Promoting a culture that emphasizes awareness, open communication and mutual respect is a major step toward a safer, healthier learning environment. Legislation such as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, the 1990 Jeanne Clery Act and New York’s “Enough is Enough” have advanced efforts to create safer, more responsible college campuses.
Educating the entire school community – including board members, executives, administrators, faculty, staff, students and campus safety officers – about sexual misconduct policies and procedures, proper investigations and comprehensive training is the foundation for effective prevention. When a violation has been alleged, administrators should be prepared to respond. It is imperative that every institution have a comprehensive prevention, response and disciplinary program in place that reflects a thorough understanding of fairness under the law.
To serve our education clients, we look at all aspects of the institution, including its governance structure, the makeup of the student body, active student organizations and clubs, campus culture, geographic location and relationships with local law enforcement. We ask tough questions. We then provide strategic advice and a set of recommended actions in order to move toward stronger, more effective school policies and impartial investigations, as well as fair and expedient resolutions of complaints.
Our goal is to help school leaders create a climate of confidence and security so that their colleges and universities can focus on what they are designed to do – educate students in an open and free environment.
Phillips Lytle prides itself on its partnerships with its education clients. We are called upon to provide advice to our clients regarding allegations of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, student/faculty misconduct, discrimination, criminal violations, housing concerns, alcohol/drugs, safety, security, hazing, domestic violence, faculty tenure and student conduct proceedings. We draft college and university policies on preventing and responding to allegations of sexual violence, conduct compliance reviews and provide advice on regulatory compliance. We have extensive experience investigating allegations of sexual discrimination and harassment and act as strategic partners with Title IX coordinators in their campus investigations. When the need arises, we also vigorously defend our education clients against government investigations and private causes of action related to Title IX.
Examples of our education services with respect to campus accountability include:
Ian K. Portnoy provides advice concerning the institutional reputational ramifications of student and staff actions and advises executive officers and boards on the policies and procedures addressing such issues and the risks and consequences of the lack of appropriate policies and procedures. Mr. Portnoy also represents educational institutions at all levels on a host of matters involving guidelines for internet usage and privacy concerns, and advice and counsel on interpersonal issues such as harassment, inappropriate relationships between staff and students or among staff, and uninvited sexual contact among students.
Kenneth A. Manning, Phillips Lytle’s Education Practice Team Leader, counsels and represents higher education clients in matters of governance, internal investigations and litigation. He has experience in faculty matters, including negotiations and litigation, as well as strategic planning to meet market changes and conditions.
Linda T. Prestegaard, Phillips Lytle’s Labor & Employment Practice Team Leader, has represented higher education institutions with her work on faculty tenure and contract disputes, investigations of claims of misconduct and civil rights violations, regulatory compliance, faculty and staff handbooks, appointment letters and affirmative action plans. She regularly represents employers in federal and state courts and agency proceedings defending against Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, FLSA and Human Rights law claims. Ms. Prestegaard also represents management in traditional labor law matters, including conducting training regarding concerted activity, union awareness and campaigns, collective bargaining, labor arbitrations, NLRB proceedings and LMRA litigation. Additionally, Ms. Prestegaard provides training on avoiding sexual and other harassment, conducting investigations and human resources best practices.
James R. Grasso represents management in the private and public sectors in all aspects of labor and education law. He counsels clients on workplace policies and practices, as well as legal compliance issues. He represents employers in litigation concerning employment discrimination, harassment, wage and hour matters, wrongful termination, employment contract disputes, and confidentiality and non-compete agreements. Mr. Grasso provides day-to-day advice to colleges and universities regarding employee and student issues.
Amanda L. Lowe has experience with investigations of Title IX violations, sexual assault, harassment and student/faculty misconduct, as well as in defending against inquiries from the Office of Civil Rights regarding allegations of noncompliance. Ms. Lowe has advised colleges and universities about their policies and procedures regarding administrative investigations and student disciplinary hearings, and regularly provides day-to-day legal advice to higher education institutions. As a member of the firm’s Labor & Employment and Education Practice Teams, she counsels clients on policies, procedures and compliance issues such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination Employment Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Title IX and the Clery Act, including counseling clients on their Clery Act geography and reporting, investigative and disciplinary hearing requirements. Ms. Lowe has also counseled clients regarding NCAA compliance matters.