Donald F. Austin
Mr. Austin has practiced law since 1986 primarily in the areas of school law and public entity defense. He was General Counsel for California’s Ventura Unified School District for eight years, where he handled nearly all legal issues for that 17,500 student district. In 2004 he was President of the California Council of School Attorneys.
Mr. Austin’s experience includes litigation of a wide variety of sex abuse and school law issues, including: catastrophic injury lawsuits; special education advice, due process hearings, and Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) federal court appeals; personnel law advice, employee termination (probable cause matters), and investigating complaints about employees; employee and union grievances and advising on collective bargaining issues; school construction contracts and school construction disputes; student and teacher rights and discipline; curriculum and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) matters; board governance, open public meeting act and public records act issues, and dealing with governmental complaints from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the Washington Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). He has also served as the arbitrator in more than fifty superior court cases.
Mr. Austin has taught education law as an adjunct professor at several universities, most recently in the Seattle Pacific University School of Education’s School Principal Certification Program. Before practicing law, he taught English and coached football, wrestling, soccer, and swimming at Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon.
- Northwest School of Law of Lewis & Clark College, Juris Doctorate, 1986
- Associate Editor for the law review, Environmental Law
- Portland State University, B.A. and M.A.T., English 1970, 1977
- United States Supreme Court
- United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
- United States District Court for the Western District of Washington
- United States District Court for the District of Idaho
- United States District Court for the Central District of California
- United States District Court for the District of Hawaii
- Washington Bar Association
- Idaho Bar Association
- California Bar Association
- Washington Council of School Attorneys
- National Council of School Attorneys
- Education Law Association
Publications / Presentations / Speaking EngagementsMr. Austin is a frequent speaker on school law issues and has taught law at different universities. He has presented to organizations including the National School Board Association (NSBA), the NSBA Council of School Attorneys, the California School Board Association, the California Council of School Attorneys, the Washington State School Directors Association, and the Washington Council of School Attorneys.
Representative CasesJury Trials include:
- M.R.B. v. Puyallup School District – Jury trial in high-profile student press case where school district was sued for negligence and invasion of privacy. (Prevailed.)
- King v. Kalama School District – Jury trial where the teacher union president claimed discrimination and retaliation against the superintendent. (Prevailed.)
- Lewis v. Ventura Unified School District – Jury trial involving allegations of negligent supervision of special education students where one claimed to have been molested by another. (Prevailed.)
- McDonald v. Prigano – Jury trial in a seller-failure-to-disclose and real estate broker malpractice case. (Prevailed for plaintiff.)
- Howard v. Ventura Unified School District – Bench trial of a school boundary change case involving an alleged section 504 student. (Prevailed.)
- Worldwide Insurance v. Templeton – Bench trial in an attorney malpractice trial where an insurance company sued its former attorney. (Prevailed for insurance company.)
- Fulbright v. Dayton Sch. Dist. No. 2, (E.D. Wash. 2013)[Motion to dismiss granted with Sec. 1983 claims.]
- M.R.B. v. Puyallup School District, 169 Wn. App. 837, 282 P.3d 1124 (2012)ghkjhgss
- Payne v. Peninsula School District, 598 F.3d 1123 (9th Cir. 2010) – Exhaustion of administrative remedies in special education dispute under Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
- Marks v. Lyerla, 1 Cal.App.4th 556 (Cal. App. 1991) – Wrongful death statute.
- Unzueta v. Ocean View School District, 6 Cal. App.4th 1689, 74 Ed.Law Rptr. 1202 (Cal App. 1992) – Unpaid administrative leave for employee arrested for drug crime.
- Shulman v. Group W Productions , Inc., 51 Cal.App.4th 850 (Cal. App. 1996) – Invasion of privacy.
- Ventura Unified School District, 28 IDELR 1267 (1998) – Learning disabled child.
- Ventura Unified School District, 32 IDELR 272 (2000) – Assessment.
- Ventura Unified School District, 33 IDELR 80 (2000) – School district’s discretion to select evaluator of special needs child.
- KB v. Ventura Unified School District, 40 IDELR 5 (C.D. Cal. 2003) (unpublished) – Autistic child, attorneys’ fee issue.
Special Education Hearings:
- B.R. v. Ventura Unified School District – Special education hearing concerning private school placement and related services for an allegedly emotionally disturbed child whose IQ was 133. (Prevailed.)
- Brummett v. Ventura – Unified School District Federal case defeating plaintiff’s demand for special education attorneys’ fees arising out of a special education hearing. (Prevailed.)
- Ventura Unified School District v. K.L. and Ventura Unified School District v. K.C. – Special education hearings to obtain assessments conducted by professionals of the district’s choice. (Prevailed.)
- T.S. v. Ventura Unified School District – Special education hearing concerning placement and related services for a learning disabled child. (Prevailed.)
- H.R. v. Ventura Unified School District – Special education hearing concerning placement and services of a developmentally delayed child. (Prevailed.)
- Ventura Unified School District v. C.P. – Special education hearing to obtain an assessment conducted by professionals of the district’s choice. (Prevailed.)