Zero Tolerance Policies
Many schools have strict zero-tolerance policies intended to keep learners safe from offenses related to violence and drugs. Unfortunately, while well-intended, these policies have unintended and negative consequences.
First, zero-tolerance policies disparately impact minorities and those with disabilities. According to the National Council of State Legislatures, African-American students represent almost half of prekindergarten suspensions, despite only 18 percent of enrollment. Furthermore, disabled learners are twice as likely to be suspended. Finally, while boys make up just over 50 percent of lear in preschool, nearly 80 percent of suspended students are male.
Suspension and Expulsion
Suspensions, even for minor offenses, impact the offending student. Their academic performance suffers, and future attendance goes down.
Expulsions cause more severe consequences. They have long-lasting impacts on the ability to pursue further education, and those expelled run afoul of the law more frequently.
The Role of the Education Attorney in Zero-Tolerance Policies
The education lawyer represents a suspended or expelled student by doing the following:
- Ensuring the due process is followed.
- Gathering evidence and negotiating settlements.
- Attending administrative hearings and filing petitions for judicial review.
On a broader level, education attorneys can lobby school districts and state governments for better refinement of zero-tolerance policies and laws.
Federal Civil Rights in Education
Since the 1960s, the federal government has passed many laws aimed at preventing discrimination in education. These include:
- Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
- Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
- Equal Opportunities Act of 1974
- Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1975
- Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Title VI, at 42 U.S.C. section 2000d et seq., provides:
“No person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This applies to the many universities and secondary schools that receive federal money. In Barnes v. Gorman, 536 U.S. 181 (2002), the Supreme Court held that Section 601 of this Act gives individuals a private right of action. Note that under this law from 1964, gender is not a protected class.
Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972
This law extended discrimination protection to gender. With some exceptions, it
“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
This legislation provides for a private right of action.
Equal Opportunities Act of 1974
This law extends discrimination protection to educational faculty and staff. It also targets students’ racial segregation and requires schools to break down barriers to equal participation.
Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
This law extends protections to the disabled in services that state and local governments provide. There is no requirement that the state and local services receive federal financial assistance. ADA allows private rights of action.
Enforcement of Civil Rights in Education
Many federal agencies enforce civil rights laws related to education. These include the United States Departments of Education and Justice.
Department of Education
This agency serves students that face discrimination from schools receiving Department of Education funding through its Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The mission of OCR is “to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence throughout the nation through vigorous enforcement of civil rights.”
Those who have been discriminated against may file a complaint with OCR. The procedure is as follows:
- Timeliness. You must file the complaint no more than 180 days after the last discriminatory conduct.
- Internal Remedies. The complainant is encouraged to resolve their grievances through the educational institution’s internal dispute resolution process.
- Retaliation. The educational institution may not retaliate against a student who files a complaint with OCR.
Department of Justice (DOJ)
The Civil Rights Division (CRD) of DOJ “works to uphold the civil and constitutional rights of all Americans,” and this includes rights in education. This division represents the government's interests when administrative proceedings (such as at OCR) appeal to federal court.
CRD’s role in this encompasses:
- Investigations. Upon receipt of information that a civil right in education has been violated, CRD initiates an investigation.
- Civil Proceedings. If the investigation warrants, the Assistant Attorney General for CRD authorizes a complaint in the U.S. district court.
- Intervention. CRD may intervene in educational discrimination cases of “general public importance.”
Employment Opportunities for the Education Lawyer with the Federal Government
The education attorney can work for federal agencies that enforce education discrimination laws, such as the Departments of Education and Justice. They investigate violations, engage in settlement discussions, seek administrative remedies, or resort to federal court to enforce education law.
Employment Opportunities in Private Practice
As an education lawyer in private practice, the lawyer can be retained by a school district or university to defend them in the enforcement actions taken by the federal government. This involves working with the agencies in a conciliatory role (e.g., settlement discussions) and adversarial role (administrative or court proceedings).
Alternatively, the education lawyer can represent students or others whose educational rights have been violated. Because of the limited rights of action at the federal level, the attorney may have to turn to state education discrimination laws.
State Civil Rights in Education
The federal government is not the only governmental entity involved in ensuring civil rights in education. The states play a significant role as well and often extend protections beyond their federal counterpart. For example, as a leader in recognizing LGBTQ rights, California enacted the Equal Restroom Access Act. Codified at California Health & Safety Code section 118600, it reads:
“All single-user toilet facilities in any business establishment, place of public accommodation, or state or local government agency shall be identified as all-gender toilet facilities by signage …, and designated for use by no more than one occupant at a time or for family or assisted-use…. For the purposes of this section, “single-user toilet facility” means a toilet facility with no more than one water closet and one urinal with a locking mechanism controlled by the user.”
In other words, single-use restrooms in California (including schools) are now designated for use by all genders and not specified for male, female, or other.
Education lawyers have similar opportunities at the state level – either working for government agencies enforcing the law or being retained by school districts or universities accused of violating the law.
Opportunities for the Education Lawyer in Education Reform
On a different note, education attorneys can play a role in shaping education through education reform. Tools for this include litigation, legislation, and local policies. The lawyer can file class-action lawsuits to drive change and help draft legislation.
How Do I Become an Education Lawyer?
There are many things an interested person can do to improve their chances of getting a job as an education lawyer.
First, consider an undergraduate degree in education or public policy. Then, make law school classes count—select courses in education law, children’s law, or similar family law subjects. Finally, take advantage of internship programs, which allow the experience to be gained in a specific area of law.
Once you’ve graduated from law school and passed the bar, you have the education and knowledge to be a successful education attorney.
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About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.
With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.
Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.
Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.
One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog, HarrisonBarnes.com, and BCGSearch.com, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.
One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.
Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.
In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.
Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.
In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.
About BCG Attorney Search
BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit www.BCGSearch.com.
Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom
You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays
You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts
You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives
Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.
Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.
To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.