Morton & Gettys attorneys help school boards, administrators, and boards of trustees navigate many of the issues and challenges unique to public and private education. Our diverse practice areas also qualify us to help these groups and institutions with wide-ranging and multifaceted legal needs beyond those specific to education.
Our education team, led by Elizabeth Smith Owen, has provided representation to public school districts, private schools, charter schools, and a junior college on a range of issues that include, but are not limited to, civil litigation and tort liability, capital construction, construction management contracts, the South Carolina Freedom of Information Act, the South Carolina Charter Schools Act, and the South Carolina Education Accountability Act. Our advice also covers constitutional issues, including but not limited to religious and freedom of speech and expression rights governed by the 1st Amendment for students and teachers, as well as 4th and 5th Amendments issues regarding searches and seizures of student property and associated due process laws relevant in these matters.
Each member of our team brings his or her own unique set of legal skills and experiences to bear upon the sphere of education, collaborating to provide comprehensive legal advice when consulting with school boards and administrators regarding policy development and modifications. We draft, amend, and propose policy changes when needed, and work with administrators to compose administrative rules designed to provide practical assistance in the implementation of policies.
We also provide continuing education presentations to education associations, school districts, administrators, and teachers about school-related law.
Bev Carroll, a Certified Employment Law Specialist, takes the lead in providing counsel to numerous public and private employers throughout South Carolina and North Carolina.
While we strongly encourage our clients to be proactive when it comes to personnel and employment matters, sometimes responsive action is needed. Morton & Gettys counsels employers in a variety of matters including severance packages, employment agreements, non-compete and confidentiality agreements and settlement agreements to successfully avoid litigation. When litigation is unavoidable, Morton & Gettys defends discrimination and wrongful termination claims, including both equal employment opportunity claims and unemployment claims.
Experienced litigator and Partner Dan Ballou leads the team in offering litigation counsel and services to education sector clients regarding a wide range of issues. As sensible litigators, we focus our efforts on achieving a settlement or negotiation outside of court. When that is not possible, we work with our clients to plan and implement strategies designed to provide thorough and zealous representation before a judge or jury.
Our firm provides knowledgeable, comprehensive and experienced legal advice to school districts in widely ranging property and real estate matters. Our real estate team, led by Josh Vann, works collaboratively with clients on real estate projects of all sizes from inception to completion, providing legal services and oversight throughout the process. We provide guidance on issues related to development and acquisition of property, leasing transactions, and dispute resolution in real estate matters.
Examples of Our Work
While the list below is not comprehensive, it illustrates the range of representation we provide our education sector clients:
- Advised school district clients with land acquisitions.
- Represented public charter school in approximately $35 million acquisition of school campus from landlord as part of the issuance of SC JEDA (Jobs-Economic Development Authority) bonds.
- Advised school administrators, teachers, and staff about liabilities associated with social media, school enrollment, and immunizations.
- Counseled school districts regarding general liability matters.
- Presented legal updates for school administrators, teachers, and employees, and advised districts with contract negotiations, employment matters, land acquisitions and sales, and general liability issues.
- Advised district administrators about student discipline matters, including suspensions and expulsions.
- Reviewed, drafted, and negotiated severance packages, to include non-disclosure agreements, non-compete agreements, and termination agreements; as well as employment packages, to include performance-based incentive agreements, confidentiality agreements, non-compete agreements and pension plans.
- Drafted legal communications for distribution to school administrators regarding various topics including issues affecting LGBTQ students, ADA compliance, and state and federal education law summaries.
- Represented a district in administrative hearings focused on matters such as tuition fraud, expulsions, school closings, and residency violations.
- Managed and ensured compliance with legal requirements regarding the education and discipline of students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
- Negotiated on behalf of a school district for resolution and collection of outstanding judgment for unpaid fees in lieu of taxes.