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education

Conrad O’Brien attorneys routinely advise early education centers, charter schools, traditional public schools, Archdiocesan schools, private schools, and institutions of higher education on a host of matters vital to them, including state and federal enabling statutes, special education litigation, and other related litigation issues.

Conrad O’Brien’s attorneys also advise educational service providers in litigation that has state-wide impact. For example, the Firm represented Chester Community Charter School with respect to several enrollment cap litigations involving the Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Chester-Upland School District. We initiated declaratory judgment and injunction actions simultaneously in the Court of Common Pleas, Delaware County, Pennsylvania, and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania challenging the imposition of district-wide caps on the number of students who could enroll in the Chester-Upland School District’s charter schools. We were successful in obtaining a summary judgment order from the trial court declaring the enrollment caps illegal and enjoining their enforcement. After the District appealed the trial court’s decision to the Commonwealth Court, we were successful in obtaining an affirmance of the summary judgment order in a published en banc opinion. See Foreman, et al. v. Chester-Upland Sch. Dist., et al., 941 A.2d 108 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2008). These decisions were instrumental in prohibiting the unilateral imposition of enrollment caps on all charter schools in the Commonwealth.

Additionally, Conrad O’Brien advises school administrators and school boards on a variety of legal issues including:

  • School Code and Administrative Code compliance;
  • Commercial and employment litigation;
  • Special education issues;
  • Student discipline;
  • Operations (including drafting operational policies and policy manuals);
  • Contracts;
  • Accreditation and licensure of administrative and teaching staff;
  • Federal legal issues (NCLB/ESEA, IDEA, Section 504, USDOE regulations, Office of Civil Right investigations, antidiscrimination and constitutional issues);
  • Other administrative offices.

As part of Conrad O’Brien’s education practice, our attorneys regularly act as an outside solicitor to public and charter schools boards (brick and mortar/cyber) throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.  We have appeared on behalf of schools at administrative hearings before Pennsylvania Department of Education, Charter School Appeal Board, Office of Dispute Resolution, Office of Civil Rights, school district boards and charter school boards.

For charter schools specifically, Conrad O’Brien is one of the “go to” firms that represent school applicants – from the application drafting process through start-up operations. 

Conrad O’Brien also provides ongoing representation and consultation on competitive bidding and gift rule issues arising out of the federal Schools and Libraries Universal Service Support Mechanism program, more commonly known as E-Rate. The E-Rate program, the largest source of technology funding for K-12 schools in the United States, provides subsidies, or discounts, to assist schools and libraries in obtaining affordable telecommunications and Internet access.

higher education practice

Conrad O’Brien, led by Patricia Hamill, has a nationwide practice of representing and counseling college students nationwide who are subjected to campus disciplinary proceedings or who have been suspended, expelled from or otherwise disciplined by their colleges following campus disciplinary hearings for alleged sexual misconduct or other alleged Student Code violations.  Conrad O’Brien attorneys have undertaken such representations, oftentimes attempting to resolve the cases behind-the-scenes and avoid litigation, and, where resolution cannot be achieved, filing lawsuits against the colleges for breach of contract, Title IX or other civil rights violations, and tort on the basis that the college's investigation and adjudication procedures failed to ensure these students fundamental due process rights, discriminated against them on the basis of sex, and breached the school's contractual obligations with respect to its handling of misconduct allegations. 

  • Brought litigation against Brandeis University on behalf of a male student who was disciplined on sexual misconduct charges, after the student was accused by the university of sexual assault in the period leading up to and during a 21-month relationship with his former boyfriend.  The litigation was filed in federal court, asserting common law claims for breach of contract, negligence, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and equitable relief.  The Court issued a decision denying the university’s motion to dismiss, stating the student plausibly alleged “that Brandeis denied [the student] the ‘basic fairness’ to which he was entitled.”  Our client voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit in a Stipulated Dismissal, joined by Brandeis, as he felt vindicated by the Court’s 80+ page decision denying Brandeis’s motion to dismiss the case.  The investigation by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights continues into his complaint against Brandeis for violations of Title IX in the University’s handling of his disciplinary matter.  
  • Brought action against Swarthmore College on behalf of a student expelled in the wake of a disciplinary proceeding following allegations of sexual misconduct made against our client by a fellow student.  Instituted civil litigation in federal district court, asserting claims under Title IX as well as common law claims for breach of contract, negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and equitable relief.  Following the filing of the complaint, additional information became available, which both parties believed raised questions about the impartiality of the college judiciary panel that heard our client’s case.  The college agreed that the new information raised sufficient questions about the fairness of the hearing to warrant vacating the panel’s finding and sanctions.