Columbia Tower Seattle Columbia Tower Seattle

Education Law


Karr Tuttle Campbell is both pleased and eminently qualified to partner with Washington’s public and private schools. We meet our school clients’ legal needs promptly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. For school clients, Karr Tuttle Campbell offers informative and detailed training in conflict prevention and resolution and the myriad of laws affecting schools. Our attorneys also advise clients about and help resolve personnel issues, ranging from hiring, to performance, accommodating employees with disabilities, managing leaves, and discharge; deal with student discipline and the delivery of special education; defend personal injury, including workers compensation and employment discrimination claims; represent schools and school districts at all levels of state and federal agencies and courts; handle various contract matters, including those associated with real estate use, acquisition, and construction; and counsel schools on all aspects of service, governance, public records and meetings, and other issues as they arise.

Preventing Legal Problems

If litigation becomes necessary, our attorneys are well equipped to represent any school or school district on virtually any type of civil claim. However, we believe in the “ounce of prevention” approach to avoiding major legal problems. We help clients anticipate legal needs and encourage their seeking our counsel in a manner and at a time when able advising can prevent litigation.


Our Education Law practice was founded by a former teacher and school administrator and has included members of the board and two former presidents of the Washington Council of School Attorneys. Our attorneys have represented clients and done amicus briefing regarding student disability issues, attorneys’ fees, and public records questions before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and have represented clients in complex litigation before state and federal agencies and all levels of state courts, involving all aspects of school operations.

The Education Law attorneys have advised school districts about compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and have represented schools and school districts in cases involving the Office of Professional Practices, the Department of Retirement Systems, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Office of Civil Rights, the Department of Justice, petitions to change district boundaries, “Choices” applications, constitutional and other due process rights of students, special education, and executive employment and compensation. The firm regularly responds to school district inquiries about school board governance, the Open Public Meetings Act, the Public Records Act, and related open-government laws. Our lawyers also draft and review board resolutions, policies, and procedures.

We have also represented school districts in many special education due process hearings, and in subsequent appeals of administrative decisions to state or federal courts, and have been instrumental in shaping the law in the State of Washington concerning the provision of special education and accommodation of disabled students. Karr Tuttle Campbell has represented school districts in a number of student discipline cases, including those involving special education students. Such cases ranged from advising building administrators, to assisting district hearing officers and/or the board of directors with their appellate responsibilities, to representing schools in appeals to state and federal court.

Our attorneys have obtained summary judgments in favor of school districts in a number of cases, including a case involving a claim by a real estate agent for a commission related to the procurement of property for a school construction site, claims for overtime and unpaid wages, employment discrimination, defamation, and other tort claims.

Handling School Employment Issues

In the area of employment law and labor relations, the attorneys in Karr Tuttle Campbell’s Employment Relations and Labor Law Department have represented a wide range of public and private employers, including schools and school districts.

All issues related to certificated and classified employees fall within the firm’s experience and are handled regularly by our attorneys. Issues include: employee evaluation, discharge, and discipline; contract grievances and arbitration; employee benefits, personnel policies, and handbooks; collective bargaining and negotiations; workers compensation and unemployment compensation; employment discrimination; teacher certification; reductions in force; wage and hour disputes; accommodation of employees with disabilities and complex leave issues; and free speech and academic freedom issues. The firm also conducts training programs on these subjects for clients, as well as advises clients on other specific matters that might arise.

Our Clients

We have represented all sizes of public school districts, educational service districts, private schools, higher- education institutions, and other municipal corporations. We regularly assist and represent the following districts: Seattle, Evergreen, Sumner, Camas, Ridgefield, Northshore, Snoqualmie Valley, Tacoma, and Mossyrock. We represent other districts on a case-by-case, as-needed basis. Karr Tuttle Campbell has also represented Educational Service District No. 112 , as well as public utility districts, cities, and counties of various sizes, and has represented the Northwest Association of Independent Schools and its member schools for many years.

Education and Outreach

Karr Tuttle Campbell attorneys are frequent speakers on topics of interest to school clients. Some recent examples include: “Welcoming LGBTQ Students: What Washington School Districts Need to Know about New Legal Protections,” “Evaluation of Non-Supervisory Certificated Personnel,” “Employment Law Briefing,” “Section 504 v. The IDEA in Washington,” “The ABCs of Teacher Liability in Washington,” “Washington Special Education Law,” “and “School Law Issues in Washington.” Other topics include:

  • Sexual harassment and discrimination;
  • Disability accommodation;
  • Special education;
  • Wage and hour issues;
  • Hiring and firing;
  • Student and employment records; and
  • Complex and interacting leaves.

Representative Matters

Our Education Law attorneys have advised school districts about compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and have represented school districts in cases involving petitions to change district boundaries, “Choices” applications, the Office of Professional Practices, and the Department of Retirement Systems.  The firm regularly responds to school district inquiries about the Open Public Meetings Act, the Public Records Act, and related open-government laws.  Our lawyers also draft and review board resolutions, policies and procedures, covering such topics as employment matters, student rights and responsibilities and other issues.

  • Hoagland v. Mount Vernon School District No. 1: Karr Tuttle Campbell tried and won this administrative hearing, after the state Supreme Court set forth rigorous standards applicable to the termination of certificated employees.
  • Griffith and Quarto v. Seattle School District No. 1: In a published decision by Division I of the Court of Appeals, we represented the district to successfully defend its decision to discipline two special education teachers for refusing to administer state-mandated testing. The case clarifies when insubordination can constitute sufficient cause to adversely affect a teacher’s contract and applicability of the Hoagland standards.
  • Williams et al. v. Seattle School District No. 1: We represented the district on appeal in this case, which confirmed broad discretion in school boards and superintendents to transfer vice principals to teaching positions.
  • Camer v. Seattle School District No. 1. Our attorneys represented the district in this case, which involved an important appellate decision holding the front on the issue of educational malpractice claims in the state of Washington.
  • Maksirisombat v. Seattle School District No. 1 We defended the district in this discrimination lawsuit, in which the district prevailed after a jury trial.
  • Bierlein, et al., v. Byrne, et al Our team successfully defended the Castle Rock School District in this published appellate case, in which summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims of sexual harassment was granted and upheld no appeal.
  • Brown v. Seattle Public Schools, et al.  This published appellate case dealt with a public records request for performance evaluations of a principal. We successfully argued that such records are exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Act.
  • P.N. v. Seattle School District: In a case involving attorney fee awards in special education cases, we successfully argued at the Ninth Circuit that fees cannot be awarded to parents who obtain a favorable settlement without any court-sanctioned relief.
  • Hudson v. Seattle School District: We represented the district in this sensitive matter concerning public records requests by The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer for files concerning an investigation of sexual misconduct by a teacher and the teacher’s subsequent suicide.
  • In the Matter of the Recall Charges against Seattle School District No. 1 Directors Brita Butler-Wall et al: Karr Tuttle Campbell successfully represented the district in this case, in which recall petitions were filed against five school directors based on a community member’s disagreement with the board’s decision to adopt a school closure plan.
  • Leonard v. Spokane: In a Washington Supreme Court case, our attorneys successfully argued as amicus for the Washington Counsel of School Attorneys, that the funding mechanism of the Community Redevelopment Financing Act of 1982 (RCW 39.88 diverts taxes to public improvements and away from the common schools in violation of article IX, section 2 of the State constitution.

In addition to court cases, our attorneys have worked with schools and school districts in numerous cases before the Office of Administrative Hearings, the Board of Industrial Insurance Appeals, the Employment Securities Department, the Public Employment Relations Commission, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Civil Rights, and the Washington State Human Rights Commission, and in arbitrations arising under the grievance and arbitration provisions of collective bargaining agreements with unions representing both certificated and classified employees.