What's it like to work with F3?
You need complaints and allegations resolved quickly and with minimal disruption to your educational mission. Whether we’re providing training in how to conduct an investigation or performing the investigation with you as your partner, we are highly sensitive to the needs of everyone involved and the circumstances. And we believe trauma-informed investigations are much more effective than police-style interrogations.
What can F3 solve for you?
No institution is immune from complaints or allegations of misconduct, and schools are no exception. What happens after a complaint is lodged can make a huge difference in the outcome. If you are confronted with an allegation or complaint, our role is to investigate thoroughly and objectively (or help guide an investigation), find the facts, and to interpret those facts in accordance with the law. From there we can help you evaluate your options and determine the best course of action.
“At F3 Law we offer a strategic and rigorous approach to resolving complex legal disputes, conducting independent investigations, and ensuring fairness and due process in sensitive matters, while protecting the interests and reputation of our clients.”Alejandra Leon, Partner
Complaints and allegations of misconduct come from many directions. It might be as personal and sensitive as a sexual assault or as institutionally damaging as a misappropriation of funds. Schools and school districts depend on our experience in conducting thorough investigations or working closely with them as they conduct their own investigations – and then providing counsel on how to proceed based on the law and the best interests of the institution. Every county office of education, district, and charter school governing board is required to have complaint policies that describe the procedures that must be followed to resolve complaints. Other state and federal regulations apply, too, such as federal Title IX prohibitions against any form of sexual discrimination or harassment. The rules are complex, but F3 attorneys are well-versed in their application.
Our attorneys have conducted investigations and prepared investigative reports on a wide variety of complaints. We have conducted personnel and employment-related investigations including Public Employment Relations Board PERB unfair labor practice charges and California Civil Rights Department (formerly the Department of Fair Employment and Housing) discrimination and retaliation claims. Student expulsions, workplace violence, sexual discrimination or harassment by teachers or other students, bullying, employee misconduct, misuse of funds, interscholastic athletics issues, higher-education issues, violations of California’s Uniform Complaint procedures: these are just a few of the investigations we have conducted. But the work doesn’t stop there. Once an investigation is complete, what happens next entirely depends on the issue. Firing a teacher, for example, is a complex legal process with which we have assisted. We have represented districts in matters before the Office for Civil Rights and other agencies – and in litigation when necessary. In other words, we stay with you from the very start of a matter until it is completely resolved and closed.
Conducting trauma-informed investigations
When asked to conduct an investigation, our goal is not only to gather all of the necessary information, but to do so in what’s known as a “trauma-informed” manner. We meet with the complainant, identify the applicable policies (rules that apply), identify and interview witnesses, and gather any applicable documents in whatever form they exist. But we are not police and do not interrogate. Guiding principles of trauma-informed investigations include helping the witness feel physically and emotionally safe, letting the witness know that providing information is their choice, that they are collaborating in solving an issue, and that they are empowered rather than powerless. This approach is especially important in hyper-sensitive matters such as sexual abuse or other forms of assault.
Training districts on conducting internal investigations
F3 is known statewide – and even nationally – for our training programs. Schools and districts often prefer to conduct investigations internally but aren’t sure how to go about it in a manner that is compliant, thorough, and compassionate. We regularly offer training sessions for administrators, human resources professionals, and student services staff. We train on-site, in district offices, and in county offices. California joint power authorities (JPAs) bring us in to conduct workshops, as do the California School Board Association (CSBA), the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and other organizations.
When matters are in the public eye
Today, when allegations surface against an employee or a student for misconduct, the matter can find its way quickly into public scrutiny via the press, social media, or plain old gossip. Because reputations and much more may be at stake, our F3 client services and crisis management team is ready to jump in, advising schools and districts on handling the media as new reports come in, channeling media coverage, providing scripts for board members and administrators on what to say to the press, and developing clear messages for parents, students, and employees – all with empathy and compassion for those involved.