School Law


Ulmer & Berne attorneys currently represent city, local, exempted village, joint vocational, charter, public schools, districts, Educational Service Centers, and higher education institutions throughout Ohio. Ulmer & Berne attorneys are very experienced in defending school districts in all types of state and federal school litigation. In addition to litigation, Ulmer & Berne attorneys have experience with school district contract and transactional issues including all types of public financing, alternative schools, sale and acquisition of real estate, school facility construction, negotiation of cell tower leases and communications easements, competitive bidding, school transportation matters, new curriculum patent and copyright, environmental and regulatory law. Ulmer & Berne school law attorneys help school districts perform self-audits of state and federal funding, including successfully helping urban and other school districts recover millions of dollars in improper state payments to charter schools.

In addition to public transactional expertise, related areas of school law expertise include:

  • School board organization/operations – Resolution drafting and parliamentary expertise, ethics issues, Ohio Sunshine Laws, affirmative action plans, the No Child Left Behind Act, public records requests and board policy compliance.
  • Federal and state employment laws – Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaints, Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), non-discrimination under Title VII, Title IX, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), maternity leave, workers’ compensation, and litigation of religion, race, gender, search and seizure, and due process claims arising under the U.S. Constitution.

Inajo Davis Chappell, partner and chair of the Nonprofit Practice Group at Ulmer & Berne LLP, has been recognized by Savoy Magazine as one of the Most Influential Black Lawyers in America. The honor extends to a select group of black attorneys who have distinguished themselves from their peers based...

Ulmer & Berne announces that partner Inajo Davis Chappell has received the 14th annual Women Worth Watching® award from Profiles in Diversity Journal®. The honor extends to a select group of trailblazers working in a range of industries througout the country who have distinguished themselves from their peers based on excellence...

Inajo Davis Chappell, partner and chair of the Nonprofit Practice at Ulmer & Berne LLP, was recognized by the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association’s Women in Law Section (CMBA WIL) among 20 female attorneys for making a difference in the lives of other women and contributing to the Northeast Ohio community....

Representative Experience

  • Successfully documented and closed tax-exempt municipal lease transactions for a local community college district, involving the acquisition and installation of telecommunications equipment.
  • Documented and closed a tax-exempt municipal lease transaction for the largest school district in the State of Ohio that funded the acquisition of heating, cooling, lighting, and other equipment and improvements.
  • Prepared and negotiated lease and equipment purchase agreements, legal opinions and drafted or reviewed all ancillary documents required.
  • Represented school districts in the provision of educational programming and services to disabled students, providing counsel on a variety of legal issues related to the education of individuals with disabilities, defending placement and programming decisions of school districts, counseling clients relative to disciplinary and other issues impacting disabled students, participating in mediation, administrative hearings and judicial proceedings relative to compliance with the federal statutes governing the education of disabled children, including the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Improvement Act (IDEIA), Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), and the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA).
  • Appeared before administrative agencies such as the Ohio Department of Education, Auditor of State, State Employment Relations Board and Department of Taxation.
  • Prepared employee manuals and policies and provides training on issues relating to labor and employment relations and local government law, including FMLA, ADA and FLSA.
  • Drafted municipal civil service rules and advisement on compliance with both municipal civil service rules and Ohio civil service laws.
  • Represented city school district in negotiation of successor collective bargaining agreements with its certified and classified bargaining units.
  • Counseled clients regarding competitive bidding compliance, tax and collection work-outs, and general business matters.
  • Successfully negotiated six-figure savings for mid-size school district employee health insurance contract.
  • Successfully helped 10 public school districts start alternative schools, increasing district state and federal grant funding, bringing in over $3,000,000 in additional funding.
  • Helped one Ohio school district successfully start non-vocational single-gender instructional programs.
  • Successfully defended a University latch key program in employment and children’s services matters.
  • Drafted revised admissions policies and procedures protecting public and private higher education institutions.
  • Drafted service agreements among several higher educational institutions and urban school districts.
  • Acted as lead counsel to a local community college in connection with over $100 million of construction and renovation projects. In addition, we represented the public owner on several major real estate acquisition and construction projects, including new west campus technology center and a new corporate college.
  • Assisted with the design and implementation of a local school district’s “small and local business preference” (a non-race based construction contract set aside program).
  • Represented an Ohio school district in discussions with the Ohio School Facilities Commission, labor unions, construction representatives, and community activists as the district attempted to develop policies and procedures before and during the district’s construction projects. Construction-related matters included project labor agreements, apprenticeships through the local vocational schools and high schools, and city resident employment goals.
  • Provided legal assistance to a local school district in connection with its capital improvements/construction program, reviewing, revising and negotiating contracts with design professionals and construction contractors.
  • Represented a local community college in several major real estate acquisition and construction projects, including new west campus technology center and new corporate college in Westlake, Ohio.
  • Represented a local non-profit, private school in the acquisition of property for the construction of a new facility and related bond financing.
  • Represented large public university in dispute over water infiltration issues in a large EIFS clad classroom building.
  • Represented a Northeast Ohio school district in the acquisition of property for its new high school facility.
  • Representing a nationally accredited business school with facilities in 18 cities throughout the US in the acquisition of property in North Olmsted, Ohio, that will be converted from its current retail use to a private business and technical college facility.
  • Representing a local non-profit, private school in the acquisition of property for the construction of a new facility and related bond financing.
  • Representing a local union pension fund in its $4.45 million construction loan to a limited liability company for the purpose of the historical rehabilitation of a Cleveland landmark for use by a local university.
  • Representing a local school in the acquisition of property used for the site of the school’s new high school facility.
  • Represented the lender in a $20 million loan to facilitate the construction of a student housing facility near the University of Cincinnati.
  • Represented a non-profit independent college of art and design with respect to historic tax credits in Cincinnati, Ohio.