Legal Services for Pennsylvania Schools

and School Districts

Peter Amuso

 

Michael L. Barbiero

 

We want our school officials to be experts on meeting the educational needs of our children. However, today’s schools must also address a broad range of legal issues including curriculum requirements, special education, discipline, immigration matters, employment and labor relations, and administration. At the same time, schools must remain accountable to students, parents, teachers, district employees, and taxpayers. Maintaining this balance is impossible without professional legal counsel.

Rudolph Clarke, LLC provides legal advice and services to local schools and school districts. Our attorneys represent school districts in Bucks County, Montgomery County and the greater Philadelphia area. We currently serve as Solicitor for the following school districts:

 – Norristown Area School District

 – Hatboro/Horsham School District

 – Bensalem Township School District and

 – Pennsbury School District, as well as

 – North Penn Area School District (Special Counsel)

 – Colonial School District (Special Counsel)

 – Upper Perkiomen School District (Special Counsel)

 – George School (Special Counsel). 

We also serve as Special Counsel to the Bristol Township School District and have acted as general counsel on particular projects.

Our Pennsylvania school law attorneys understand the diverse and complex legal issues faced by modern schools. We provide a full range of school law services and strive to find creative, timely, and effective solutions to the legal challenges facing local schools.

School Board Matters

Schools, school boards and school districts are regulated by a number of federal and state law. Our attorneys provide legal advice and representation to Pennsylvania school boards. Our services for school boards include assistance with:

– Review and interpretation of board policies

– Training in open meeting law and procedures

– Public relations

– Media relations

– Election issues

– Data practices law

– Competitive bidding and contracting

– Employee issues

– Contracts and business transactions

– Insurance and risk management

– Individual board member liability

– Litigation

 

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Special Education Law Group

Students with disabilities are protected under a number of Pennsylvania laws. Our school law attorneys help school officials comply with these regulations and offer advice on conflict resolution and litigation avoidance. We help schools in the areas of:

– Due process hearings

– Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

– Compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act

– Discrimination claims

– State and federal complaint procedures

– State and federal court proceedings

– Mediation

– Litigation

We are consistently available to support our clients with any question that may arise. Our Firm believes in a team approach, meaning there will be a team of attorneys prepared to handle special education matters of any caliber, at any time.

Partner, Peter C. Amuso, leads our Special Education Law Department. Peter is an education law expert. Not only has Peter served on a school board, but Peter is also a contributing editor of the latest edition of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association, Pennsylvania School Law Handbook. Peter has represented school districts in state and federal courts, and before the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. Peter has also litigated special education cases in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He is also a frequent speaker on special education issues, including speaking at the Lehigh University Special Education Law Conference for five consecutive years, presenting at the PBI Exceptional Student Symposium in 2019, and most recently speaking about transgender student issues at the 2021 Pennsylvania Solicitors Symposium. Peter has extensive litigation and school law experience, representing school districts across Bucks and Montgomery Counties.

Associate, Samantha Newell, is also a member of the Rudolph Clarke Special Education Law Group. Samantha is a certified elementary and special education teacher, with significant knowledge regarding the IDEA, IEP and 504 process, Pennsylvania and federal laws and regulations. Samantha graduated summa cum laude from Widener University with a dual degree in Elementary and Special Education. Samantha spent time student teaching in Delaware County schools and in Elwyn, working with general education students and with students who had the highest levels of need. Before joining Rudolph Clarke, Samantha served as a Special Education Associate at a local Delaware County school law firm. There, Samantha spent a significant amount of time working with school personnel to ensure IEPs and 504 plans were compliant with Pennsylvania, federal law, as well as hearing officer case law. Samantha also assisted school districts with general special education matters, assisted on all special education litigation matters, as well as all mediation and resolution matters. Samantha has spoken at many conferences regarding literacy education, including the National Character Education Forum, the Keystone State Reading Association conference, and the Eastern Educational Research Association Conference. Samantha also focused her law school seminar research on special education consent decrees in large urban school districts and how to remain in compliance with IDEA. Samantha strives to ensure that all districts are in compliance and producing defensible programming for students.
Associate, Sara Johnson, is also be a member of the Special Education Law Group. Sara has served as a school board member for six years on the Upper Dublin School Board, where she saw a wide range of education issues, including those students with special needs. As a result, Sara began taking every education and special education law class available in order to gain a deep understanding of school law. Sara now serves as solicitor to the Hatboro Horsham School District and continuously provides the District with guidance regarding all matters, including special education matters which arise. Sara spent many years litigating with the Bucks County’s District Attorney’s Office, where she specialized in the prosecution of sexual abuse of children and domestic abuse. Sara is a strong litigator with a deep knowledge of school law and special education law.

Greg Heleniak is also a member of the Rudolph Clarke Special Education Law Group. When our Firm served as special education counsel prior, Greg immersed himself in special education litigation and achieved results for the Firm’s clients. Greg has a passion for assisting school leaders in the creation of and implementation of quality policies with the goal of building and administering a special education system which serves both the student and the school district. Greg’s belief that education is the foundation of our society ignites his passion of assisting school districts in creating positive, successful, and inclusive environments for fostering early and life-long learning in our community.

* For more information and excellent resources, please visit “Special Education Law: A Research Guide” created by Firm Associate Samantha Newell.

                            
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Firm Partner, Peter Amuso, and Firm Associates Sara Johnson and Samantha Newell appear regularly on   “Ask the Solicitor,”

Peter Amuso

 

 

 

 

Ask the Solicitor” is an online video informational program which provides timely updates for members of the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), with commentary from the capitol, policy updates, success stories of students, teachers, and administrators around the state.


 
 
 

 

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Student Matters

Every child in Pennsylvania has a right to a good education in a safe learning environment. The attorneys at Rudolph Clarke help schools address the rights of students within the requirements of national, state and local laws. Our attorneys advise school boards and administrators on complex student issues, including:

– Student discipline and expulsion

– School violence and student safety concerns

– Issues involving religion and free speech

– State and national curriculum requirements

– Claims of discrimination and/or harassment

– Equal protection claims

– Investigations of alleged wrong-doing by students, faculty and staff

– School violence and safety

– Immigration and residency issues

– Parental rights

– Review of school handbooks and school policies

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Tax Assessment Appeals Program

Michael L. Barbiero

 

 

 

 

We are very proud of our Tax Assessment Appeals Program.  Our team has handled hundreds of cases on behalf of our School Districts, both vigorously defending against appeals filed by property owners, as well as zealously advocating for School District appeals.  Since the inception of the program, we have erased huge backlogs in appeals dating back years, negotiated hundreds of fair settlements based on real data and expert opinions, as well as added and/or saved millions of dollars of value to the School Districts we proudly represent.

This short video is just one example of the process, from developing strong impactful policies, to collaborating with the School District Board and administration, to our strict adherence to the most cost effective approach.  That is why we identify this aspect of our representation as a “program,” it is a team approach always keeping in mind we are representing community schools:

Rudolph Clarke, LLC Tax Assessment Appeals Program (01019053xC305A)

CLICK THIS LINK TO SEE THIS GREAT VIDEO!

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO

 

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Employment Matters

Our school law attorneys have extensive knowledge of human resource issues and employment law. We provide the legal advice that school districts need in order to comply with federal and state employment and discrimination laws and avoid litigation. If a lawsuit should arise, our experienced trial lawyers can skillful defense. We provide legal counsel on:

– Employee discipline and discharge

– Employee policies, and procedures

– Employee handbooks

– Teacher tenure

– Veterans’ Preference Act

– Family and Medical Leave Act

– Americans with Disabilities Act

– Workplace injury and workers’ compensation

– Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims

– Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC) claims

– Civil rights (OCR) claims

– Workplace discrimination claims

– Sexual harassment claims

– Due process and First Amendment issues

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Labor Relations and Collective Bargaining

Teachers’ unions are powerful organizations. Our attorneys can help your school districts with all aspects of contract negotiations, collective bargaining and labor relationships. We have experience with the following:

– Collective bargaining agreements

– Resolution of labor disputes

– Drafting and interpretations of contracts

– Grievance proceedings

– Arbitration

– Investigation of allegations of unfair labor practices

– Mediation

– Strike preparation

– Litigation

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School Construction and Real Estate Law

Some areas of Bucks and Montgomery Counties are experiencing high rates of population growth. As more people move into the area, school districts must renovate existing schools and construct additions and new buildings. Our school law attorneys understand the complex legal issues involved in school districts construction and real estate projects. We able to provide due diligence, negotiation, and legal review of the following:

– Land acquisition

– Land development and permits

– Financing

– Title issues

– Leasing of property

– Construction contracts

– Soliciting and awarding of bids

– Joint powers agreements

– Compliance with environmental and regulatory agencies

– Litigation

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Bonding and Public Finance

Rudolph Clarke assists school districts with all aspects of financing, including bond referendums and annual school levies. Our lawyers provide public financial services, including:

– School finance advice

– Bond counsel

– Financing for lease purchase and construction projects

– Election and referendum law

If you are interested in our legal services for schools and school boards, please contact Rudolph Clarke, LLC at 215-633-1890.

PRESENTATIONS & SEMINARS

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October 27, 2021 – PSBA School Law Workshop

Firm Attorney Nicole Feight Presenter on Right To Know Law at “Law School Workshop” for Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA)

 
 

“Thank you for delivering such a great presentation” PSBA (Pennsylvania School Board Association)

Rudolph Clarke, LLC is very proud to announce that on October 27, 2021, firm attorney, Nicole Feight, presented a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) regarding RTK (Right to Know) law at the “School Law Workshop” held by the Pennsylvania School Board Association (PSBA).

 

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September 13, 2021 – Bucks County Law Department

Firm Attorney Nicole Feight Presenter on Right To Know Law at Continuing Legal Education course for Bucks County Law Department

Rudolph Clarke, LLC is very proud to announce that on Monday, September 13, 2021, firm attorney, Nicole Feight, presented a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) regarding RTK (Right to Know) law compliance in conjunction with the Bucks County Law Department.

“We are so grateful for Nicole’s expertise, not only in presenting our first-ever CLE, but also in regularly providing sound advice as outside counsel,” said County Solicitor Joe Khan.

“Nicole and her colleagues at Rudolph Clarke are always there for us when we need them, and we look forward to our continued collaborations.”

It was the first CLE that the Bucks County Law Department has presented and Rudolph Clarke, LLC was asked to participate in our role as outside counsel on RTK matters.  Nicole presented on the procedure for appeals before the Office of Open Records and provided an update on current caselaw as well as examples of recent significant victories by our firm.