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“Thanks for the great job you and everyone did, John, to craft a truly seminal brief that I think will give the court real pause. Proud to work with such an amazing group. First-class piece of work.”

Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools


Coming from a family of teachers, John knows that educators are dedicated to serving students and society. His lifelong passion for education underlies the insightful counsel he provides to colleges, universities and school districts.

For three decades, John has protected clients from risks and conflict and helped them make sound decisions to advance their mission. He responds quickly, and identifies and synthesizes core issues. His strong relationships with federal regulators and civil rights groups also benefit clients. John has a deep grasp of the practical, legal and policy issues facing not only schools and colleges but also other nonprofits and businesses in the education sector.

John helps clients navigate the complexities of federal and state constitutions, statutes and regulations. His experience covers a wide range of civil rights and educational funding issues, including Title VI, Title VII, Title IX, the Americans with Disabilities Act, voting rights, affirmative action and diversity.

John also provides a powerful voice in defense of education clients.  A seasoned trial and appellate lawyer, he has argued appeals in the U.S. Supreme Court and in the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Eighth, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits. He has handled numerous agency investigations, including compliance reviews by and complaints to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. He has defended various major class actions and litigated cases both in cooperation with and against the U.S. Department of Justice.

“Thanks for the great job you and everyone did, John, to craft a truly seminal brief that I think will give the court real pause. Proud to work with such an amazing group. First-class piece of work.”

Michael Casserly, Executive Director, Council of the Great City Schools




  • Benchmark Litigation, Local Litigation Star, 2022-2023
  • Capital Pro Bono Honor Roll, High Honors, 2020
  • Education Law Association, August Steinhilber Award for Best Brief Writing in the Appellate Courts, 2017
  • National Association for Educational Equity Award of Merit
  • Defender of Civil Liberties, ACLU Foundation
  • Paul Harris Fellow


  • J.D., Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law
      • Order of the Coif
  • B.A., University of Notre Dame


  • Illinois
  • District of Columbia
  • Indiana
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fourth Circuit
  • Louisiana
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit
  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois
  • U.S. Supreme Court

Professional Memberships and Certifications

  • Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Board of Directors
  • American Bar Association
  • American Constitution Society
  • Education Law Association, President
  • Illinois Council of School Attorneys, Executive Committee
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys
  • National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys


  • French, conversant
Featured Experience

School District Successfully Defends Discrimination Claim

The Metro Nashville Public Schools faced a claim of unconstitutional racial discrimination. John successfully defended the district through a multiweek trial, an appeal in the Sixth Circuit and in the Supreme Court, where he opposed a petition for writ of certiorari. He also resolved a related complaint from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against the district. John then helped the district develop a policy for promoting diverse enrollments in its schools to help avoid similar issues in the future.

Additional Experience

Client Counseling

  • Counseled university on scholarship program designed to promote diversity and inclusion.
  • Advised university on Title IX issues related to LGBT students.
  • Counseled school district on intersection of Perkins Act and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Section 504 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in career and technical education centers.
  • Advised university on litigation risks associated with contract dispute.
  • Counseled school district interested in expanding pre-K education programs on available federal grants and related compliance issues.
  • Advised university on Title IX sexual harassment investigations.


  • Represented several public school districts in state constitutional challenge.
  • Represented university in Office for Civil Rights (OCR) complaint involving Title IX and Section 504 issues.
  • Negotiated modification of court-ordered remedy with Department of Justice.
  • Negotiated agreements leading to declarations of partial or full unitary status in several long-running school desegregation cases.
  • Negotiated resolution of Title VI complaint with OCR.
  • Defended program for English-language learners against class action challenge.
  • Represented public university and several administrators in First Amendment case.
Webinar | August 13, 2021
[POSTPONED] Sexual Harassment and Sexual Assault in K-12 Schools: Title IX Compliance and Response to Regulations

This training has been postponed until early 2022. Questions? Contact Morgan Buciumean.

Webinar | April 22, 2021
Vaccinations, Testing and Other COVID-Related Issues for Public School Districts

Emerging Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Webinar | February 4, 2021
Possible Legal and Policy Changes Under the Biden Administration

Emerging Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Webinar | November 16, 2020
First Amendment Issues in Public Schools
Webinar | September 17, 2020
Beyond the Bathroom

Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Webinar | May 18, 2020
Final Title IX Regulations and Their Effect on Your District

Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Webinar | March 3, 2020
First Amendment Religious Liberty Issues Affecting Public Education

Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Webinar | December 17, 2019
Alcohol and Other Drugs in Public Schools

Issues in Urban Education Webinar Series

Outside the Office

John loves sports.

He plays basketball, and after managing his daughter’s soccer team for several years, he now serves on the Junior Irish Soccer Club board of directors. With an undergraduate degree from Notre Dame, he is an avid Fighting Irish fan.

He enjoys cooking and trying recipes of many different cuisines. A self-described “old school reader,” he devours books in hard-copy form, as well as numerous magazines and newspapers.

Supreme Court Litigation

John has argued in the U.S. Supreme Court, written merits briefs and authored dozens of Supreme Court amicus briefs over the years for educational associations.

In one case, he led a team of Husch Blackwell attorneys in authoring an amicus brief presented by the Council of the Great City Schools, the primary coalition of urban public school systems in the United States. The Court found that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, individualized education plans for students with disabilities should be “reasonably calculated to enable a child to make progress appropriate in light of the child’s circumstances” — reflecting arguments set forth in the amicus brief and largely rejecting the arguments of both the peititioners and the U.S. government.

Follow John on Twitter

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