We applaud individuals serving on boards of education for taking on an enormous amount of responsibility for the public good. The challenges facing boards of education today are vast and ever-growing. Franczek attorneys are your resource, support, and guide as you tackle the issues that arise in your school district. Franczek attorneys review the issues, identify possible solutions and alternatives, and explain the ramifications of each particular course of action so our clients can make informed and well-reasoned decisions.
Boards of education trust Franczek attorneys to handle legal requirements impacting school districts. However, they rely just as much on Franczek for counseling in the nuances of their roles as the elected leaders of the education institution. Whether it is a board president inquiring about the unique responsibilities of this leadership position, a board struggling to determine the best approach to handle publicity around an employee/student sex issue in one of their schools, or requests for information as to how other school districts have successfully addressed certain issues, we offer extensive experience developed over the careers of our team of attorneys to guide boards through any situation they may encounter.
While boards of education are subject to extensive statutory requirements under the Illinois School Code, certain laws impact board governance matters directly and frequently. These include the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), Open Meetings Act (OMA), laws governing board of education and trustee elections and referenda, records retention laws, and ethics laws.
School districts often enjoy support from organizations such as parent-teacher groups, various booster club organizations, private donations and education foundations. These non-profit groups, while benefiting the school, also give rise to a myriad of questions regarding the board of education's relationship to the entity. Issues of organizational structure, governance, control, liability, finances, accountability, and more are frequent and complex. Franczek attorneys sift through these issues and provide clear, concise, and specific guidance.
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
School districts and their boards know that public records are subject to disclosure upon a FOIA request. But when and how exactly do certain exemptions apply? Is there any recourse with repeat requesters and extreme administrative burdens? Board members use e-mail as a convenient way to communicate, but are these e-mails subject to disclosure? We advise school districts through the entire process, especially when it is necessary to involve the Illinois Attorney General’s office.
Open Meetings Act (OMA)
Similarly, under the OMA, school districts and their boards understand that their meetings must be held publicly or under the specific requirements for closed session meetings. But what is the exact language and process that needs to be used to enter closed session? Can comments by citizens be limited at public meetings? Can board members attend a community forum on education without violating the OMA? We have answered these and many other nuanced questions from school districts and other local government bodies to solve their immediate issue, as well as create better understanding of the legal requirements, improve related documentation, and otherwise educate and prepare public entities for similar issues in the future.
Policies & Procedures
When questions arise as to governance and operations of a school district one of the first sources for guidance is the board’s Policies and Administrative Procedures. Thus, it is critical that these policies and procedures be written clearly and concisely, reflect the current philosophy and practice of the school district, and incorporate ever-changing legal developments. Franczek attorneys are adept in the intricacies of education policy and procedures, and we frequently review, revise, and draft board policies and administrative procedures. We understand that school districts need straightforward, common sense language in order to implement the practices they desire and to best position the school for full legal compliance. Franczek attorneys do not craft policies in a vacuum, but work closely with the school district to reflect the philosophy and unique needs of each.