The School Law Institute
Teachers College, Columbia University
Teachers College
Columbia University

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Gary Orfield

Ph.D., is the Professor of Education, Law, Political Science and Urban Planning at UCLA.  His research interests are in the study of civil rights, education policy, urban policy, and minority opportunity.  He was co-founder and director of the Harvard Civil Rights Project, and now serves as co-director of the Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA. His central interest has been the development and implementation of social policy, with a central focus on the impact of policy on equal opportunity for success in American society. Recent works include six co-edited books since 2004 and numerous articles and reports.  Among his many awards are the American Political Science Association's Charles Merriam Award for his "contribution to the art of government through the application of social science research" and the 2007 Social Justice in Education Award by the American Educational Research Association for "work which has had a profound impact on demonstrating the critical role of education research in supporting social justice."

Patricia gandara

Patricia Gándara

Ph.D., is a professor at the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Co-director of the UCLA Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles, which is the nation’s leading research center on issues of civil rights and racial inequality.  She has served as Commissioner for Postsecondary Education in California, a bilingual school psychologist, was a social scientist with the RAND Corporation, and has directed education research for the California State Assembly.  Her research focuses on educational equity and access for low income and ethnic minority students, language policy, and the education of Latino youth. Among her recent publications are “The Latino Education Crisis: The Consequences of Failed Social Policies” (with Contreras, Harvard University Press, 2009, “Forbidden Language” (with Hopkins, Teachers College Press, 2011), and forthcoming (with Callahan), “The Bilingual Advantage, Language, Literacy and the Labor Market (Multilingual Matters, 2014).

John king

John B. King, Jr.

Ed.D., J.D., is the New York State Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York. King brings extensive experience leading urban public schools that are closing the achievement gap in his role as a Managing Director with Uncommon Schools, a non-profit charter management organization that operates some of the highest performing urban public schools in New York and New Jersey. Prior to joining Uncommon Schools, Dr. King was a Co-Founder and Co-Director for Curriculum & Instruction of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. Under his leadership, Roxbury Prep’s students attained the highest state exam scores of any urban middle school in Massachusetts, closed the racial achievement gap, and outperformed students from not only the Boston district schools but also the city’s affluent suburbs.  

Maree sneed

Maree Sneed

J.D., Ph.D., is a senior partner at the Washington, DC law firm Hogan Lovells and director of the firm’s nationally prominent education practice. She serves on the faculty of the Harvard Graduate School of Education, on the Board of Directors for Magnet Schools of America, and as a board member and secretary of the National School Boards Foundation. She advises school districts, educational associations, and private companies in the education sector on state and federal legal issues.  Maree served as counsel of record in two major Supreme Court cases, Schaffer v. Weast and PICS v. Seattle School District No. 1. Previously she worked as a teacher and administrator in the Montgomery County Public Schools.

Rhoda E. Schneider

J.D., General Counsel and Senior Associate Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Institute co-chair). For over 30 years, Rhoda Schneider has been chief legal counsel to the commissioner, state board, and department staff. She has advised six successive commissioners and served twice herself as acting commissioner. Besides providing legal guidance to the commissioner and the agency, she and her staff also publish advisories for school and district leaders, parents and students, and other constituents on the state and federal laws affecting public elementary and secondary schools. The issues of education law and policy that she addresses include standards-based education reform, civil rights, charter schools, school finance and governance, student assessment, special education, school and district accountability, student rights and responsibilities, and educator licensure. Rhoda is an adjunct lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the editor of the MCLE book, School Law in Massachusetts.

Dennis D. Parker

J.D., is the Director of the ACLU National Office's Racial Justice Program. Concentrating on issues of the school-to-prison pipeline (which funnels children of color from the educational system into the criminal justice system), racial profiling, affirmative action, indigent representation and felon enfranchisement and predatory lending, the Racial Justice Project seeks to remove barriers to equal opportunity for communities of color through litigation, public education, community organizing and legislation. Before joining the ACLU, he worked for the N.Y. York State Attorney General as Chief of the Civil Rights Bureau. Mr. Parker also worked for fourteen years at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund litigating and supervising the litigation of scores of cases involving elementary and secondary education, affirmative action in higher education and equal educational opportunity. He has published a book and numerous chapters and articles on a range of civil rights issues. He lectures extensively on civil rights issues and is an adjunct professor at New York Law School.  He is a graduate of Middlebury College and Harvard Law School. 

Michael A. Rebell

J.D., is an experienced litigator, administrator, researcher, and scholar in the field of education law. He is the executive director of the Campaign for Educational Equity and Professor of Law and Educational Practice at Teachers College, Columbia University. The Campaign seeks to promote equity and excellence in education and to overcome the gap in educational access and achievement between advantaged and disadvantaged students throughout the United States.  He is the author of five books and dozens of articles on issues involving law and education. Previously, Mr. Rebell was the co-founder, executive director and counsel for the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. In CFE v. State of New York, the Court of Appeals, New York's highest court, declared that all children are entitled under the state Constitution to the "opportunity for a sound basic education" and it ordered the State of New York to reform its education finance system to meet these constitutional requirements. Mr. Rebell also serves as a consultant to attorneys, advocates and policymakers involved in education reform and education litigation throughout the country, and he is currently counsel for the plaintiffs in New Yorkers for Students Educational Rights v. State of New York.
Perry zirkel

Perry A. Zirkel

J.D., LL.M., Ph.D., is University Professor of Education and Law at Lehigh University, where he has held the Iacocca Chair in Education and has served as Dean of the College of Education. He has more than 1,400 publications on various aspects of school law, with an emphasis on legal issues in special education. He writes a regular column for Principal magazine and did so previously for both Phi Delta Kappan and Teaching Exceptional Children. Past president of the Education Law Association and co-chair of the Pennsylvania special education appeals panel from 1990 to 2007, in 2013 he received the Research into Practice Award from the American Educational Research Association and the Excellence in Research Award from AERA’s Division A, and in 2014 he received the University Council of Educational Administration's Edwin Bridges award for significant contributions to the preparation and development of school leaders.

Jay P. Heubert

(Institute co-chair), is a Professor of Law and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Columbia Law School. For sixteen years at Columbia and thirteen at Harvard, he has taught courses on education law, policy, and practice for students in education, law, and related fields. His research has focused on civil rights issues in education, including desegregation, the obligations of charter schools to serve students with disabilities, high-stakes testing, and the role of law in school reform. Jay has also served as chief counsel to the Pennsylvania Dept. of Education, a trial attorney in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, a specialist on desegregation and gender equity in the School District of Philadelphia, and a high-school English teacher in rural North Carolina.


School Safety Issues

  • The schools’ authority to make and enforce rules governing the conduct of students and staff, on campus and off

  • Search and seizure, including drug testing

  • The schools' role in addressing child abuse


Equity Issues

  • Issues of race and poverty in education

  • Race-conscious policies after the Supreme Court's 2007 desegregation decision

  • Harassment based on sex, sexual orientation, race, and ethnicity

  • Immigrants and English Learners: Language Policy and Regulation


Charter Schools

  • Issues of law, policy, and practice 


Special Education

  • Requirements under the I.D.E.A., Section 504, and the A.D.A.

  • Recent court decisions; current policy and implementation issues 


Standards and Accountability

  • Federal Education Policy in Flux: NCLB and Race to the Top

  • Testing for tracking, promotion, and graduation 


Fiscal Equity and the Right to an Adequate Education


Free-Speech Issues, including the Internet

  • Student free speech

  • Teacher free speech

  • Internet use, cyber-bullying, and other technology issues


Educators and the Law

  • Improving educator-lawyer collaboration

  • Practicing preventive law

  • Keeping current on legal developments

“This is one of the best, most useful classes I have taken at TC.”

-M.A. Candidate, Politics & Education

“Excellent, relevant topics. Useful and interesting readings.”

-Higher Ed. Administrator

“As a new administrator this overall institute has been incredibly enlightening and has given me a sense of renewal.”

-Ed.D Candidate, Urban Educational Leaders Program

“The School Law Institute opened my eyes to a history of challenges and a future of possibility in the fields of both education and law. The unbelievable guest speakers, experts in law and education, provide School Law Institute students a once in a lifetime learning opportunity.”

 – Graduate student in higher education, 2012

“Truly a greatest hits selection of law issues and potentially life/career changing for me.”

–Education advocate, 2012

“I have been in the field of education for 33 years, and I learned something new every day! The week was the hall of fame for the world of education.”

- Middle school principal, 2012

“All speakers were highly engaging- [I] loved small group discussions of case studies and opportunities for everyone to comment throughout.”

- K-8 Curriculum Coordinator and Instructional Coach, 2012

“Despite being a foreign student unfamiliar with American laws, the course provided me a framework for thinking about the relationship between the law and education, the rights of the school, teacher, and students. The skills I learned will certainly be applicable to my local context. Further, where laws, statues and regulations don’t exist, I am inspired to advocate for them. Specifically relevant were the topics of harassment and bullying, free speech, school authority, English language learners, and diversity.”

– Graduate student from Singapore 2012.