What is the purpose of the LAF?
• To provide supportive assistance to boards of education in cases or controversies of statewide significance, primarily at the appellate level. It is not structured to provide boards with day-to-day routine legal assistance.
• To minimize the financial hardship of costly litigation to individual boards and minimize the tendency of boards to avoid litigation solely on the basis of cost.
• To supplement, not replace, legal services available to boards of education.
What are the benefits to my district?
• The most important benefit is favorable judicial decisions. Even if the lawsuit involves another school district, that favorable judicial precedent can have a very positive impact in your district.
• LAF will offer direct assistance to your district if it is involved in a lawsuit of statewide significance.
• Your school district will receive quarterly reports of recent Ohio school law developments.
How does it work?
Three LAF trustees review applications from individual participants and decide which cases are worthy of assistance. They use two criteria:
• Is there a significant legal issue involved in the case?
• Is the issue of statewide significance to all boards of education?
What types of assistance are provided?
A district may receive:
• direct financial assistance to pay for part of its litigation expenses;
• consulting legal counsel paid for by LAF to assist the board of education's attorney;
• a friend-of-the-court brief paid for by LAF to argue the board's position to the court;
• a combination of the above.
What are some examples of cases where LAF has assisted boards?
The fund has been involved with cases dealing with the public records law, open meetings law, sovereign immunity, tax issues, employment law matters unique to schools, child abuse reporting litigation, school funding litigation, special education and other issues related to schools. Almost every case approved for participation is pending at the appellate court levels.
Does LAF often turn down requests?
LAF only declines to participate in a case where the situation does not meet the criteria of the trust fund. Typically, this occurs when an application is made at a trial court level, since those decisions rarely have statewide impact. Such applicants are encouraged to reapply if the case progresses to the appellate level. Occasionally an application will be made for a case where the issue involved is not significant for school districts throughout the state. This occurs when the case deals with a rare situation, and so the issue is not likely to be repeated in other districts and cases.
Has LAF been successful?
Since 1977, LAF has contributed more than $1,045,000 toward this program of assistance for boards of education in some 255 lawsuits. LAF has dealt with such important and diverse subjects as sovereign immunity, employee nonrenewal, partial strikes and board liability.
What does it cost?
All districts pay only $250 per year.
We’re members and we have a case; how do we request assistance?
The board should adopt a resolution and complete the application for assistance. Once OSBA receives the application and resolution, LAF trustees will evaluate the application to determine whether the issues and litigation involved will have a statewide impact on Ohio’s school boards.
How big is the LAF?
LAF was formed in 1977 with just 55 districts participating. In 2008, 498 districts participated in the fund.
How do we join?
Adopt a resolution to join and remit payment to OSBA. (See the sample resolution). For additional information about LAF, write to the OSBA Legal Division, 8050 N. High Street, Ste. 100, Columbus, Ohio 43235 or call (614) 540-4000 or (800) 589-OSBA.