Significant K-12 Legislation from the 2019 Long Session

By Brian Gwyn

This session, the General Assembly passed several bills that that will impact K-12 education. Here are some of the highlights:

A brief description of each of these laws is provided below. For more detailed information about each bill, you can go to the bill status page on the General Assembly’s website (see corresponding links). For summaries of the laws, click “View Available Bill Summaries” on the left side of the webpage. Be sure that you are looking at the most current summary under the “Last Updated” column. Please note that even the most current summary may not reflect the final version of the law.

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Message from the Chair of the Education Law Section – Welcome to the 2019-2020 Bar Year

By Melissa Michaud

Dear Members of the Education Law Section:

Welcome to the 2019-2020 bar year!  I look forward to working with you, our Council members, and committee chairs this year, and I want to thank our committee chairs for volunteering their time to invest in our Section.

As we start the year, please mark your calendar and consider the following opportunities:


  • The 2020 Education Law Section Annual Meeting and CLE will be held on Thursday, May 7, 2020.  Please note this is a date change from the original date.  The planning committee will be sending out a survey soon to learn more about what you are interested in covering at this year’s CLE.  Please participate so that our CLE will reflect your interests!
  • If you haven’t done so yet, please renew your NCBA membership soon.  As you may know, the NCBA has revised its due structure, and one of the benefits is access to a monthly on-demand CLE from the Expert Series.  Renew your membership now so that you can add the September CLE before it expires.  Information about membership renewal is available here.
  • Among other activities, our Section has committees for CLE planning, LIFT (Law Institute for Teachers), and legislative updates.  Our great committee chairs would welcome your help.  If you are interested in assisting with a committee, please let me know and I would be happy to connect you with the committee chair.  The full list of our committees and their respective chairs is available on our Section website.
  • Our Section will hold a networking event on Thursday, October 17 at 5:30 at Bonefish Grill Cary (2060 Renaissance Park Place, Cary).  Please mark your calendars, and I hope you’ll join us!

One of my goals this year is to make our Section’s activities responsive to your practice.  If you have ideas for the types of blog posts or networking events that would interest you, please do not hesitate to contact me with suggestions.

Melissa Michaud
NCBA Education Law Section 2019-2020

Education Section Honors Murphy

By Chelsea Sutton

N.C. School Boards Association Assistant Legal Counsel Janine Murphy won the Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award on April 12 from the North Carolina Bar Association’s Education Law Section.

Allison Schafer, NCSBA legal counsel and director of policy, presented Murphy with the award at the section’s annual meeting held at the NC Bar Center in Cary.

NCSBA staff and Murphy’s family congratulate her as she receives the Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award. Pictured from left: Rachel Vachon, Chad Anderson, Debbie Shinbara, Cynthia Moore, Chelsea Sutton, Jim Murphy, Janine Murphy, John Murphy, Allison Schafer, and Nancy Black.

“She is a great resource to everyone across the state — superintendents, board members, school attorneys, and to us in the association,” said Schafer, who received the award in 2008.

The Ann L. Majestic Distinguished Service Award honors individuals for their exceptional leadership in education law and is the namesake of a previous recipient who was known in the school law community both locally and nationally.

“We all remember Ann Majestic for her outstanding dedication to public education in North Carolina, so it was a great honor for me to receive this award,” said Murphy.

At NCSBA, Murphy plays a pivotal role in managing policy services and developing legal training, among many other duties. Prior to joining the association in 2007, she had a 22-year stint with the Principals’ Executive Program at her alma mater, the University of North Carolina, which provided executive training to public school administrators.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to contribute to public education in North Carolina by working with school board members and school administrators for the past 30 years,” Murphy said.

Academic Freedom: Revival in the Fourth Circuit

By William Joseph Austin Jr.

In a case that was already topical, the Fourth Circuit recently rendered an opinion that renewed the concept of Academic Freedom as legal doctrine based in the First Amendment.

The case of Wood v. Arnold, 915 F.3d 308 (4th Cir. 2019), involved two statements concerning Islamic beliefs presented in a high school world history class.  The plaintiff argued that the statements endorsed Islam over Christianity and compelled her to profess belief in Islam.  The Fourth Circuit affirmed summary judgment against the plaintiff, holding that the statements did not impermissibly endorse Islam or compel the plaintiff to profess belief in it.

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Practicing Education Law in Changing Times

The NCBA Education Section proudly presents its annual CLE day on Friday, April 12 in Cary.  This year’s program is entitled “Change: How Cultural and Political Shifting Affects the Practice of Education Law.”  Click here to view the program brochure.

Click here to register.

North Carolina’s social and political environment looks very different than it did a few years ago.  Our students, teachers, professors, administrators, and legislators are all reacting to the new normal.  But how can (or should) education lawyers respond?  Can (or should) we keep doing what we have always done?

Join us on Friday to hear former UNC School of Law Dean Jack Boger give historical context to the current climate surrounding North Carolina’s public schools.  Leverage the expertise of colleagues on topics such as student and teacher walk-outs, escalating school violence, federal rule changes on sex discrimination, and more. We will round out the day by better understanding attorneys’ ethical obligations regarding the balance between impartial advice to clients and active participation on relevant societal issues.  Schwartz and Shaw’s Brian Shaw will then provide his always-popular case law update.

You may register for the program here.  Higher education and school law attorneys alike will benefit from a deeper dive into these fascinating topics.  And you will receive 6.0 hours of CLE credit.

Mark Your Calendars For LIFT March 22-23

In cooperation with the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT), this program will explore the responsibilities and rights of educators in North Carolina. We also will examine laws regarding issues in education and explore laws that protect the rights of teachers, parents, students, administrators and school staff.

What: Project LIFT (Law Institute For Teachers)
When: March 22-23, 2019
Where: 276 NCCAT Drive, Cullowhee, NC 28723

Click here for application instructions and more info.

Questions? Please email Karen Sumner.

Welcome To the Bar Year, Education Law Section

By Chad Donnahoo

Welcome to the Education Section! It is an exciting year for the Section and I encourage you to join and get involved.  For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Chad Donnahoo and I am the Chair for 2018-2019.  I work at Campbell Shatley, PLLC in Asheville and our firm specializes in K-12 and community college representation.  Don’t hesitate to contact me should you ever have any thoughts or questions about the Section.  Read more

Education Law Section Members Participate in Law Student Networking Events

By Benita Jones

Thank you to the Education Law Section members who recently participated in panels and networking events at North Carolina Central University School of Law and Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law.

Section members mingled and shared career advice with future attorneys at a networking lunch at NCCU School of Law following the section council meeting on Feb. 2, 2017.  During the lunch, law students had the opportunity to pose questions about pathways to practice in the area of education law to a distinguished panel of attorneys, including: Venus Boston, assistant legal counsel, Winston-Salem State University; John Leidy, attorney, Hornthal, Riley, Ellis & Maland, LLP; Kimberly Potter, special deputy attorney general, N.C. Department of Justice; Hope Tyehimba, general counsel, NCCU; Nicole Wiley, equal opportunity investigator, UNC; and Thomas West, vice president for governmental relations and general counsel, N.C. Independent Colleges and Universities. A special thanks to Giovonni Wade, director for career services at NCCU School of Law, for her assistance in coordinating this event.

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The Interplay Between First Amendment and Education Law: A CLE

Education Law Section

 By Benita N. Jones

Interested in how the First Amendment impacts schools and universities?  Register for the upcoming NCBA Education Law Section CLE and Annual Meeting.

First Amendment issues are near the top of the list of legal issues that education attorneys address on a daily basis. As our school and university clients navigate legal questions raised by new technologies, viral forms of expression, and impassioned political discourse, it is essential that education attorneys understand the parameters of the First Amendment. I invite you to discuss these topics with your colleagues at the 2017 Education Law Section CLE and Annual Meeting on Friday, April 21, at the NC Bar Center in Cary.

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Academic Freedom In Interesting Times

Education Law Section

By William Joseph Austin Jr.

This article is posted in anticipation of the 2017 Education Law Section Annual Meeting and CLE scheduled for April 21 at the N.C. Bar Center.  The theme of the program is freedom of speech in educational institutions.

A 50th anniversary came and went this past fall without fanfare or commemoration.  But for several weeks in October and November of 1966, Andrew Marvell’s poem, “To His Coy Mistress,” written circa 1650’s, was a “national sensation.”[1]  On Oct. 17, 1966, the television station WRAL reported that a UNC English instructor had assigned his students to write a paper on seduction using this 17th-century poem.[2]  Subsequent investigation by a departmental committee determined in November that the instructor, Michael Paull, had not given the students that assignment, but asked them to use the poem to explain imagery and six figures of poetic speech.[3]

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