What Kind of Lawyer Handles Lawsuits against Schools?

By Courtney Ryan ; Updated May 31, 2017
Parents working with an education lawyer

An education lawyer can represent you if you wish to file a lawsuit against a school. Education law attorneys typically handle such matters as student rights, student discipline, bullying, harassment and how the school is governed. However, the type of lawyer involved in a lawsuit against a school district depends upon the type of the lawsuit and the scope of the matter. Particularly with large or overly complex cases, more than one attorney representing different areas of legal expertise may be retained.

Lawyers for Parents and Students

Lawsuits brought by parents and students against a school district could be anything from a slip-and-fall case to a violation by the school district of local, state, or federal statutes. You'll need to hire a lawyer that specializes in the type of legal problem you're experiencing. For example, if your child has been injured on school premises, you may need to hire a personal injury lawyer. If you think your child is being bullied, you'll need an education lawyer. If the school has violated your admissions agreement, you may have a claim for breach of contract and will need a contracts lawyer.

Union Representation for Staff

Lawsuits between a school district and its employees typically fall under collective bargaining agreements and so will be handled by an attorney working for the teacher's union. In addition, union attorneys are frequently used in the course of negotiating a collective bargaining agreement. When the union and the school district are unable to reach agreement through negotiation or arbitration, the agreement occasionally proceeds to the courts, where a union attorney will represent the district's employees.

Lawyers for the School District

A law firm is generally retained to defend a school district against a lawsuit. A law firm holds the advantage of having many attorneys to draw on for expertise. For instance, some law firms have attorneys that specialize in education law and so are well practiced in defending school districts. In some lawsuits, law firms will also provide attorneys with litigation expertise to assist in court, especially in large complex cases like class action suits.

School District Counsel

Occasionally a school district will retain an individual attorney who serves in a legal capacity for a school district. The school district will pay for the legal services directly without going through a law firm. Counsel hired by the district usually handle smaller lawsuits involving simpler laws, such as open records requests or procedural questions for school board meetings. However, these attorneys may also advise on more complex lawsuits, typically with the assistance of a legal firm.

About the Author

Based in Wisconsin, Courtney Ryan has been writing since 2005. She has been published in "The Motley" literary magazine and has provided private research for various businesses and organizations. With a background in education and economics, Ryan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Spring Hill College and a Master of Arts in the social sciences from the University of Chicago.