School districts and state-supported colleges and universities have unique legal needs. 

As corporations, they are subject to many of the same legal duties and liabilities as other large corporations, such as equal employment statutes, environmental regulations, laws protecting disabled workers, responsibility for the negligent acts of employees, and rules governing the enforcement of contracts.

But because public schools, colleges and universities are also governmental subdivisions, they are required to comply with an array of laws that government agencies must follow, but other businesses do not, including provisions of the state and federal constitutions that protect the First Amendment and due process rights of students and employees, and the requirements of statutes covering open meetings, government ethics, freedom of information and competitive bids.

Complicating the legal environment of public education is the extensive body of law directed only at school districts and public higher education. Reflecting society’s great expectations for and investments in public education, these statutes, policies and rulings impose distinctive responsibilities on public schools and regulate almost everything they do, e.g., the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act, No Child Left Behind Act, Safe Schools Acts, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and laws governing the rights of school employees.

The sheer volume of school laws and regulations is formidable. The challenge of compliance is complicated by never-ending changes wrought by lawmakers, policymakers and adjudicators, both federal and state. At present the changes are arguably more wide-ranging and rapid than at any time in our nation’s history.

In our work for public education, Bowles Rice is committed to minimizing clients’ exposure to costly legal trouble, thus freeing education leaders to spend more time, effort and resources on what’s best for students.  Having been involved in almost every major legal controversy involving West Virginia public education for more than 30 years, our attorneys (some of whom devote their entire practices to school law) have earned the trust of governing boards, administrators and policymakers across the state.

Learn more about our full-service Education Law Group

Representative Published and Memorandum Decisions

  • Bowyer v. Fayette County Board of Education, No. 14-0261 2014 WL 6607691(2014) (filling aide/autism mentor vacancies)
  • Board of Education of Webster County v. Hanna, 234 W. Va. 196, 764 S.E.2d 356 (2014)  (voluntary resignation without duress)
  • Patterson v. Board of Education of the County of Raleigh, 231 W.Va. 129, 744 S.E.2d 239 (2013) (uniformity of pay and benefits)
  • Anderson v. Board of Education of the County of Gilmer, No. 11-1235 2012 WL 5834898 (2012) (student attendance areas)
  • Shumate v. Raleigh County Board of Education, No. 11-1298 2012 WL 4448747 (2012) (filling professional extracurricular assignments)
  • Watkins v. McDowell County Board of Education, 229 W.Va. 500, 729 S.E.2d 822 (2012) (employee discipline)
  • Martin v. Barbour County. Board of Education, 228 W.Va. 238, 719 S.E.2d 406 (2011) (modifying coach compensation)
  • Boards of Education v. Public Employees Insurance Agency, No. 11-0243 2011 WL 9373981 (2011) (OPEB)
  • Brown v. Cabell County Board of Education, 714 F.Supp.2d 587 (S.D. W. Va., 2010) (student speech)
  • Alderman v. Pocahontas County Board of Education, 223 W.Va. 431, 675 S.E.2d 907, (2009) (employee speech)
  • State ex rel. Board of Education of County of Putnam v. Beane, 224 W. Va. 31, 680 S.E.2d 46 (2009) (circuit court jurisdiction)
  • Jones v. West Virginia State Board of Education, 218 W.Va. 52, 622 S.E.2d 289 (2005) (homeschooled children and athletics)
  • Bragg v. Swanson, 371 F. Supp. 2d 814 (S.D.W. Va. 2005) (banning confederate flag t-shirts)
  • Board of Education of the County of Randolph v. Scott, 217 W. Va. 128, 617 S.E.2d 478 (2005) (hiring aides/LPNs)
  • Wines v. Jefferson County Board of Education, 213 W.Va. 379, 582 S.E.2d 826 (2003) (discharging substitutes)
  • City of Benwood v. Board of Education of the County of Marshall, 212 W.Va. 436, 573 S.E.2d 347 (2002) (school closing)
  • State ex rel. McGraw v. Burton, 212 W. Va. 23, 569 S.E.2d 99 (2002) (higher education legal counsel)
  • Baker v. Hancock County Board of Education, 207 W.Va. 513, 534 S.E.2d 378 (2000) (continuing versus probationary contracts)
  • Stewart v. Alsop, 207 W.Va. 430, 533 S.E.2d 362 (2000) (venue of actions against State Board)
  • Flint v. Harrison County Board of Education, 207 W.Va. 251, 531 S.E.2d 76 (1999) (uniformity of employee benefits)
  • Karr v. Board of Education of County of Jackson, 2003 W.Va. 100, 506 S.E.2d 355 (1998) (filling teacher vacancies)
  • Pendleton Citizens for Community Schools v. Marockie, 203 W.Va. 310, 507 S.E.2d 673 (1998) (rural school consolidation)
  • Ronnie Lee S. v. Mingo County Board of Education, 201 W.Va. 667, 500 S.E.2d 292 (1997) (exhaustion of IDEA remedies)
  • Leake by Shreve v. Berkeley County Board of Education, 965 F.Supp. 838 (N.D.W.Va., 1997) (IDEA statute of limitations)
  • Phillip Leon M. v. Greenbrier County Board of Education, 199 W.Va. 400, 484 S.E.2d 909 (1996) (alternative education)
  • Peck v. Upshur County Board of Education, 941 F. Supp. 1478 (N.D.W. Va. 1996) (distributing religious literature)
  • Hanson v. Mineral County Board of Education, 198 W.Va. 6, 479 S.E.2d 305 (1996) (settlement agreements between school boards and employees)
  • Boner v. Kanawha County Board of Education, 197 W.Va. 176, 475 S.E.2d 176 (1996) (independent contractors)
  • Byrd v. Mercer County Board of Education, 196 W.Va. 1, 467 S.E.2d 142 (1995) (excess levies)
  • Doe v. Alfred, 906 F. Supp. 1092 (S.D.W. Va. 1995) (exhaustion of administrative remedies under IDEA)
  • State ex rel Board of Education of Kanawha County v. Caperton, 190 W.Va. 652, 441 S.E.2d 373 (1994) (governor’s restoration of budget cuts)
  • Triggs v. Berkeley County Board of Education, 188 W.Va. 435, 425 S.E.2d 111 (1992) (professional employee seniority)
  • Board of Education of County of Wood v. Enoch, 186 W.Va. 712, 414 S.E.2d 630 (1992) (extended year employment)
  • State ex rel. Melchiori v. Board of Education of County of Marshall, 188 W.Va. 575, 425 S.E.2d 251 (1992) (professional RIF “bumping”)
  • Lincoln County Board of Education v. Adkins, 188 W.Va. 430, 424 S.E.2d 775 (1992) (teacher planning periods)
  • Winkler v. State School Building Authority, 189 W.Va. 748, 434 S.E.2d 420 (1990) (School Building Authority bonds)
  • Brown v. Wood County Board of Education, 184 W.Va. 205, 400 S.E.2d 213 (1990) (teacher evaluations)
  • Keith D. v. Ball, 177 W.Va. 93, 350 S.E.2d 720 (1986) (student discipline)
  • Thomas v. Staats, 633 F.Supp. 797 (1985) (statute of limitations)
View Expanded