UM School of Law to Host Inaugural Mississippi Education Law Conference

OXFORD, Miss. – A new conference designed to inform educators and attorneys about the latest laws and policies governing schools from preschool through higher education is set for June 14 at the University of Mississippi School of Law.

The inaugural Mississippi Education Law Conference is aimed at educational leaders and attorneys representing institutions, school districts, community colleges and universities, both public and private.

“Education laws and policies are constantly evolving, so it’s important for practitioners to stay up-to-date on the challenges affecting students, institutions and school districts,” said Susan Duncan, UM law dean. “We are excited to host this conference to inform attorney and educational leaders on current issues.”

The event is sponsored by Ole Miss departments of Leadership and Education and Higher Education, the School of Law and the North Mississippi Education Consortium.

Neal Hutchens, chair of the Department of Higher Education; Ryan Niemeyer, chair of the Department of Leadership and Counselor Education; and Kerry B. Melear, professor of higher education and affiliate faculty in the law school, have worked to assemble a diverse group of presenters from K-12 schools and postsecondary institutions.

“Our goal is to provide leaders in education a way to enhance their understanding of emerging education law and policy issues,” Melear said.

The conference will feature plenary sessions on speech and expression in schools and charter schools. Breakout sessions throughout the day will cover topics including Title IX, school safety, behavioral assessment, open records requests and college sports betting.

“We are delighted to have such a talented group of presenters for the conference,” Hutchens said. “Attendees will be able to learn from outstanding educational leaders and attorneys specializing in education law issues and have the opportunity to connect with other educational leaders from around the state.”

Registration is $150 and includes access to all sessions, professional development credits and two meals on-site. Five School Executive Management Institute credits will be available for administrators, 0.6 Continuing Education Units will be available for teachers and four Continuing Legal Education credits will be available for attorneys.

Here is the full schedule of sessions:

8:30-9:45 a.m. – Plenary Session: “The Promise and Challenges of Free Speech in Education” – Panelists Bonita Coleman, Ocean Springs School District superintendent; Brandi Hephner LaBanc, UM vice chancellor for student affairs; and John Hooks, attorney and partner at Adam and Reese LLP, will discuss issues confronting educators involving speech and expression on and off campus. The panel is moderated by Hutchens.

10:05-11:05 a.m. – Breakout Sessions:

“Education Law 101” – an overview of legal issues affecting schools, colleges and universities with Melear and Niemeyer

“Continuing Conversation on Speech and Expression” – a more in-depth look at the issues covered in the plenary session with attorney John Hooks

“Title IX and Postsecondary Institutions” – considers legal challenges faced by colleges and universities in the area of Title IX, with J. Cal Mayo Jr., attorney at Mayo Mallette PLLC.

11:10 a.m.-12:20 p.m. – Plenary Session: “A Conversation on Charter Schools” – Panelists Krystal Cormack, former chair of the Mississippi Charter School Authorizer Board; Jay Hughes, 12th district representative in the Mississippi House; and Wayne Lewis, commissioner of education for the commonwealth of Kentucky, will discuss the debate surrounding charter schools, with a focus on Mississippi. Niemeyer will moderate the panel.

1:30-2:30 p.m. – Breakout Sessions:

“Developing a School Safety Plan” – Johnny R. Purvis, former executive director of Education Service Center and former director of the Mississippi Safe School Center at the University of Southern Mississippi, will review what is needed for an effective school safety plan.

“Behavioral Assessment Teams” – Donna Gurley, former UM associate general counsel; Sparky Reardon, former Ole Miss dean of students; and Jay Allen, Itawamba Community College president, will discuss the elements needed in developing a successful behavioral assessment team.

“College Sports Betting” – Ron J. Rychlak, UM professor of law and faculty athletics representative, and George McClellan, UM associate professor of higher education, will discuss law and policy issues that have arisen with the legalization of betting on college sports.

2:35-3:35 p.m. – Breakout Sessions:

“Restorative Justice” – UM law dean and professor Susan Duncan will examine the role of restorative justice in educational settings in instances of bullying.

“Minors on Campus” – Mary Ann Connell, former UM general counsel and attorney at Mayo Mallette, and Phillis George, UM assistant professor of higher education, will review the legal and institutional policy issues when colleges and universities have minors on campus.

3:45-4:45 p.m. – Breakout Sessions:

“Responding to Open Records Requests” – Donna Gurley, former UM associate general counsel, and Rob Jolly, UM associate director of development and former assistant general counsel, will cover the legal obligations of educational institutions in responding to open records requests.

“Supporting College Students with Mental Health Challenges” – Laura Rothstein, professor of law and director of research and faculty excellence at the University of Louisville’s Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, and ICC President Jay Allen will discuss ways to support community college and university students with mental health challenges, including emotional support animals and beyond.

“Students and the Juvenile Justice System – A Trauma Informed Court” – Hallie Leavell, juvenile court referee in the Sixth Judicial Circuit of Alabama, will discuss the trauma-focused approach in working with children and youth.