Top Five Education and School Law Issues – Advice from an Education Lawyer
As an attorney practicing education and school law in Florida, I am contacted by many students and parents of students facing problems. Below are five of the most common issues I hear and some advice on what to do if you are faced with any of them.
1. My Child Was Suspended But I Don’t Agree
This issue routinely comes up concerning elementary, middle and high school students. If your child was suspended and goes to public school he or she is entitled to Due Process. That usually means they are entitled to notice of the charges, an opportunity to provide an explanation or defense, and an appeal. Individual school districts normally outline their policy and steps in a district handbook. Consult these rules right away as there are normally short time periods in which to grieve or appeal a suspension.
2. I’m Being Bullied But the School Is Not Doing Anything About It
Another issue normally seen in middle and high schools. Florida Statute § 1006.147 prohibits bullying and harassment. “Bullying” includes cyberbullying and means systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt or psychological distress on one or more students. Bullying may include:• Teasing; • Social exclusion; • Threat; • Intimidation; • Stalking; • Physical violence; • Theft; • Sexual, religious, or racial harassment; • Public or private humiliation; or • Destruction of property.By law, schools must address and stop bullying. If a school is ignoring such a situation, they are violating the law.
3. My College Won’t Release My Transcripts Because They Say I Owe Money
If you legitimately owe money to a college or university in order to get you to pay they can hold your transcripts or defer awarding you a degree. However, many times the school makes this claim in error. Whether it be financial aid that was not properly credited, a class that was dropped but the school still had you on the books as enrolled, or some other mistake, mistakes happen. Unfortunately many times you will need an attorney to get the school’s attention and make them realize its mistake.
4. I’m a Teacher and I’m Being Investigated by the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE)
Your school has called you into the administration office. You are accused of doing some kind of wrongdoing and it will be reported to the Florida Department of Education (FLDOE). If what you are being accused of is criminal – get a lawyer ASAP and don’t give a statement! If it’s something else, I still think you should get an attorney and not speak to a Department investigator. The investigator will gather up evidence, present it to you and then present it to the Department. At that point a decision will be made whether or not there is probable cause to move forward with a hearing. If nothing else remember this – these people are not your friends. Don’t fall for it and think that if you just cooperate all will be fine. Get a lawyer. It’s your career after all.
5. My University is Bringing Me Before an Academic or Professionalism Committee
This is not a good thing. It means that you will surely face some sort of discipline which could include a suspension or even expulsion from the program. All schools have a procedure that outlines the process. Check your school’s handbook and make sure you follow the time limits. While no one can stop you from hiring an attorney, it is not uncommon for schools to exclude or limit an attorney’s involvement. For example, many times an attorney can accompany you to a hearing but cannot be with you during the hearing or may not speak. Don’t fret, you should still hire an attorney. He or she can prepare you for the hearing by going over the evidence with you, help you prepare your defense, and scrutinize the handbook to make sure there are no procedural issues that the school has violated.Richard Asselta is a Florida education lawyer and the founder of Asselta Law, PA, located in Broward County, Florida. Asselta Law concentrates on Education and School Law, as well as Appeals. Mr. Asselta is a former attorney for a large public school district. He draws upon the knowledge gained from the other side of the table to work with teachers and students on legal issues in all education settings. Asselta Law represents clients throughout the state of Florida and the United States. Contact ustoday for a free consultation. Credit cards accepted. Affordable payment plans available.