What's it like to work with F3?
The best way we know to address problems is to teach you how to prevent them. The best way we know to treat everyone in every matter is with respect, compassion and flexibility as we work to find your best path forward in each unique situation.
What can F3 solve for you?
Balancing schools’ rights and responsibilities with students’ rights and responsibilities is always challenging, but getting it right is an important part of achieving your mission. From how you handle the biggest Constitutional issues to how you respond to an individual student’s behavior, F3 attorneys can guide you through the most complex challenges schools face today.
“Students have a right to a safe and inclusive learning environment, free from discrimination and harassment. Our attorneys assist our clients in upholding these rights and prioritizing the educational needs of students while at the same time ensuring that our clients remain in compliance with applicable laws, regulations, and policies.”Melanie Larzul, Partner
F3 has become one of the most respected and called-upon education law firms in both California and the nation in part because our practice is comprehensive – assisting with everything schools and students do, from the business side of running schools to ensuring they are safe, effective places for education to happen. Much of schools’ success depends on everyone’s understanding and adherence to the rights and responsibilities that come with their role. Students are responsible for respecting the institution, the people who are there to help them learn, the processes in place, and each other. They also have the right to expect their rights will be acknowledged and respected. Schools are responsible for even more, including – apart from academic matters – ensuring the safety of their students and knowing their own legal requirements and limitations, while respecting students’ legal rights. Depend on F3 to guide you through any issue, large or small, that touches on student behavior and discipline, student rights, and the responsibilities schools have regarding both.
Tension between the need to maintain necessary order in schools and the legal rights of students has always been with us. The two are inextricably linked, and their interplay has been exacerbated in recent years as we’ve seen both an increase in student misconduct and an increase in laws asserting students’ rights. Schools have pushed hard to maintain attendance and increase graduation rates at the same time misconduct has increased in frequency and severity. More use of independent study programs has brought with it an increase in cheating. Inappropriate social media use such as bullying and sexual harassment have been on the rise, as well as actual physical misconduct, such as defiance, vandalism, assaults, and weapons on campus. Conversely, students have rights regarding due process, representation, appeals, first and fourth amendment rights, and many more, with which schools need to be both aware and compliant. Both for policy development and application and individual occurrences requiring an immediate response, F3 attorneys are ready to advise you on what you may, may not, and should do.
Rights, responsibilities, and the laws that govern them
A broad and growing range of laws govern the relationship between schools’ obligations and limitations and the rights of students to a safe school, due process, free speech, privacy, and access. These include federal legislation such as Title IX, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Gun-free Schools Act, and the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act – to name just a few. The U.S. Constitution’s First and Fourth Amendments, too, affect students’ rights and schools’ limitations. California has the California Education Code, the Safe Schools for Safe Leaning Act, and requirements regarding school choice, enrollment and transfer, attendance and truancy, transportation, notifications, and more, along with state and local criminal and other laws. Every day, F3 attorneys respond to questions, provide compliance guidance, and help districts work through challenges and claims that these laws have been breached. The mandate of educators is teaching; F3’s mandate is keeping them focused on doing just that.
The evolving question of student discipline and school authority
What students may be disciplined for, who is responsible for disciplining students, and what form that discipline may take are questions every district grapples with daily. Where is the line between First Amendments rights and safe speech on social media? Do schools have the right to regulate student posts? Can schools regulate student journalism? Where does the authority of schools to define inappropriate student behavior begin and end – at the school door, on the bus, in the parking lot, at away sporting events, in cyberspace? When and how can students be suspended or expelled, and what are their rights to representation and due process? When should law enforcement be brought in? Because laws and regulations that govern these matters never stop evolving, and each issue you face is unique and fact-dependent, it takes counsel thoroughly steeped in school law to guide you.
When conflicts lead to adjudication
When a claim is made against a student by a school district or another student, it’s the district’s responsibility to ensure both privacy and due process as the law requires. We work closely with and support districts throughout the entire adjudication process, including investigations, engaging with law enforcement, expulsion hearings, and the appeals process when needed. In administrative hearings and in court, our attorneys are at your side. In some matters, such as harassment, bullying, and some other violations, rather than simply expelling students, districts may choose to engage in “restorative justice,” bringing a victim and a perpetrator together to make the perpetrator understand how his or her actions have affected others. It’s not a simple process and requires training for districts that want to use this approach. F3 can help districts become trained in this growing form of conflict resolution.
Educating the educators
We believe the key to effectively preventing problems is to ensure school districts have the right information and training – not only regarding today’s issues, but looking around the corner, too. Our presentations and training workshops for school districts, county offices of education, and professional groups have covered a wide range of issues, always customized to meet the specific needs of the district or organization. We have provided training on the following and much more:
- Uniform Complaint Procedures investigations
- Conducting student misconduct investigations
- Navigating the expulsion process
- The legal basics of student discipline
- Students and the first amendment
- Non-discrimination in the classroom
- Custody and parental rights
- Individual Education Program (IEP) roles and responsibilities
- Preventing bullying in the classroom
- Gender issues and the rights of LGBTQ+ and nonconforming students
The “Student Discipline Guidelines” document F3 attorneys developed is a handy reference tool on student disciplinary matters in California schools.