Education Law


Tharrington Smith has been a partner to education in North Carolina for more than 30 years. The depth of our cumulative experience allows our education lawyers to provide a wide range of legal support involving personnel and student discipline issues, contracts, policy manual revisions, teacher dismissals, funding disputes, special education matters, school closings, construction, and everything in between. We represent our clients in state, federal, and administrative courts, and in complaints before the Office for Civil Rights, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

Our attorneys, many of whom have been educators or have educators in their families, have a passion for representing schools and educators of our state. The unique focus of our education law team allows us to provide well-rounded, experienced representation to educational institutions and school boards statewide. We understand that school boards serve and respond to a broad range of constituencies, including students, parents, teachers, employees and district taxpayers. We provide efficient, cost effective, creative solutions balancing the needs of the entire school community while maintaining solid legal foundations for school boards to rely upon.

Since 1978, we have served as general counsel to the Wake County Board of Education and the North Carolina School Boards Association. Our lawyers have assisted more than 100 school systems across the state with their legal needs. We serve as general counsel for the following school boards: Alamance-Burlington, Chapel Hill-Carrboro, Durham Public Schools, Weldon, Nash-Rocky Mount, Roanoke Rapids, and Bertie, Chatham, Cleveland, Currituck, Duplin, Edgecombe, Jones, Lenoir, Northampton, Moore, Orange, Person, Pitt, and Tyrrell counties. We also work jointly with local attorneys for the Beaufort, Brunswick, Johnston, and Rowan-Salisbury schools, and for private schools, such as Trinity School in Durham. In addition, our education attorneys have represented several community colleges in various litigation matters.

Services & Focus

Special Education

  • Training and consultation
  • Compliance Reviews
  • IEP and 504 meetings
  • Dispute resolution between parents and districts
  • Petitions for due process
  • State complaints
  • Section 504 Compliance

Student Matters

  • Student Discipline
  • Student/Parent Grievances
  • Student Searches & Seizures
  • Seclusion & Restraint
  • Special Education Issues
  • Student Assignment & School Transfers
  • Homeless Students
  • Child Custody Issues
  • FERPA and Student Record Confidentiality Issues
  • Discrimination Claim
  • Office for Civil Rights Investigations


  • Employment Contracts
  • Dismissal Hearings & Appeals
  • Complaints & Grievances
  • Employment Visas & Green Cards

Constitutional Issues

  • Free Speech – Employees
  • Free Speech – Students
  • Search & Seizure – Employees
  • Search & Seizure – Students
  • Due Process – Employees
  • Due Process Issues – Students
  • Religion in Public Schools
  • Consideration of Race in Public Education
  • Sex & Gender Issues

Litigation & Appeals

  • State Court Litigation
  • Federal Court Litigation
  • State Administrative Investigations
  • Federal Administrative Investigations
  • Mediation
  • Trials

School Construction, Purchase & Finance

  • North Carolina’s School Budget and Fiscal Control Act
  • Contract Review & Negotiation
  • School Construction Contracts
  • School Construction Law
  • School Construction Litigation & Claims
  • Public Bidding
  • Pre-Audit Requirements

Open Meetings & Public Records Law

  • North Carolina Open Meetings Law
  • Parliamentary Procedure / Robert’s Rules of Order
  • North Carolina Public Records Law
  • Records Retention Requirements
  • Electronic Records

Policy Review & Drafting

  • Policy Review & Updates
  • Policy Drafting