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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

Overview

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 nearly four decades, John has defended and protected education clients so that they can advance their missions. He focuses much of his practice on higher education litigation and government investigations but has extensive experience working with K-12 schools as well. A seasoned litigator, he has tried cases in federal and state courts nationwide, argued appeals in nearly all federal judicial circuits, and defended clients before the United States Supreme Court as well.

With a lengthy career in the education law area, John has a deep grasp of the practical, legal and policy issues facing schools, colleges and other organizations in the education sector. 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. He has also defended major class actions and litigated cases both in cooperation with and against the United States Department of Justice.

While John routinely defends educational institutions against lawsuits brought by former and current students and faculty, he also frequently represents schools and colleges in government agency investigations triggered by complaints to the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. Over many years, John has built strong relationships with federal regulators and civil rights groups and is well regarded in these offices, often helping to facilitate quicker resolutions for clients.

John deeply values the opportunity to work with so many individuals who have devoted their lives to education and who care deeply about their work. He considers it a privilege to support clients who support students and society, and he loves furthering a mission in which he profoundly believes.

“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

Industry

Services

Recognition

  • 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, 2020
  • National Association for Educational Equity Award of Merit
  • Defender of Civil Liberties, ACLU Foundation
  • Paul Harris Fellow

Education

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

Admissions

  • 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, 2021; Immediate Past President, 2022
  • Illinois Council of School Attorneys, Executive Committee
  • National Association of College and University Attorneys
  • National School Boards Association Council of School Attorneys, former board member

Languages

  • 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.

Discrimination Case Against University Dismissed

When a faculty member who was denied tenure sued her private university, making allegations of race and sex discrimination under Title VII, John successfully demonstrated that the plaintiff failed to allege necessary elements of her claim. The case was dismissed on John’s successful motion to dismiss, with the plaintiff’s complaint thrown out based on his team’s briefing.


Additional Experience

Litigation

  • 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.
  • Defended race discrimination case brought against a university by former faculty member.
  • Defended sex discrimination case brought against a university by former faculty member.
  • Defended national origin discrimination case brought against a university by former faculty member.
  • Mediated student suicide case.
  • Defended student challenges to university disciplinary processes.

Client Counseling

  • 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.
  • Counseled university on scholarship program designed to promote diversity and inclusion.
  • 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.
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

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.

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