Our Reputation
Ranked #1 in West Virginia school law by Best Lawyers in America, Bowles Rice has provided legal services to each of the state’s 55 county boards of education, all eight of its RESAs, each West Virginia multi-county career center, the West Virginia Department of Education, the Center for Professional Development and various institutions of higher education. 

For 25 years, Bowles Rice has advised and represented the West Virginia School Board Association. Its members know us as the lawyers who teach the “school law” segment of the required orientation for newly elected and appointed members of county boards of education. 

During the past decade, hundreds of school administrators and their staffs have enrolled in our Signature Series workshops, where they received focused school law instruction in an interactive, small group setting. 

Bowles Rice lawyers are often invited to speak at educators’ annual conferences and meetings. During the summer months, school boards across the state engage us to lead back-to-school workshops for administrators, teachers and service personnel. Policymakers at the state and local levels regularly request our input.

More than 700 school board members, school leaders and their staff members subscribe to our quarterly education law eNewsletter and our annual publication, Highlights of West Virginia Legislation Affecting Public Education.

Bowles Rice has good working relationships with the associations that represent school employees. Our managing partner, Tom Heywood, is a recipient of the West Virginia Education Association’s Mary Baldwin Friend of Education Award for his leadership and support of education at the state level.

Our Capabilities
Bowles Rice is a full-service law firm, offering all the services required by school boards and other institutions of public education.

We advise and represent school clients on the full spectrum of personnel issues. Our law firm has defended county boards of education in more West Virginia Public Employees Grievance Board proceedings than anyone else. 

Our practice also covers the legal aspects of special education. Bowles Rice attorneys work closely with special education directors throughout the state to develop responsible solutions to issues they confront.

School districts turn to us for representation and advice about student discipline, citizen appeals, constitutional questions, business operations and school finance, including bond issues. We draft and review policies and contracts. Our firm often deals with Title IX, the Governmental Ethics Act, Open Governmental Proceedings Act, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Freedom of Information Act and the pecuniary interest statute. We also assist with superintendent and president selection and contracts.

Bowles Rice attorneys regularly appear in state and federal courts. We have participated in many cases that had a substantial impact on education and education law in our state. 

Our Education Law Group
Four Bowles Rice lawyers lead our education law practice: Rick Boothby (a former public school teacher), Kim Croyle (named by Best Lawyers as 2015 Lawyer of the Year for Education in northern West Virginia), Howard Seufer, Jr. (named by Best Lawyers as 2016 Lawyer of the Year for Education in the metro area encompassing Southern West Virginia) and Rebecca Tinder (former general counsel to the West Virginia State Board of Education).

All four lawyers belong to the National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys, the Education Law Committee of the West Virginia State Bar and the National Association of College and University Attorneys. To keep abreast of school law developments, they attend national conferences on school law issues. They also maintain a large collection of school law research materials, including some special databases that, to our knowledge, no other law firm maintains.

Education clients gain direct access to an array of additional legal services at Bowles Rice. All the Bowles Rice practice areas are committed to helping school clients. The other practice areas most frequently accessed by county boards of education and higher education are listed under "Related Practice Areas."

Our Commitment to School Clients
Bowles Rice actively supports public education. We volunteer hundreds of hours for education each year. Some attorneys and staff are Read Aloud volunteers. Others mentor and e-mentor students. Rebecca Tinder coordinates the statewide We the People Program in West Virginia. The firm is a partner in education with several schools. It underwrites programs to improve education outcomes for students, including the annual West Virginia Education Summit.

On an individual level, we place a high priority on client access, providing our education clients with information they can use to contact our attorneys 24/7. Our education lawyers adjust their schedules to meet the needs of school districts, often working after hours when most school boards meet. Always willing to travel to attend hearings and meetings, we also try to identify opportunities to save travel expense by using video applications and other cost-saving technologies.

Another emphasis at Bowles Rice is on understanding our clients’ operations.  This helps us to identify issues before they mushroom into legal controversies. It also enables our lawyers to offer advice, not in “legalese,” but in practical terms that make sense to our clients.

Our advice also recognizes the public consequences of our clients’ actions. Bowles Rice attorneys advised school districts during the 1990 teachers’ walkout. We filed suit and sat at the table with state leaders to find a path to relieve school boards of billions of dollars in unfunded OPEB liability. Our lawyers have been in the thick of contentious school closings, the state’s intervention in troubled school systems, difficult reductions-in-force, and the occasional, but challenging crisis in board/superintendent relations. These kinds of experiences help us aid school districts with the complex issues they face today.

The Bowles Rice Signature Series Workshops for Public Education Leaders and Their Staffs
Bowles Rice produces the invitation-only Signature Series workshops for West Virginia public education leaders and their staffs. The all-day sessions provide focused legal education in an interactive, small group setting

Now in the 14th year, the workshops teach how to avoid legal missteps, and how to spot and address significant legal issues at an early stage. We cover best practices and practical action steps, arming our guests with explanatory materials, checklists and forms.

Because we restrict group size, attendees have ample time to discuss the issues, ask questions and network with one other.

Workshop topics are annually chosen from surveys of school administrators and input from our lawyers who advise and represent school districts. View the full list of workshop titles for 2013-2016, here.

Representative Published and Memorandum Decisions

  • Monongalia County Board of Education v. American Federation of Teachers – West Virginia, AFL-CIO, No. 15-0662,  2016 WL 6560057 (2016) (RESA interventionists in the schools)
  •  Yatauro v. Calhoun County Board of Education, No. 15-0903, 2016 WL 5030280 (2016) (state-ordered contract reductions without hearings)
  • Lemasters v. Jackson County Board of Education, No. 15-0339, 2016 WL 2977336 (2016) (teacher duty outside the school day)
  • Adkins v. Cabell County Board of Education, No. 14-1213, 2016 WL 3435749 (2016) (accused felon’s suspension)
  • Sayre v. Mason County Board of Education, No. 15-0336, 2016 WL 143435 (2016) (lengthening the workday)
  • Williams v. Raleigh County Board of Education, No. 14-0958, 2015 WL 6181485 (2015) (service employee reclassification)
  • Grace v. Mingo County Board of Education, No. 15-0525, 2016 WL 870597 (2016) (reinstating withdrawn grievance)
  • Smith v. Berkeley County Board of Education, No. 15-0062, 2015 WL 7628692 (2015) (administrative fact finding)
  • Staats v. Jackson County Board of Education, No. 15-0227, 2015 WL 6181438 (2015) (hours worked)
  • Smith v. Berkeley County Board of Education, No. 14-0851, 2015 WL 2364292 (2015) (unemployment compensation and "other gross conduct")
  • 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)
  • Eisentrout v. Preston County Board of Education, No. 12-1464, 2013 WL 3242868 (2013) (summer service positions)
  • 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) (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