< Areas of Practice

Education & School Districts

Our lawyers provide legal support to school districts, higher education institutions, and education non-profits, assisting them in the delivery of excellence in education.

Our education team is dedicated to helping the education community achieve its goals, successfully deal with challenges, and benefit from opportunities. We often serve as outside general counsel and have extensive experience advising our clients on a broad array of legal issues specific to schools and educational entities.

Pacifica attorneys also volunteer in numerous public service positions that emphasize their commitment to education, including on the State Board of Community and Technical Colleges, the City of Seattle Families and Education Levy Oversight Committee, the Student Achievement Council, and the boards of education non-profits such as Schools First and College Spark, an education grant-making foundation, the State Capital Projects Advisory Review Board, and local PTAs.

Land Use, Real Estate, and Construction

We provide comprehensive legal counsel to public school districts in the planning and development of new school facilities, as well as addressing the impacts of new development on school facilities. Our attorneys are experienced in and provide counsel on a range of issues related to school facilities, including growth management, land use planning and permitting, environmental review, feasibility and site selection, and facilities planning. We assist school districts with complex and simple real estate transactions including acquisition and sale of school property, eminent domain matters, easement and license issues, and public/private partnership transactions. Our team also has vast experience in school districts with the development and implementation of school impact fee programs and capital facilities planning, as well as addressing school mitigation needs prompted by large master planned communities and planned unit developments. In addition, we provide traditional and alternative construction procurement advice to schools for new projects and renovations and, when necessary, represent schools in construction claims mediation and litigation.

Labor and Employment

Our education team advises schools on personnel issues including disability and accommodation compliance, disciplinary actions, and dismissals. We also are experienced in labor relations, and have helped successfully arbitrate many disputes concerning interpretation of bargaining agreements and employee discipline.

Special Education

We represent school districts in all areas of special education counseling and dispute resolution. We regularly advise on special education policies, procedures, eligibility and placements, accommodations, and discipline. We are experienced in helping schools deal with issues associated with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. We also have successfully developed and implemented strategies for defense of educational programming decisions before the Washington State Office of Administrative Hearings and review of those decisions in U.S. District Court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Student Matters

We advise and represent education agencies in student-related disputes and advise them regarding the requirements under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and data-sharing contracts and policies.

Administrative Disputes and Appeals

Our experience includes a successful administrative challenge to the denial of heavy impact aid funding for a school district by the U.S. Department of Education; and prosecution and defense of multiple school district boundary petitions before the Regional Committee on School District Organization, State Board of Education, Office of Administrative Hearings, Superior Court, and the State Court of Appeals.

School District Bonds and Levies

Our public finance team has wide-ranging experience with traditional and innovative financing tools available to public entities under federal and state law. We represent school districts on bond and levy issues, and have served as bond counsel and disclosure counsel in connection with all types of bond issues for school districts, including voted and non-voted limited and unlimited tax general obligation bonds, qualified school construction bonds, Build America Bonds, bond anticipation notes, LOCAL financings and financing leases, whether publicly sold or privately placed. We regularly draft ballot language for bond levies and assist school districts with drafting ballot language for maintenance and operation and capital levies.

Bonds for Higher Education Institutions

Pacifica’s higher education finance practice includes service as bond counsel to the University of Washington, Portland State University, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University. Pacifica attorneys also serve as bond counsel to the Washington Higher Education Facilities Authority, the issuer of bonds for the fourteen eligible private nonprofit colleges and universities in the state of Washington, including, for instance, Seattle Pacific University, Pacific Lutheran University, Gonzaga University, and Whitman College.

Public Entity Compliance and Policy

We regularly counsel public education clients regarding the State Open Public Meetings Act and Public Records Act, as well as general public agency compliance matters. We also regularly work with local policy makers to facilitate school siting and address the impacts of new development on school facilities. We are experienced advocates before state and local legislative bodies and on state and local education ballot measures.

Education Non-Profits & Collaboratives

Pacifica’s attorneys assist a diverse array of education non-profits and community-based collaborative initiatives. We help these vital players in the education ecosystem implement FERPA-compliant data-sharing systems and contracts, understand and affect education policy and legislation, and manage all aspects of non-profit organization governance and compliance. Representative clients include the Community Center for Education Results Road Map Project, the Washington Education Association, the League of Education Voters, Teachers United, White Center Promise, and Seattle Housing Authority’s Choice Neighborhoods Initiative.