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.

The members of the Education Law Section CLE Committee, under the leadership of co-chairs W. Joseph Austin, Jr., Sarah O. Edwards and Dionne T. Jenkins, have planned a day of interesting speakers and topics that will appeal to both junior and seasoned education attorneys. The program will begin with Allison C. Tomberlin and Shawn C. Troxler providing an overview of public forum analysis and other free speech principles that education attorneys must consider in developing appropriate speech guidelines for discussions taking place on school campuses, in board rooms and online. Next, Jill R. Wilson, a frequent presenter on the First Amendment, will discuss the delicate balancing act of issues related to the Free Exercise Clause versus the Establishment Clause in the educational environment. Gretchen N. Cleevely will complete the morning by addressing special scenarios where freedom of speech intersects—and sometimes collides—with special education when working with students with disabilities and accommodations.

Following the Section’s Annual Meeting and Networking Lunch, we will hear the dynamic perspective of Professor Gene R. Nichol on the value of academic freedom. A long-time champion for academic freedom, Professor Nichol will share reflections on how this issue migrated from the op-ed section to the newspaper’s front page in 2016. Shea Browning and Chad R. Donnahoo will continue with this topic and discuss how campus counsel can alleviate concerns around how stakeholders, whether invested financially or in student welfare, may affect academic freedom in the K-12 and higher education settings. Christopher B. “Chris” McLaughlin will remind attorneys of their obligations under the rules of professional conduct when working with organizational clients in the public sector as well as First Amendment rules that govern public employees. And last, but certainly not least, we will end the day with Brian C. Shaw’s always popular case law and legislative updates relevant to education law practitioners.

You do not want to miss the opportunity to earn 6.0 hours of CLE credit (including 1.0 hour of ethics/professional responsibility credit) while engaging with these timely topics. Early Bird Registration ends this Friday, April 14. For more information about the program schedule, updates, and registration, visit I look forward to seeing you next Friday!