Careers in School Law
Most public school districts are multi-million dollar entities. The school attorney (whether in private practice or as an employee of the district) acts as corporate counsel, and advises the school board and the school administration on contract and general business affairs, human resource and collective bargaining issues, state and federal constitutional provisions, state and federal statutory issues, and case law that may impose liability on the school district. School attorneys represent kindergarten through 12th grade elementary, middle, or secondary level public schools, but some also advise community colleges and universities.
On any given day, the school attorney might find himself/herself advising a public school board client about separation of church and state issues such as the constitutionality of teaching “intelligent design” and/or evolution; investigating an allegation of sexual harassment of a student by a school staff member; meeting with a committee of school personnel and parents about the educational programming of a student with a disability; arguing a case about student dress codes in federal court; or researching and drafting a school board policy on state open meetings laws. School attorneys have the opportunity to be involved in some of the most significant legal issues of our time.
A number of Supreme Court decisions involving public schools have had a major impact on the history of the United States:
- Brown v. Board of Education – the Court abolished segregated schools, setting our nation on the course of fully integrating our society.
- PICS v. Seattle School District – the recent race conscious student assignment plan case, may reverse the impact of Brown and hamper efforts to achieve diversity in the classroom.
- Tinker v. Des Moines School District – unofficially known as the “black armband case,” brought into question a public high school student’s right to wear a black arm band to protest the Vietnam War.
- Morse v. Frederick – better known as the “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” case, further refined the vast number of permutations on the topic of student free speech.
A career in School Law offers a wide array of vibrant and exciting issues. Many will make a significant impact on the law of the land.
Is a career in School Law right for you?
This brochure from the Council of School Attorneys discusses the facets of School Law, provides free resources for law students investigating careers in
school law, and lists some of the many career opportunities available in the field.
About School Lawyers
Excerpts from Selecting and Working with a School Attorney: A Guide for School Boards. Provides general information about the different facets of legal services to school boards, such as fee structures, the role of the school lawyer, and preventive law.