NJASA’s Legal Team Supports Members
A major focus in NJASA’s mission is to maximize the capacity and effectiveness of school leaders through professional development programs and support services. Members are familiar with the many seminar and conference opportunities that NJASA offers to promote professional growth, but many fewer are aware of the valuable legal services that are available at their fingertips to support their daily work.
I often speak with members about the role of the school board attorney, emphasizing that the solicitor is just that, the school board attorney. District leaders foster productive relationships with their district counsel, but need to understand that the NJASA legal team is here exclusively to support their work. Three NJASA attorneys provide training, legal information and research, and lead NJASA’s involvement in litigation in significant matters affecting the role and work of members.
Maria Lepore serves as NJASA’s Chief Counsel, coordinating the work of the legal team which includes Associate Counsels Andrew Babiak and Beth Finkelstein; Legal Manager Ann Cahill; and Paralegal Trish Daniels. Each attorney has worked at NJASA for more than two decades, advocating on behalf of members and issues impacting their roles. Their communications with you are confidential and you are assured that no one without your authorization is aware of your discussion.
District leaders understand that school law is complex and constantly changing. That’s why so many depend upon the legal team and the NJASA legal resources to keep them abreast of new developments and to support their work with staff and school board members. Longstanding NJASA members appreciate the value that not only direct consultation with staff attorneys affords them, but the research resources available to them developed by the legal staff. These include:
- Administrative Guides are published monthly throughout the year, providing guidance on a multitude of legal issues. The most recent issue provided guidance in responding to requests for records under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA), the last of a three-part series. Subscribers have access to resources developed since 1990.
- School News Briefs provide subscribers with monthly reviews of legal cases and their ramifications for practice.
- Special Education Bulletins analyze legal developments in this specialized field of school law every other month. The most recent bulletin reviewed three cases including one in which a board of education was ordered to transport a student suffering from asthma attacks to and from school in a medical van with an EMT present.
- Impact on Negotiations reviews cases related to labor relations on alternating months. The most recent edition focused on three cases including one in which PERC denied a board’s request to restrain arbitration of a grievance alleging that the board’s implementation of a new teacher evaluation model increased the workload for teachers.
Last, but certainly not least, is the invaluable resource of the Legal Handbook for New Jersey School Administrators seventh edition. Newly revised by the legal staff and offered in digital format, it presents pertinent and easy-to-access legal information. Think of it as a practical field manual for school administrators who sometimes need to think like attorneys.
The NJASA legal staff has compiled decades of experience to create this road map, which provides critical information on the most common legal topics affecting New Jersey schools. If you tried to keep up with the same level of information, it would be time prohibitive. If you were to call your school attorney blindly, it could become cost prohibitive. The Legal Handbook provides you with the first steps to take action, or prepares you to make the first call to an education attorney, when needed.
The Legal Handbook is a great resource for those potentially difficult situations, such as: dress codes for staff; immunization requirements for public schools; misuse of the school computer for explicit sexual language; parents’ constitutional rights to direct the education of their children; and so much more.
There’s nothing else out there that delivers the kind of information that New Jersey public school leaders need in the format that’s this easy to use. Be sure to order your copy of the Legal Handbook for New Jersey School Administrators seventh edition when you renew your dues when there will be a one-time, 20% discount available to our members.
Make the NJASA Legal Handbook and Legal Research Publications Program your first line of defense. Subscribe today to the Legal Research Publications Program and be better prepared to tackle the challenges of an ever complicating field of school administration.