Educational / Religious Organizations

Shumaker represents K-12 private, religious, public community (public charter) and public suburban schools throughout Northwest Ohio, Southeast Michigan and other select markets in such states as Florida.  We also advise churches and many different religious and charitable organizations in these geographic areas.

We have worked with private schools and public districts for many decades, illustrating the confidence that administrators and school boards have in us.  Our lawyers are knowledgeable and accessible, willing to take phone calls at any time to answer questions from board members and administrators on routine, as well as unique, operating issues.

And we can draw on Shumaker's full range of legal services to assist with bond issues, fundraising, governmental regulatory matters and public levies, real estate transactions (including property bequests to religious schools and nonprofit organizations), ERISA and employee benefits, and state and federal tax issues (particularly on 501(c)(3) issues for private or community schools).

What Makes Us Different

Our counsel to educational and religious organizations is comprehensive – whether the issue is asbestos removal, zoning approval or anything in between.  Our lawyers are knowledgeable about every area of education law, functioning as general counsel, outside counsel and special counsel for religious, private and public schools and colleges.  We are experienced in dealing with civil law issues that arise under canon and private law systems, and are familiar with the unique provisions in Ohio law regarding community (charter) school operation and selection as special counsel to universities.

When serving as outside counsel for educational institutions, we not only advise on legal issues but also address the unique management concerns and disputes facing our clients.  Our role is to help administrators and boards make sound, informed decisions regarding such issues as competitive bidding standards, contract approval, outsourcing of services and managing their real and personal property.  Shumaker's practical, down-to-earth approach combines experience in the very specific federal and state laws for education, private church law of religious organizations, and operating concerns for both public and private schools.

Our Clients

  • A wide range of private schools, many of them affiliated with religious organizations and denominations, including religious schools throughout all of Northwest Ohio.
  • Independent, private and public community schools, and several charter schools.
  • Several public school districts in Ohio.
  • Leading universities, community colleges and technical colleges in Ohio.
  • The educational arms of religious organizations, including hierarchical and congregational churches and both local and larger religious bodies.

Why You Benefit

We appreciate the budgetary constraints that public school districts, charter and community schools and religious organizations must operate under and make every effort to provide effective counsel at a cost consistent with our clients' needs.  And because we have served on community school boards and the boards of other governmental units, we understand our clients' concerns and focus our guidance on the kind of real-world counsel that administrators and staff appreciate.

For example, we regularly update a Principals' Handbook, which we prepared for one of our major private school clients that has schools in many locations. It contains information on federal and state laws and regulations, and workable policies for both routine and sensitive issues affecting students, teachers, parents, coaches, administrators and regulatory agencies.

Similarly, working with a large religious school network, we meet with all their principals regularly.  New principals are advised that their first call to us is free, encouraging them to work with us from the outset of their assignment.

Core Services

  • Comprehensive general counsel and outside counsel guidance on organizational issues, governance, training, development, compliance, general policies, liability, management and business concerns.
  • Labor and employment counsel to public school districts, community schools, colleges and universities regarding labor negotiations, contract renewal and tenure issues, unfair labor practices, grievances and arbitrations.
  • Employee and student safety, instruction, eligibility, discipline, enforcement of school codes, and facilitating suspension and expulsion hearings and review.
  • Advice on tax-exempt, nonprofit issues for private, public and religious educational organizations and religious charities.
  • Crafting guidelines for student and faculty use of Internet and social media and networking sites, as well as issues relating to educational and employment rights and academic freedom.

Additional Services

  • Advice on organizational liability issues, with review of liability insurance coverage, including self-insurance programs, to help limit exposure to claims for damages.
  • Property issues, including gifts, transfers and resolution of zoning and eminent domain disputes.
  • Ensuring compliance with all statutes and regulations governing such issues as public information, employment law, disabilities accommodation and conflicts of interest.
  • Assisting in the start-up of new public community schools, providing advice regarding negotiations of Ohio sponsorship agreements, recruitment and training of the governing board, real estate leases, the Ohio Sunshine Law, the Ohio Privacy Act, and contracts with third party financial agents and other service providers.
  • Advising on the full range of school law issues, including matters such as student discipline and privacy rights, contract renewal and tenure issues and school financing and other issues, as well as labor and management matters.

What you can expect from Shumaker

We offer public school clients experienced and practical advice.  Our lawyers understand everyday operating issues that public government bodies face (including concerns over public records and open meetings required by the Ohio Sunshine Law), and work proactively to help boards and administrators avoid problems. Because every public district school administrator is concerned about voter approval of school levies, we understand the importance of maintaining public confidence and a positive public image.

Similarly, community and private schools, like other charitable organizations, have to be just as responsive to their families and stakeholders, who are paying the bills directly and not just as taxpayers.  We understand those concerns, relating to everything from student academics, athletics and discipline to special provisions and laws involving employment issues, disability accommodations, search and seizure, harassment and bullying.  Our lawyers have deep experience with the business of education and work directly with senior administrators and their governing boards to offer comprehensive help with the operational and policy realities that are of greatest concern.

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