By Benita N. Jones

Happy New Year!  As 2017 gets into full swing, change is all around us — a new president has taken office in Washington, a new governor has taken office in Raleigh, and with both come new elected officials, new appointments, new agendas, and new policy directions. In the midst of these changes, there is certainty that the next few months will bring new developments in the area of education law at the state and federal levels.

Our blog is an effort to keep our section members abreast of education law developments in a timely manner. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Stephen Moore and Erin Edgar, co-chairs of the Newsletter and Homepage Committee, for working to transition the section from the newsletter to the blog format. If you would like to contribute a post to the blog, please do not hesitate to contact Stephen, Erin, or me. Blog posts can be short legal updates or “thought pieces” that section members desire to share with their colleagues and fellow education law practitioners. Our goal is to have a new blog post every three weeks.

I encourage you to become active in the Education Law Section by joining one of our committees, listed on our Leadership page. Our committee co-chairs and members are hard at work planning and implementing projects to further the mission of the section. Special congratulations to the Law Institute for Teachers (LIFT) Committee for organizing another successful professional development conference for teachers at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) main campus in Cullowhee. Held last August, the 2016 LIFT conference sessions covered an array of topics, including: compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, employment discrimination law, student and employee First Amendment issues, and transgender issues. The teachers attending the conference provided extremely positive feedback about their experience, and NCCAT has expressed interest in continuing a relationship with our section to provide future conferences. Again, many thanks to the committee members who planned this program and to the section members who offered their time and talents to present at the conference.

I also encourage you to attend section events. It was great to see the council and section members who were able to attend our last council meeting and social event in October, hosted by our friends at Campbell Shatley PLLC in Asheville. Our next council meeting is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2017 at 11 a.m. at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham.  Immediately following the meeting, the section will host a networking lunch open to meeting attendees and area law students. Our friends at Tharrington Smith LLP will host our final council meeting of the year on April 20, 2017 at 3 p.m. at their offices in Raleigh, followed by our annual pre-CLE section social event in downtown Raleigh.

Our section annual meeting and CLE will be held on April 21, 2017 at the N.C. Bar Center in Cary. The CLE committee has been hard at work for several months to develop a daylong program on First Amendment issues relevant to our work in the K-12 and higher education sectors.  I hope that you will be able to join us at the annual CLE to network with other section members and to engage in a day of discussion around this interesting and timely topic.

Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your 2016-2017 section chair, and please do not hesitate to let me know how I can make your membership in the NCBA Education Law Section more valuable to your practice.

Benita N. Jones is the chair of the Education Law Section and Assistant University Legal Counsel at North Carolina Central University in Durham.