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The COSA School Law Seminar offers a specialized CLE experience for attorneys representing K-12 public school boards. The seminar provided invaluable insights and practical advice from experienced practitioners on the key legal issues facing public schools.

The school attorney community came together over the course of two weeks to hear experienced practitioners share insights on a multitude of topics. This event provided attorneys with the information and resources they need to make the best decisions for their districts and give the best advice to clients. This online seminar offered more than 15 hours of continuing legal education to help fulfill license requirements while receiving the highest quality instruction.


The online seminar included daily sessions addressing a common theme. The seminar will included the ever-popular legal advocacy update, meetings for in-house and state association counsel, and networking opportunities. 


If you missed the COSA Online School Law Seminar or want to watch and reference the sessions again, visit the NSBA Bookstore to purchase your copies today. When visiting the store, search for “COSA 2021,” and all six recordings will display. The following topics were discussed during the thought-provoking, six-day event: School Law & the New AdministrationCOVID-19, ContinuedLiving OnlineLabor & EmploymentStudent Rights, and Ethics & Practical Skills. 


1 – 4:30 p.m. daily


Day 1 – School Law & the New Administration

Day 2 – COVID-19, Continued

Day 3 – Living Online

Day 4 – Labor & Employment

Day 5 – Student Rights

Day 6 – Ethics & Practical Skills



Day 1 – School Law & the New Administration


The School Law Landscape Under the Biden Administration

COSA welcomed very special guest Anurima Bhargava, who joined a panel discussion with NSBA Chief Legal and Advocacy Officers Francisco Negrón and Chip Slaven, and COSA all-star moderator Jay Worona, for insights and predictions about the new Biden Administration’s impact on public school policies. Ms. Bhargava, who served as Chief of the Educational Opportunities Section of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice from 2010-2016, offered the insider perspective as the panelists discussed the K-12 education priorities of the new administration including funding streams, changes to the “new” Title IX sexual harassment rule, participation of transgender athletes in school-sanctioned sports, and other considerations for school districts as they prepare for the 2021-2022 school year.


Moderator:  Jay Worona, Deputy Executive Director and General Counsel, New York State School Boards Association 

Speakers: Anurima Bhargava, President, Anthem of Us; Francisco Negrón, Chief Legal Officer, NSBA; and Chip Slaven, Chief Advocacy Officer, NSBA; and special guest

Seminar Social

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The Outrageous School Law Trivia game with host David Rubin featured NSBA COSA prizes for the winners! (Ooo! Ahhh!) David says his popular game show host character Bob Barfindale is out on parole and ready to match wits with the school lawyers. Watch for the fun and learn surprising tidbits about your favorite school law cases.  

While it's not live anymore, you can still enjoy the recording. And if you are a newer member of the community hoping to meet and network with other school attorneys or a long-time member missing our in-person meetings and the friendly faces you know from our conferences, you can visit the COSA online community (you must be a COSA member) and register for the next COSA Seminar (details to come). Learn more. 

NSBA Legal Advocacy Update

In this popular session, NSBA Chief Legal Officer Francisco Negrón gave updates on significant Supreme Court cases affecting public schools, and NSBA’s amicus and other legal advocacy work nationwide.

Presenter: Francisco Negrón, Chief Legal Officer, NSBA


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Day 2 – COVID-19, Continued


Schools and Vaccines in the Era of COVID-19

Among the most challenging legal matters associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and schools is the issue of vaccinations of students and staff. This session addressed the legal issues surrounding vaccinations, including whether they can or should be required, how to handle students and staff who refuse the vaccination, liability issues for school staff administering vaccinations, and what responses can be given to parents or staff inquiring about the vaccination status of individual people. 

Presenters: Bryan Beamer, Research Engineer, Division of Field Studies and Engineering, CDC; Allison Aiken Hanna, Halligan Mahoney & Williams, Columbia, SC; David Lyon, Duff Freeman Lyon, Columbia, SC; and Lindsay Anne Thompson, Georgetown County School District, SC

Educational Technology in the Wake of the COVID-19 Crisis: Legal Lessons Learned & Future Issues Identified

Attorney Gilsbach addressed the many legal issues that arose for schools during the provision of online learning in the coronavirus pandemic. She provided a detailed analysis of future technology issues and what school attorneys can do to prepare and protect their client schools. 

Presenter: Erin Gilsbach, Steckel & Stopp, Emerald, PA


What Special Education Services Look Like in a Pandemic

Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, Mr. Manna and Mr. Keith presented to COSA on programming for special education needs during a pandemic. We brought the lessons learned from those “pop-up” sessions.

Presenters: Andrew Manna, Church Church Hittle + Antrim, Noblesville, IN; and Jim Keith, Adams & Reese Law Firm, Ridgeland, MS


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Day 3 – Living Online


Is Bullying Back? Staff and Student Speech and the Resurgence of the First Amendment

The First Amendment often is used as a defense for hateful, bigoted, and other bullying and offensive speech in schools. In recent years, public figures and courts alike have supported this interpretation. This session covered an update on the current state of this ever-changing area of law.

Presenters: Jackie Gharapour Wernz and Emily Tulloch, Franczek PC, Chicago, IL


Student Discipline and Remote Learning

It’s clear that schools can discipline for misconduct in the virtual classroom. But what about a “distracting” flag on a student’s bedroom wall, or a weapon in view during a virtual class? Is putting a student in a virtual breakout room a suspension? Virtual learning has created a new set of student discipline issues and requires new strategies to handle them. Attorney Jennifer Starlin discussed the applicable legal standards and how to navigate this new set of challenges as virtual learning continues, even beyond the pandemic.

Presenter: Jennifer Starlin, Thrun Law Firm, P.C. East Lansing, MI


Artificial Intelligence Goes to School—Implications for School District Liability

Because of the vast information now at school administrators’ fingertips, administrators have turned to safety management platforms to alert school districts to risks of suicide and bullying. Will adoption of such artificial intelligence systems increase or limit school district exposure to suits for failing to protect students in their care?

Presenter: Harold Krent, Chicago-Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL


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Day 4 – Labor & Employment


ADA Reasonable Accommodations for Employees During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Presenters reviewed the school's legal obligations under the ADA to provide reasonable accommodations to staff returning (or not) to in-person instruction amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Hear about creative, out-of-the-box solutions and tried-and-true strategies schools have implemented to support employees with anxiety or conditions placing them in high-risk categories.

Presenters: Haley Percell, Chief Legal Counsel, Oregon School Boards Association and Julie Shaw, Shaw, Perelson, May & Lambert, LLP, Poughkeepsie, NY

Work Stoppages During a Pandemic: Why Did They Happen? How to Respond.

This session reviewed three work stoppages that occurred during the pandemic. A three-attorney panel reviewed the facts leading to the work stoppage, the response from the school, and related employee issues.

Presenters: Adam Dauksas, Himes Petrarca & Fester, Chicago, IL; Joe Scholler, Frost Brown Todd LLC, West Chester, OH; and Eric Walker, Staff Attorney, Little Rock School District, AR


Once More Unto the Breach (of Contract): Lessons Learned from COVID-19 for Collective Bargaining

What lessons did we learn this past year relating to collective bargaining from being in the trenches during the battle with COVID-19?  How can we apply these lessons to our practice in the coming school year and beyond?

Presenters: Erin O’Grady-Parent, Guercio & Guercio, Latham, NY and Marc Terry, Mirick O’Connell, Worcester, MA


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Day 5 – Student Rights


Legal Issues Related to School Desegregation and the Promotion of Diverse School Enrollments

This session covered the legal and practical implications for school districts with respect to the racial and ethnic diversity, or integration, of school enrollments based on our over three decades of active school desegregation litigation experience in federal courts across the United States. The presenters provided an overview of the legal requirements, compliance with existing guidance, and promoting best practices as it relates to racial and ethnic diversity, either voluntary or as required by court order.

Presenters: Aleksandra Rushing, Husch Blackwell LLP, St. Louis, MO; and John Borkowski, Husch Blackwell LLP, Chicago, IL

The “New” Title IX Sexual Harassment Rule:  Implementation Challenges and Practical Tips From the Field

It has been nearly eight months since the “new” Title IX sexual harassment rule went into effect. Watch a panel discussion on their experiences and challenges in implementing the rule and practical tips to address them, including addressing conduct that doesn’t rise to the level of discipline, off-campus conduct, anonymous complaints, managing parents’ expectations of the process, choosing roles, and making adjustments to avoid bias and nuances with elementary-aged students.

Presenters: Amanda Bigbee, Keller ISD, Keller, TX; Brett Sokolow, Chair, Board of Directors, TNG and President, Association of Title IX Administrators; and Jacqueline Litra, Fagan Friedman & Fulfrost, Los Angeles, CA

From Black Armbands to Black Lives Matter: Navigating Student Speech in Politically Charged Times

Since Tinker, school attorneys have navigated the Supreme Court’s admonition that students do not “shed their constitutional right to freedom of speech at the schoolhouse gate” while still helping districts preserve order and efficiency in schools. This session covered practical guidance on balancing these interests in today’s politically charged climate. The presenters also explored the question currently in front of the Supreme Court about whether school districts can (or should) restrict student online speech. Come away with a flowchart that will help you identify and address student free speech issues.

Presenters: Michelle Basi and Kylie Piatt, Tueth Keeney Cooper Mohan & Jackstadt, St. Louis, MO


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Day 6 – Ethics & Practical Skills


Crisis Management & Communications for Attorneys & Their Clients

This fast-paced talk by a veteran crisis management communications specialist focused on a highly-strategic approach to communicating during a wide variety of situations. You’ll leave with tools to mount a defense against an outraged public and unhappy parents, especially important in today’s world of social media and “gotcha” journalism, where the court of public opinion is often more important than the court of law.

Presenter: Bruce Hennes, Hennes Communications, Cleveland, OH


Work/Life Balance: The Perspective of a Veteran School Lawyer

All of us strive for a satisfying professional life along with meaningful and loving relationships with family and friends. How to achieve both in a high-stress environment? Lawyers are particularly susceptible to depression, substance abuse, and similar problems. In this session, a school lawyer with over 40 years of experience shared his experience and insights into how a happy and sustainable balance can be achieved.

Presenter: Jim Walsh, Walsh, Gallegos, Treviño, Kyle & Russo, PC, Austin, TX

 Licenses on the Line: Pushing the Boundaries of Ethical Lawyering


Lawyers today are taking on more nontraditional roles: public spokesperson, political operative, policy adviser, "fixer," business consultant, and other services that transcend the classic lawyer-client relationship. More than ever, lawyers are also using their legal backgrounds to advance political, religious, or cultural movements. Social media and the hazy boundaries between legal commentary, journalism, entertainment, and the practice of law, have created a challenging environment for lawyers looking to stay on the right side of the ethical line. Veteran COSA stalwarts Nancy Krent and David Rubin presented a lively discussion of the do's and don'ts of modern-day lawyering in these perilous times. 

Presenters: Nancy Krent, Loyola Law School, Chicago Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL; and David Rubin, David B. Rubin, P.C., Metuchen, NJ


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Council of School Attorneys (COSA) Membership 

Not a member of the council? COSA provides information and practical assistance to more than 3,000 attorneys representing K-12 public school districts and state school boards associations. By joining the council, you'll have access to a multitude of exclusive services, publications, and discounts. COSA membership directly connects you to 
the online community, including a discussion board and a library of school law resources. Learn more and join today.