Duff Freeman Lyon’s attorneys provide top quality, full-service, cost-effective legal representation to school districts and higher education institutions across the state. As a leading education law firm, we understand the challenges that arise in educational institutions. We routinely assist our clients in working with boards of trustees, employees, students, parents, outside agencies, and advocacy groups. While our attorneys provide wide-ranging, day-to-day advice and counsel to board members and administrators, we also are well-versed in handling matters that may evolve into litigation in state and federal courts. All of the attorneys at Duff Freeman Lyon believe in the power of education, and they work to ensure that educational institutions are provided the legal counsel they need to educate South Carolina’s future leaders.
School districts and higher education institutions frequently are the largest employers in their communities, and they deal with a range of personnel matters. Our attorneys regularly advise clients in advance of employment decisions or in response to an unexpected event. We are knowledgeable in applicable employment laws, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Wage and Hour Laws, and various other state and federal laws that affect employment. The firm’s attorneys counsel clients regarding hiring and termination of employees, documentation and evaluation, employee misconduct, drug and alcohol use policies, reductions in force, and illegal employment discrimination. Duff Freeman Lyon’ attorneys are experienced in representing districts and other employers in termination hearings, complaints to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the State Human Affairs Commission, and state and federal court actions. We also are able to review employee policies and handbooks to make suggestions for improvements or to provide training based on existing rules.
Duff Freeman Lyon’s attorneys have a depth of knowledge regarding special education matters that sets us apart from other firms in the State. Our Firm advises school districts and higher education institutions on the intricacies of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and state law and regulations regarding special education. Our attorneys provide day-to-day counsel on developing appropriate Individualized Education Plans (“IEP”) and 504 Plans, handling parent requests for services, and providing equal access to students with disabilities. Duff Freeman Lyon’ attorneys work cooperatively with parents and advocates to find solutions for students in the areas of eligibility determinations and testing, accommodations and modifications, restraint and seclusion, transition planning, and related services. Firm attorneys routinely attend IEP meetings and represent school districts in mediations, due process hearings, and special education cases that have been filed in state and federal court. Our attorneys also provide in-service training to teachers and administrators on a variety of topics affecting special education.
Providing high-quality public education involves much more than teaching students to read and write, and our attorneys are highly knowledgeable about legal issues surrounding students in schools. Issues with which our attorneys regularly assist clients include: discipline and expulsion; preventing and responding to bullying; providing free and reduced priced meals; working with parents in domestic matters such as child custody, parental rights, and child abuse; attendance and zoning; adopting textbooks and curricula; protecting student privacy under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act; providing safe and efficient transportation to and from school; assisting families pursuant to the McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act; and countless other needs. Our experienced attorneys can pinpoint legal issues quickly and accurately and address them with efficient and realistic solutions.
Our attorneys have the knowledge, capability and experience to address the issues peculiar to higher education institutions. In addition to employment, procurement and policy issues, our attorneys have handled board-administration relations, contract development, and employee evaluation and tenure issues.
Board and Administration Relations
Our firm understands that boards of trustees and administrators must work together to ensure the viability of an educational institution. Our attorneys regularly assist boards and administrators in understanding how they can cooperatively provide high-quality education services. Our firm advises and guides boards of trustees and administrators regarding various education law issues, including Freedom of Information Act requests, employment matters, working with families and students, and responding to local citizens. We also assist boards and administrators in preparing contracts for district officials.
School District Procurement and Construction
Procurement and construction can include massive undertakings, such as building schools, or small projects, such as procuring copiers. District officials must follow procurement rules through completion of the project, and problems can arise all along the way. Our attorneys have experience with a wide range of procurement and construction needs, including emergencies that require speedy resolution.
School districts and higher education institutions rely on well-drafted, workable, and enforceable policies to function efficiently and effectively. Duff Freeman Lyon’ attorneys help clients to recognize when policies need to be created or updated. We will provide drafts of policies and administrative rules that are in compliance with local, state, and federal laws, and implement those policies fairly and successfully.
Balancing the needs and interests of a public educational institution while respecting the rights and freedoms of local citizens can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Duff Freeman Lyon’ attorneys have the experience to guide clients in this task and regularly counsel school districts and higher education institutions on a wide-range of constitutional topics, including religious matters, freedom of speech, voting and election issues, search and seizure of students and their belongings, and interpreting state and federal laws and regulations related to education. Because violating constitutional protections can be expensive and damaging, our firm works to assist our clients in developing and utilizing policies and procedures that are constitutionally sound and in compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.
REAPPORTIONMENT AND ELECTION MATTERS
Duff Freeman Lyon’s attorneys counsel boards of trustees on elections, voting, and reapportionment matters. We help clients work with the state and local election commissions when planning and conducting elections, replacing board members, and getting preclearance from the United States Department of Justice before making changes to voting procedures or reapportioning voting districts.
One of the main goals of the attorneys at Duff Freeman Lyon is to help our clients prevent and avoid litigation through non-adversarial planning and cooperation. Unfortunately, though, litigation sometimes is inevitable. If necessary, we are experienced in representing school districts and higher education institutions before administrative agencies and state and federal courts. We strive to resolve complaints in the best interests of our clients. If early resolution is not possible, our experienced litigators zealously advocate for our clients.