Dr. Ronald B. Standler
Lawyer in Massachusetts

Education Law

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I earned a Ph.D. in physics in 1977, then worked in electrical engineering research and consulting until 1995, including 10 years as a professor.   I am licensed to practice law in Massachusetts since Dec 1998.   I am admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Supreme Court.

College and University Law

In part because I was a full-time student in universities for 13 years and a professor for another 10 years, I am interested in legal problems that occur in higher education, for example:
I can easily travel to towns in northeastern Massachusetts, or to the Boston area, including Cambridge, MA.

About Dr. Standler

By way of introduction, I: I shall personally do all work on my client's case or problem, so that my client gets the full benefit of my education and experience.

Please note that I concentrate in academic problems in higher-education law (i.e., law in colleges and universities), however some of the same issues (e.g., injuries in science laboratories, plagiarism, copyright infringement, computer acceptable use policy, etc.) also occur in elementary schools and high schools.   I am willing to consult on these academic problems in high schools and elementary schools.

My homepage at www.rbs2.com/ contains links to documents with my credentials, my current fees, how to contact me, and links to my essays on other topics in law.

My Essays About Education Law

Essays on this website are provided only to provide general information and to communicate my personal comments on interesting topics in law, technology, and society. Essays on this website are neither legal advice nor legal opinion. Accessing this website or reading documents on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. See my disclaimer for details.

All essays at this website are protected by copyright. I have posted my Terms Of Service for printing, copying, and distributing my essays at this website.

I am an attorney only in Massachusetts, so I can not provide legal advice to people in other states of the USA, unless they have been injured or sued in Massachusetts, or unless your local attorney hires me as a consultant. However, I have posted the following hints for how to find an attorney.

academic freedom & freedom of speech for professors

My essay on academic freedom for professors argues that this "freedom" is not a fundamental right recognized by law in the USA, but is a contract right granted by colleges and universities. I have posted a separate essay on freedom of speech for government employees in the USA, which discusses the opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark cases of Pickering and Connick v. Myers, as well as other Supreme Court cases in this area, then briefly discusses how lower courts have applied these principles to professors who are employed at state universities. My third essay in this series, professional ethics & wrongful discharge discusses legal protections under state law for learned professionals (e.g., attorneys, physicians, nurses, engineers, scientists) whose employment was terminated because the employees chose to uphold ethical principles of their profession.

My essay, U.S. Government Restrictions on Scientific Publications, discusses restrictions on publishing information about weapons of mass destruction, restrictions on encryption technology, and trade restrictions on providing services or technology to rogue nations.


My long essay on the law of plagiarism has many quotations from court cases involving plagiarism by students or professors, as well as statutes and court cases involving the sale of term papers, and practical advice to faculty about how to detect plagiarism. Colleges can revoke degrees if plagiarism, or other misconduct, is discovered after a student has graduated.

Law students who work in a practicing attorney's office or for a judge often observe plagiarism or ghostwriting by attorneys and judges. These law students may be confused by the absolute prohibition against plagiarism in law school and the apparent acceptability of plagiarism by some attorneys and judges. My essay considers different examples of plagiarism or ghostwriting by attorneys or judges, cites many cases, and suggests amending the rules of professional responsibility, civil procedure, and judicial codes of conduct.

injuries in science laboratories

My essay on legal liability for injuries in school or college science laboratories reviews 36 reported cases.   This essay discusses principles of negligence, legal duty of care by teachers and professors to prevent injury, the legal duty of instructors to provide first aid, and other technical legal issues.   This essay also contains a list of cases involving injuries in a school or college shop class.

misuse of computers

My discussion of issues in preparing a Computer Acceptable Use Policy mentions more than twenty substantive issues to consider, as well as has comments on style of regulations.


My terse introduction to Accreditation of Universities in the USA, with links to other resources.

Some grieved plaintiffs have alleged that an accrediting association is a "state actor" and therefore must provide due process. One section of my essay on possible state action by private colleges explains why an accrediting association is not a state actor and cites relevant cases.

duty of parent to pay for child's college education

My essay, Legal Duty of Parent in USA to Pay for Child's College Education, reviews the law on this topic, with emphasis on the law in Pennsylvania, New York state, and Massachusetts.

reimbursement of educational expenses at divorce

A complicated legal problem is discussed in my long essay, Reimbursement of Educational Expenses at Divorce in the USA, in which supporting spouses seek reimbursement of educational expenses, possibly including living expenses too, for their ex-spouses' education (e.g., medical school, law school, dental school, business school, etc.) that greatly increased the earning potential of the supported spouses.

academic abstention
lack of legal accountability of colleges

My essay on educational malpractice law discusses this proposed tort that is not allowed by judges in the USA, but is consistent with traditional principles of tort law. My essay explains why judges do not allow educational malpractice claims.

My essay on academic abstention explains a doctrine in the USA that is poorly articulated by judges, in which judges refuse to review purely academic decisions by schools or colleges. The consequence of this doctrine is that the school or college always wins in academic disputes involving grading, expulsion of a student for failure to maintain minimum academic standards, acceptability of a thesis or dissertation, etc.   I have posted a list of citations to academic abstention cases, with a terse quotation from each case.

Because the doctrine of academic abstention prevents judges from hearing purely academic disputes, there is little an attorney can do after the hearing(s) and appeal(s) on campus have been exhausted. For this reason, students should hire an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in higher-education law at the first indication of a problem, so the attorney can advise the student about a resolution on campus.

The U.S. Supreme Court has distinguished (1) expulsion for academic reasons from (2) expulsion for disciplinary reasons (e.g., cheating, plagiarism, disruptive behavior, theft, etc.). When a student is accused of a disciplinary offense, colleges operated by a state or local government must provide due process, but the minimum acceptable process does not include all of the procedural protections in criminal law. I have written an essay on the legal right of an accused student to have an attorney at a disciplinary hearing on a college campus.   Courts review disciplinary decisions made by state colleges, but when a judge finds inadequate due process, the college then provides more process, and usually the college again obtains the same result. For this reason, litigation against a college on due process grounds is generally futile.

Some attorneys have argued that a private college is a "state actor", so that the private college is required to provide civil liberties, including due process of law. My essay on possible state action by private colleges explains why courts have held that private colleges are not state actors.

Some attorneys have claimed that a professor has a fiduciary duty to students. My essay reviews the reported cases and explains why the professor-student relationship is not a fiduciary relationship.

Copyright 2009-2013 by Ronald B. Standler
This document at   http://www.rbs2.com/iedu.htm
first posted 14 Jan 2009,   version 6 July 2013.

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