Many public school districts in Texas are facing a growing number of legal issues, often complicated by fewer financial resources to actively address and prevent litigation and other challenges. The Highland Park Independent School District is working with the law firm of Thompson & Knight LLP to educate the District’s leadership on how to identify legal problems before they occur or escalate.
“We’re in the education business, and the power of education is just as powerful for district leaders as it is for teachers and students,” HPISD Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr said. “When it comes to school law, Benjamin Franklin’s adage that ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ rings especially true. We want the taxpayers’ dollars to go into the classroom, not the courtroom, and by studying school law, we make wiser and more informed decisions before the threat of litigation arises. We truly appreciate the attorneys at Thompson & Knight who are providing this invaluable training to us at no cost.”
Attorneys at Thompson & Knight meet monthly with district administrators to discuss a variety of legal topics, which have already included the parent-student complaint process, teacher contracting issues, and bullying and harassment, including cyberbullying and sexting. Future programs will cover student discipline, residency and admission issues, and First Amendment rights.
“If we can train educators to be attuned to the issues that lead to the involvement of lawyers, we can help the district avoid issues that lead to the need for our services,” says Bill Banowsky, a partner at Thompson & Knight. Thompson & Knight has represented the District for more than 60 years, with Banowsky counseling the district for the past 15 years. When not counseling the district, Banowsky is an experienced trial attorney representing companies and individuals in business disputes, including securities law matters, oil and gas disputes, and complex commercial contracts.
“We value our relationship with the district,” Banowsky said. “In addition to working with excellent people performing a critical mission, avoiding or reducing litigation costs is also a benefit to the community at large.”
This educational effort is not unique for the Firm. “In this economy, we know everyone is under pressure to do more with less,” said Emily Parker, managing partner at Thompson & Knight. “By providing these types of benefits and services to our clients, we demonstrate our commitment to helping each client achieve their goals.”