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The COVID-19 virus and pandemic is impacting all aspect of life across our country. No area has the disruption been felt more than in the K-12 education context. In recent weeks, it has become clear that the crisis will continue to rattle education well into 2021. The COVID-19 crisis is impacting all aspects of K-12 education operations and educators, policymakers, and school attorneys face multiple challenges navigating the current education environment. This program will provide educators and policymakers with the most current information on several education related issues including, but not limited to: re-opening schools, employee testing and vaccination, remote instruction, and SPED services. Drawing on the experience of the last ten months, this panel of education attorneys will discuss their experiences advising public schools during the pandemic and the daunting challenges facing educators in the coming months.
Speakers: John F. Brink, Thomeczek & Brink, LLC, St. Louis; Jayme E. Major, Assistant General Counsel, St. Louis Public Schools, St. Louis; Duane A. Martin, EdCounsel, LLC, Columbia; Jeffrey A. St. Omer, Mickes O'Toole, LLC, St. Louis; James G. Thomeczek, Thomeczek & Brink, LLC, St. Louis
Note: This material qualifies for self-study credit only. Pursuant to Regulation 15.04.5, a lawyer may receive up to six hours of self-study credit in a reporting year. Self-study programs do not qualify for GAL Certification, ethics, elimination of bias or Kansas credit.
|School Law: Students with Disabilities & the Issues Brought to Light During COVID-19 (519.2 KB)||Available after Purchase|
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Thomeczek & Brink, LLC
John Brink is a magna cum laude graduate of Southern Illinois University – Carbondale School of Law where he was a member of the law journal. Prior to entering law school, John was a high school math teacher in Illinois for several years. John received a B.S. degree in Secondary Education-Mathematics from the University of Illinois.
After graduating from law school, John had the privilege of serving as a law clerk for the Honorable Edward L. Filippine, Chief Judge of the United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri. Serving as a law clerk provided an invaluable opportunity to be exposed to a wide variety of legal issues and to view the legal process from the judicial perspective.
Upon completion of his clerkship, John served the State of Missouri as an Assistant Attorney General. In that capacity, John represented the State and various state employees in a wide variety of matters, including civil rights, employment, special education, and school desegregation litigation. While with the Attorney General’s Office, John first- and second-chaired several trials and represented the State in administrative hearings related to personnel issues. In addition to arguing cases before the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and writing numerous appellate briefs, John drafted an amicus curia brief filed with the United States Supreme Court.
After moving to the private sector in 1999, John focused his practice on the representation of public school districts, with an emphasis on issues related to students with disabilities. His practice has included providing counsel on a wide variety of issues and representation in administrative and judicial proceedings. John has served as a mediator in special education matters and as a hearing officer in Section 504 due process hearings.
John has been asked frequently to speak to school and attorney groups on matters related to students with disabilities and is an adjunct professor for Lindenwood University, where he teaches special education law.
St. Louis Public Schools
Jayme Major is a magna cum laude graduate of Saint Louis University School of Law. Prior to entering law school, Jayme worked in management and marketing for several years. Jayme received a B.S. degree in Marketing from Southern Illinois University of Carbondale. After law school, Jayme worked as an Associate Attorney in the Litigation Department of the law firm Lewis Rice LLC. For eight years, Jayme maintained a broad practice range, representing clients in contract disputes, medical malpractice defense, labor and employment law, and more. Jayme gained a wide range of first and second chair trial experience in federal and state courts of Missouri and Illinois. Jayme also served as a the firm liaison and advocate for volunteer cases, providing pro bono representation for legal services clients in orders of protection, domestic matters, adult and minor guardianships, and housing and tenant matters.
It was at Lewis Rice that Jayme started representing St. Louis Public Schools. Coming from a family full of educators, Jayme found her true calling in school law. In representing SLPS, Jayme gained expert knowledge of state and federal compliance issues, served as lead counsel over approximately 100 administrative employment termination hearings, and defended multiple federal and state discrimination lawsuits. In 2017, Jayme transitioned to an in-house role for SLPS as its Assistant General Counsel. In this position, Jayme provides legal guidance for 70 locations and its 4,000 employees and 20,000 students. Jayme acts as the Compliance Officer for Titles IX and VI, and is responsible for guidance and training on policy compliance, sexual harassment, transgender student support, bullying, and other student and employee issues and concerns. Jayme coordinates cases with outside counsel on personal injury, education litigation, Worker’s Compensation, and other cases, and continues in her role representing the District in all administrative hearings provided as due process to certificated and non-certificated personnel receiving disciplinary actions.
Throughout the pandemic, Jayme has taken the lead with creating a COVID Response Team, including a Contact Tracing Department with six team members, including three dedicated contact tracers. Jayme stays ahead of CDC and Department of Health guidance, implementing protocol and conducting training with the Contact Tracing Department and all SLPS school leaders. SLPS has an in-person learning option at every one of its sites, and has successfully managed to keep in-person learning going consistently without any shut-downs, by adhering to strict safety protocol, and maintaining the robust in-house contact tracing with dedicated individuals ensuring that close contacts are identified and assessed and quarantines immediately imposed any time there is a positive case. Jayme oversees all aspects of COVID response, including on-site antigen tests, partnership with the Department of Health on upcoming vaccine distribution, COVID exposure policy drafting and implementation, and more, becoming the foremost authority on COVID-related school issues and initiatives in the St. Louis area.
Duane is a first generation college graduate who values the critical difference public educators have made in his life. Those educators directly impacted his professional life and instilled in him a passion for public service and governmental affairs. As an undergraduate, Duane served as one of 30 students selected nationally as a Center Fellow with the Center for the Study of Presidency, publishers of Presidential Studies Quarterly. Duane was also a recipient of the George C. Marshall Award, sponsored by the Marshall Foundation in honor of one of America’s truly selfless public servants. After serving overseas as an Army officer, Duane returned home to Missouri to attend law school. In law school, he served as Editor in Chief of the ABA’s national quarterly for state and local government law, which includes scholarly works regarding public education. Following law school, Duane served as a judicial law clerk at the Missouri Court of Appeals and as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Missouri.
In private practice, Duane represented his first public school district in 1997 and has dedicated his practice exclusively to the representation of public schools since 2002. He has represented public school districts in state and federal court, as well as before state and federal administrative bodies.
Duane’s extensive experience in this field is unparalleled and he continues to work every day to support and defend public schools and public school leaders. Duane and his wife, Wendy, have six children, all of whom are students or teachers in public schools or colleges.
Mickes O'Toole, LLC
During his career, Jeffrey A. St. Omer has represented a wide variety of education-related clients throughout the state of Missouri. For the past twelve years, Jeff has served as Chief Legal counsel for the St. Louis Public School District. Before his time with St. Louis Public Schools, he acted as the General Counsel for the Kansas City, MO School District.
Jeff’s experience includes advising and counseling over 100 Missouri K-12 public school districts and higher education institutions. His experience working with educational institutions includes negotiating labor agreements with the largest teachers union in Missouri; coordinating teacher and non-certified dismissal; coordinating district responses to student discipline matters; responding to teacher and student civil rights matters; conducting license revocation hearings before the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; and ensuring compliance with local, state, and federal legislation.
Thomeczek & Brink, LLC
Jim Thomeczek is a partner in the St. Louis law firm Thomeczek & Brink, LLC. For over thirty years Jim has represented school districts in Missouri in special education and related student matters. He has argued four special education cases before the Eighth Circuit and has had at least one more dismissed by the Court. Jim is currently on the Board of Directors of the National School Boards Association’s Council of School Attorneys. He has also served as the Chair of the Missouri Council of School Attorneys. For the past eleven years, Jim has been recognized by Thompson Reuters as a SuperLawyer, and has also been recognized by Best Lawyers – including as the Lawyer of the Year in Education (St. Louis)