Emily K. Ellingson






100 Court Avenue, Suite 100
Des Moines, IA 50309


Tehya Valenta

Court Admissions

All Iowa Courts

U.S. District Courts – Northern and Southern Districts of Iowa


J.D., University of Iowa, 2009

B.S. (Highest Distinction), University of Iowa, 2006

Bar Admissions

Iowa, 2009


Emily focuses her practice on K-12 school districts and Higher Education in Iowa, and currently serves as the firm's Employment Law Practice Group leader. She assists clients with general counsel on a variety of issues related to both employment and student issues, including student rights and discipline, special education, open meetings and public records, contract review, policy drafting, employee discipline and terminations, employee benefits compliance, ADA accommodations/interactive processes, FMLA matters, wage and hour issues, internal investigations, and Title IX training and investigations. She also works with school districts in collective bargaining and handling grievances and arbitrations.

Emily has experience handling matters before state and federal agencies, such as the Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the Board of Educational Examiners (BOEE), the Iowa Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Education, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission (ICRC), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), as well as experience with general employment litigation.

Upon graduation from law school and prior to joining Ahlers & Cooney, Emily worked for several years at a Cedar Rapids law firm, where she focused her practice on schools, cities, and counties.

Representative Projects

  • Serves as or has served in various Title IX roles for various private colleges, including Interim Coordinator, Investigator, Decision-Maker, or Advisor
  • Successfully defended school district from a claim by the ACLU that the school district violated the Iowa Open Records Law, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Iowa, Inc. v. Records Custodian, Atlantic Community School District, 818 N.W.2d 231 (Iowa 2012)
  • Successfully represented school district in the lead case involving the interpretation of the Iowa legislature’s changes to state education funding and teacher salary schedules, Glenwood Community School District v. Glenwood Education Association, 2010 PERB 8249


Iowa State Bar Association

Linn County Bar Association

Iowa Association of School Boards

Iowa Council of School Board Attorneys

National School Board Association Council of School Attorneys


Emily's most recent speaking engagements include:

Iowa Association of School Business Officials, Fall Conference, "Recruit and Retain:  Employee Incentives and Early Retirement," with Katherine Beenken and "Collective Bargaining Overview," September 2023

Iowa State University, Iowa School Business Management Academy, "Legal - Employment Law," May 2023

Ahlers & Cooney, Employment Law Client Seminar, "Iowa Employment Law Hot Topics," with Aaron Hilligas, Brett Nitzschke, and Miriam Van Heukelem, April 2023

Iowa Association of School Boards, Annual Convention, “Navigating Iowa’s Open Meetings & Public Records Laws,” November 2022

Newport Group, “Human Resources Legal Update,” May 2022

Iowa School Business Management Academy, “Employment Law,” April 2022

Great Prairie AEA, “Investigations 101,” February 2022

School Administrators of Iowa, “Title IX Protections for Students & Staff Members,” February 2022

Iowa Association of School Boards, Annual Convention, “Understanding the School Board’s Role in Employment Matters,” November 2021

Grant Wood AEA, “COVID-19 Mandates: What Should I Know?,” November 2021

Iowa Association of School Personnel Administrators, “Human Resources Legal Update,” October 2021

Linn County Bar Association, “Employment Law and Best Practices During and Following a Global Pandemic,” July 2021

Great Prairie AEA, “Davis-Bacon Act for School Districts,” May 2021

School Administrators of Iowa, “Title IX Training for School Districts,” February 2021

Iowa Association of School Personnel Administrators, “Handling EEOC Complaints,” October 2020

Iowa Association of School Boards, “What Should We Be Asking: Legal and HR Issues Facing School Boards During COVID-19,” July 2020

Grant Wood AEA and Great Prairie AEA, “FAQs: Returning to Work After COVID-19,” June 2020 

School Administrators of Iowa, “Special Education 101,” February 2020

Professional, Community and Civic Leadership

Iowa Legal Aid, Volunteer Lawyer

Downtown Cedar Rapids Self-Supported Municipal Improvement District Commission (2018-2022), Vice-Chair (2020-2022), Chair (2022 - present)

Cedar Rapids Leadership for Five Seasons, Class of 2016

Big Brothers Big Sisters, Board of Directors

Taft Middle School Mock Trial, Attorney Coach