cybersecurity is a leading emerging risk for professionals and institutions in every industry. The sheer volume of sensitive data that administrators and staff store and access, however, puts these education institutions particularly at risk—from outside attackers, insiders with access, and accidents borne of poor procedure and failures of compliance.
Our attorneys combine knowledge of cybersecurity and liability with a thorough understanding of the laws and regulations that uniquely apply to education institutions, providing guidance on compliance with privacy laws including:
- Electronic Communications Privacy Act
- Computer Fraud and Abuse Act
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- State privacy and security statutes and regulations
Partnering with Goldberg Segalla means partnering with thought-leaders in cybersecurity and emerging data risks. We offer powerful and sensitive defense in the event of a catastrophic data breach or leak leading to litigation or investigation—but our “defense” starts much earlier, with counsel on drafting and implementing data storage and access protocol and response plans that can evolve ahead of new threats, laws, litigation trends, and crises. For example:
- Data breach response on behalf of educational institutions, including coordinating with computer forensics to investigate the extent of the breach; analyzing individual notification and reporting requirements and handling all notice and reporting obligations
- Developing (or improving) incident response plans, including conducting table top exercises to help prepare institutions in the event of a data breach
- Analyzing data protection protocols in place for dealing with third-party vendors of various institutions; including developing data security and data privacy contract addendums to better protect institutions and shift potential liability to at-fault third parties
We know very well that damage to the reputation of an institution can impact both public and private schools. In situations involving litigation, investigations, controversial development projects, or labor disputes, public schools and boards of education may face intense scrutiny and pressure from the communities, political figures and public entities, labor unions, activist groups, and the media. Private schools may face complex challenges to student recruitment and retention, alumni donations, and even federal funding for years after an incident. We help our clients limit or eliminate liability and minimize reputational exposures through various established and innovative insurance and risk management procedures, such as auditing for internal compliance. We also bring years of experience in media relations and stakeholder communications in litigation and other high-stakes situations.
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