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This month’s edition of the Law Dawg features an in depth interview of the Dawg by Intrepid Reporter and Friend of the Truth, Rip Snort. Indeed, Snort’s interviews are always in depth as he is utterly lacking in the superficiality that rockets a journalist to fame and fortune. Snort prefers to seek the Truth, wherever it may lead, even if it be less glamorous than a gig on CNN. But enough about Snort…..


SNORT: Dawg, you have been engaged in the practice of “school law” for a long time now. Many readers of this column are starting out in that area of professional endeavor. Others are thinking about it. Plus we have many readers who are educators who once thought about attending law school, or are still thinking about it as a second career. How does one become a “school lawyer”?

DAWG: You represent school districts. Or school administrators. Or teachers. Or kids and their parents in disputes with schools. In short, Snort, one becomes a “school lawyer” by working in the area involving the legal issues that pertain to our schools.


SNORT: Do law schools offer a “major” or “concentration” in school law?

DAWG: Nope. Maybe one class during the three year program. Maybe a seminar.


SNORT: If I want to be a school lawyer, which law school should I attend?

DAWG: The one you can get out of without too much debt.


SNORT: What’s the best thing about being a school lawyer?

DAWG: The quality of the people you get to work with. As my former colleague, Therold Farmer, used to put it: “I’d rather work with you people than the finest people on earth.”


SNORT: When did you know that school law was the place for you?

DAWG: While watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and finding myself rooting for principal Ed Rooney. Most of what I have learned about school law, I learned at the movies.


SNORT: Really! What did you learn from Ferris Bueller?

DAWG: The importance of evidence. Was Bueller a liar? Yes. Was he truant? Yes. Was he a cheat? Yes. Did he conspire to contribute to the delinquency and truancy of others? Yes. But why did he get away with all of this? Because Rooney failed to marshal the evidence necessary to prove any of these charges. So I learned that the truth doesn’t matter. What matters is what you can prove. And also, that it’s best to employ a competent investigator rather than breaking and entering a student’s home.


SNORT: Interesting! You have spent a lot of time in the area of special education. Was that influenced by movies also?

DAWG: Absolutely. Forrest Gump.


SNORT: That was about special ed????

DAWG: Well, Forrest Gump was about a lot of things, but you may recall the meeting in the principal’s office when Mrs. Gump was seeking to get Forrest enrolled in the neighborhood public school. This was about 1956 or ’57, long before we had laws to protect kids with special needs. The principal explained that Forrest had an IQ that was too low to qualify for the regular school, that he was “below normal” and so she would have to make “other arrangements.” Mrs. Gump (Sally Field) eloquently pleaded her son’s case, questioning what “normal” really means. It occurred to me that this fictional scene was probably a fairly realistic depiction of what life was like in the 1950s for parents of kids with special needs. Twenty years later we got legislation that guaranteed that Forrest, and kids like him, would be served in our regular public schools. Way cool.


SNORT: I don’t remember what happened in the movie? Was Mrs. Gump successful in her efforts to enroll Forrest?

DAWG: She was, but she had to take extraordinary measures. Mrs. Gump was a practical and resourceful mother. She looked at the principal with those big brown eyes and said, “Surely something can be done.” Later that night, she met privately with the principal and got the decision overturned. Some viewers saw an amusing episode in a long movie. But I saw more litigation on the horizon.


SNORT: What litigation?

DAWG: A sexual harassment suit by Mrs. Gump, claiming a violation of Title IX, Title VI, the 14th Amendment, the Magna Carta and the Mayflower Compact. Being a defense attorney, I began to outline in my head the immunities, affirmative defenses and other responses to Mrs. Gump’s sexual harassment suit.


SNORT: What did you come up with?

DAWG: Not a thing. I decided the principal would be fired, lose his educator certification and pay a million or so in damages. Having put that out of my mind, I was able to enjoy the rest of the movie. But I knew that school law was for me.


SNORT: Thank you, Dawg!

DAWG: Thank you, Snort!


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