PRACTICE AREAS

Education & Special Education

Today’s educational institutions face a range of complex legal issues at least as broad as those faced by highly-regulated industries. Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP has one of the most extensive education law practices in New England. The firm represents over 80 school committees, public school districts, colleges and universities and private schools. Its diverse school clientele ranges from large cities and towns to smaller communities and educational collaboratives. The firm’s attorneys have the expertise, experience and resources to service all of their legal needs, including collective bargaining, special education, arbitrations, litigation and the full range of current legal issues, including student rights and discipline, service contracts, discrimination, the impact of Education Reform, and all statutory issues.

A significant part of the Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP education law practice is in the field of special education. In this area, the firm has counseled over 200 school committees on the adequacy of programs under Chapter 766 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. It has represented clients in hearings and litigation arising under these and other statutes.

The firm has concentrated in education law for more than 25 years, and can provide first-rate, comprehensive legal services efficiently and cost-effectively. The firm emphasizes a preventive maintenance approach, based upon our strong belief that proper legal advice prevents problems before they occur. The firm devotes a considerable part of our practice to assisting our clients in anticipating problems and avoiding costly disputes and litigation through client training and communication.

The firm’s experience in the field of education enables us to provide our clients with a broad range of services in such operation and legal matters as:

  • All facets of labor and employment including hiring, tenure, discipline, termination and collective bargaining.
  • Issues pertaining to the powers and duties of administrators and school committees, and matters of governance.
  • Interrelationships among the school, municipal, state and federal government relative to a number of issues including school finance.
  • All facets of special education and education of persons with disabilities including section 504 and the ADA.
  • Training and staff development.
  • Evaluation of staff.
  • Accreditation processes.
  • Constitutional questions covering all curricular and disciplinary topics such as student rights, academic freedom, church/state dilemmas and due process.
  • Plant operation functions such as procurement, construction, facilities development and contract negotiations with service providers.
  • Representation in agency, court and appellate litigation.

Contact us today if you have questions about Education & Special Education

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Alisia St. Florian

(617) 479-5000 astflorian@mhtl.com

Ms. St. Florian is a Partner at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP, and is a member of the firm’s Special Education Law Group.  Ms. St. Florian represents school districts in all aspects of special education litigation, from administrative hearings at the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) through to all levels of judicial appeal.  In addition, Ms. St. Florian frequently presents workshops on issues regarding special education, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, state and federal student record Read More

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Kevin F. Bresnahan

(617) 479-5000 kbresnahan@mhtl.com

Mr. Bresnahan practices in the areas of labor and employment, education, and municipal law. Mr. Bresnahan has negotiated collective bargaining agreements on behalf of numerous municipalities and school committees, and has represented public employers before the courts of the Commonwealth, in arbitrations, and in a wide variety of administrative proceedings before various agencies, including the Division of Labor Relations, the Civil Service Commission, the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, and the Joint Labor-Management Committee.  He advises public employers in various aspects of employment law, Read More

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Doris R. MacKenzie Ehrens

(617) 479-5000 drmackehrens@mhtl.com

Ms. Ehrens has forty years’ experience in civil litigation, including special education, public sector, commercial/corporate, bankruptcy, personal injury (plaintiff and defense), employment litigation, and multiemployer trust fund litigation. She has extensive experience in federal and state, trial and appellate courts. Ms. Ehrens is admitted to practice in Massachusetts and Alaska, the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, the United States District Court for the District of Alaska, and the United States Courts of Appeals for the First and Ninth Circuits. She Read More

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Katherine A. Hesse

(617) 479-5000 khesse@mhtl.com

Katherine Hesse is one of the founding partners of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLP. Ms. Hesse concentrates her practice primarily in labor and employment and employee benefits law serving as counsel to individuals, business, government, and tax exempt organizations including hospitals, colleges, churches, and major private and public retirement and health plans. She has litigated numerous employment and benefits cases before the state and federal trial and appellate courts, administrative agencies and arbitrators. She is also an active practitioner in all Read More

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Michael J. Maccaro

(617) 479-5000 mmaccaro@mhtl.com

Mr. Maccaro’s practice is focused on the areas of labor and employment in the public and private sector, litigation, and employee benefits. Prior to joining the firm, Mr. Maccaro served as Associate General Counsel for a large public sector labor union.  He has litigated numerous matters, and has argued before various state courts, appellate courts, and administrative agencies throughout New England.  Mr. Maccaro has served as an Adjunct Professor at the Massachusetts School of Law where he has taught legal writing and appellate advocacy.  Following law Read More

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Elizabeth L. Sherwood

617-479-5000 esherwood@mhtl.com

Ms. Sherwood is an attorney in the Education Law Group at Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane. She primarily represents clients in regular and special education matters. Ms. Sherwood received her bachelor’s degree from the University of California at San Diego and her Juris Doctor degree from Vanderbilt Law School. While in law school, Ms. Sherwood participated in a domestic violence and family law clinic and spent her summers prosecuting criminal cases in the District Attorney’s Offices in Nashville, TN and San Francisco, Read More

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Mary Ellen Sowyrda

(617) 479-5000 msowyrda@mhtl.com

Ms. Sowyrda is a partner at the firm and heads the Special Education Department within Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane, LLP, which currently represents approximately 160 school districts and educational collaboratives in the field of Special Education Law.  She is involved in all aspects of litigation including hearings, mediations, pre-hearing conferences with the Bureau of Special Education Appeals and court cases. She provides clients with daily advice on school-related legal issues and deals with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Read More

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Sarah C. Spatafore

(617) 479-5000 sspatafore@mhtl.com

Ms. Spatafore is an associate attorney with the firm. She practices primarily in the labor and employment area, representing both public and private clients.  Ms. Spatafore also handles education issues.  Ms. Spatafore has represented clients before a number of courts and administrative tribunals at both the state and federal level. Ms. Spatafore regularly advises clients on a variety of issues related to labor and employment, represents clients on issues related to collective bargaining, grievances, and arbitrations, and has conducted numerous Read More

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Regina Williams Tate

(617) 479-5000 gtate@mhtl.com

Ms. Tate has been practicing law since 1978. She practices primarily in the areas of labor and education law. Her practice in the area of education covers the spectrum of issues related to education including student discipline, special education, Education Reform, due process rights of teachers and other school employees, and other employment matters, academic freedom and civil rights. She also participates in the collective bargaining process on behalf of her education clients. She has served as counsel to over 60 school committees and private schools, providing Read More

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Felicia S. Vasudevan

(617) 479-5000 fvasudevan@mhtl.com

Ms. Vasudevan is an attorney in the firm’s Education Law and Special Education Law Groups, working in regular and special education issues. Ms. Vasudevan represents school districts in all aspects of special education litigation, from administrative hearings at the Massachusetts Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) through to all levels of judicial appeal.  She represents school districts in matters of student discipline, civil rights issues, collective bargaining, public procurement, and employment issues.  She presents workshops on issues such as conducting investigations, evaluations, Read More

Latest News

2019 Labor & Employment Law Update

The MHTL 2019 Labor & Employment Law Update took place April 25th with Kier Wachterhauser, Sarah, Spatafore, Nan O’Neill and Michael Maccaro presenting to 250 employer attendees. The topics included: important cases coming out of the Supreme Court and the Supreme Judicial Court addressing Wage Act damage, overtime exemptions, discrimination laws and arbitration agreements.

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Tel: (617) 479-5000
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