Haight Brown and Bonesteel have a skilled set of attorneys with the extensive experience necessary to successfully navigate the rapidly changing landscape of education law. Now, more than ever, our team must formulate creative and efficient solutions to a myriad of complex problems. Every day our school districts face challenging issues such as cyber bullying, budget fluctuations, increasing state and federal mandates, labor disputes, transparency and increasing testing requirements. Such diverse issues cannot be addressed by a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Our attorneys use training, advice, and prevention when possible, and litigation where necessary to uphold the rights of California's schools and children.
Our school attorneys have expertise in the following practice areas:
Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in Sexual Orientation Harassment Case
- Charter Schools
- Budget Facilities and Property
- Board Governance and Compliance
- Labor and Employment
- Student Services and Discipline
- Special Education
- Personnel Issues
- Public Finance
- Classified and Certificated Dismissal Proceedings
- Organizational Efficiency
Haight was retained to represent a large public school district in a high profile single plaintiff harassment action. A District teacher at a continuation high school sued the District under Government Code section 12940 of the Fair Employment and Housing Act based on homophobic comments made to the teacher by certain students. The District brought a summary judgment motion arguing an employer cannot be liable for harassment committed by third party non-employees outside of the sexual harassment context. After substantial further briefing regarding the distinction between harassment based on sexual orientation and “sexual harassment” under the Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Court granted summary judgment in favor of the District. This victory by Haight represents a big win for employers in a hotly contested area of the law.
Motion for Summary Judgment Granted in First Amendment Case
A Haight partner litigated an important case for a large school district regarding the First Amendment right to gossip. A District teacher and instructional assistant sued the district under 42 U.S.C. §1983 because they were asked to stop spreading rumors about sexual activities of their coworkers. After multiple demurrers, motions for summary adjudication, and motions for summary judgment the district had the case dismissed successfully arguing that gossip was not a "matter of public concern." This decision not only protected the rights of the employees, but also solidified the district's right to engage in appropriate personnel action to maintain order on a school site. The District recovered all its fees and costs in the matter. Successful Appellate Negotiation of Adverse Verdict against School District
Haight was retained to represent a district on appeal after a judgment of nearly $4 million against a school district. The judgment followed a jury trial involving a delayed construction project. The General Contractor sued the district for payment. The District countersued the General Contractor for damages based on failure to complete the project in a timely manner. Haight identified numerous procedural and evidentiary errors at the trial court level. The matter was fully briefed for oral argument. Based on the strength of the briefing Haight was able to resolve the case at a substantial reduction from the adjudicated amount. Joint Use Agreement between School District and Park and Recreation District
Perhaps the most sensitive type of negotiation is between two public entities with differing interests in the same geographic location. Haight successfully drafted a joint use agreement between a school district and a park and recreation district which had grown into a community dispute. There was a long-standing agreement between the school district and the park and recreation district for the use of a pool and gymnasium. However, the agreement became so antiquated, and there was so much personnel turnover neither party was sure of its rights and responsibilities. Haight was able to draft an agreement that not only clarified each entities' rights, but also maintained community harmony. The agreement was approved by the respective governing boards. Successful Resolution of Complex Civil Rights Case Involving Special Education, Transgender Foster Youth
This case was based on a confluence of circumstances which created the perfect storm. The District placed two foster youth students in an alternative school environment. The students not only qualified for special education services, but also were African-American and transgender. On their first day of school they became involved in a disciplinary incident, which ultimately resulted in a physical altercation between the foster youth students and some parents. District personnel had to physically intervene and expulsion proceedings were initiated against all involved. The situation became more combustible when the disciplinary proceedings against one group of students were dismissed after the manifestation determination process. The students ultimately sued the district under multiple causes of action based on diverse allegations and the plaintiff's' multiple protected classifications. Plaintiffs were represented by Legal Services for Children as well as one of the most prestigious San Francisco litigation firms. A Haight partner was able to extricate the District from the litigation using a combination of training, policy revisions, compensatory education and apology memoranda. The District paid no more than $16,000 to settle the matter. CEQA Litigation Involving Stadium Project
Haight successfully represented a suburban school district in a complex and highly publicized CEQA case. The litigation involved a football field stadium project, and the complex interrelationship between CEQA, city ordinances and district resolutions. There were multiple stakeholders. Petitioners were a highly- motivated and well-funded group of neighbors opposed to all facets of the project. Respondents included the school district and a local 501 (C) (3) organization which had devoted significant money and resources to the effort. There were multiple issues including noise levels, lighting, bleacher construction and who was responsible for each project component. The matter was ultimately resolved by a Memorandum of Understanding between the parties regarding additional mitigation efforts and ongoing communication protocols. The project was successfully completed and no attorney's fees were paid to petitioners.