A New Challenge in Education Law

September 2, 2020

Kathleen Mehfoud, B’74 and L’78, was first drawn to education law after working with another Richmond Law graduate, D. Patrick Lacy Jr. L’69, who first established their education practice. It was the variety of the practice that attracted her. “It’s an extremely interesting area of the law,” said Mehfoud. “There are so many varied issues that you can draw upon,” from constitutional law to contract issues to personnel. After 42 years in the field, Mehfoud is taking on new challenges in education law as a result of the pandemic. 

Now working part-time as senior counsel at Reed Smith LLP in Richmond, Mehfoud found her work load creeping: As schools and school boards navigated new learning environments in the face of COVID-19, the demand for legal support increased. Mehfoud and her colleagues responded by launching a series of virtual seminars to provide updates to school administrators on the areas of the law that were impacted in new ways by the virus.

“They’re responding to amazingly volatile situations,” said Mehfoud. “One of the big issues was privacy,” she explained, and how virtual learning was impacted by FERPA and HIPAA laws. “The problems they’re facing are overwhelming,” she added, from finding space to accommodate physical distancing in already overcrowded buildings, to finding funding to modify heating and cooling systems.

Mehfoud’s particular specialty in education law is in the area of providing special education services to children with disabilities. Much of her recent work has involved working with school districts to determine how to virtually administer individualized education programs and conduct evaluations. “Now we have a whole new set of parameters,” said Mehfoud.

Fortunately for Mehfoud, this type of challenge is what attracted her to education in the first place. “That’s why I love this area of the law,” she said. “It’s ever changing and always challenging.”