Ch 3 Legal Issues Affecting Teachers

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Transcript Ch 3 Legal Issues Affecting Teachers

Ch 3 Legal Issues Affecting Teachers
The relationship Between Law & Education
Constitutional Provisions – does not
mention education
States responsible for education code
Federal government is involved in disputes
Several Layers – depends on type of case
Very different from state to state
Sources of Laws Relating to Education
• Written Constitution - + amendments
– Highest legal standard, intent is problem
• Statue Law – State Education Code & State
certification Requirements – elected
• Administrative Law – operationalize statues,
interpret rules, policies, procedures, and
regulations at the local level
• Court-Decision Law – the ultimate check of
schools – applies constitutional law to statues
and administrative law,
Teacher Certification
Each state has own requirements
May accept other states certification
Issued by the state
Must have certificate to accept contract
Must stay current after accepting
Without a certificate a teacher can be
considered a volunteer an not be paid in
monetary units.
Gaining Employment
• State and Federal laws govern process
used in screening applicants for
• Questions asked of applicants must
have a demonstrated relationship to
the job.
• Most states have laws that restrict
what school personnel can ask teacher
candidates during interviews.
• Some laws require that these questions
not be asked of applicant.
–Marital status, Pregnancy, Age,
Religious preferences, Sex, Race,
National origin, Color, Presence of
• Some laws apply to public as well as
private educational institutions.
VII of Civil rights Act 1964
It promotes equal opportunity in
employment through administrative
and judicial enforcement of the federal
VII of Civil rights Act 1964
It promotes equal opportunity in
employment through
administrative and judicial
enforcement of the federal civil
• Others apply only to public
• This is a complex area of the law.
–A private religious school can legally give
preference to individuals with a particular
religious affiliation if such affiliation is
required for school to fulfill its mission
• Key questions asked by employers:
Teacher Contracts
• Most important document
• Sets responsibilities
• Sign only one
• Must be written, approved by the
• Benefits and bonuses - Extra duty
Breaking Contract?
Good for only one year at a time
Teacher may be dismissed without
Often, part of probation
Tenure and Continuing Employment
• “Tenure gives teachers employment rights
that cannot be altered at the whim of
school officials, school must prove
• Tenure came about to protect teachers
from groups who wish to fire them
because of differences in what should be
taught in the classroom.
• supposed to keep good teachers in the
same school, granted after 3 years
• Do Tenure programs keep bad
teachers in school systems also?
• A study done in 1994 by the New
York State School Boards Association
found that it takes 455 days and
$176,870 on average for a school
board to fire a teacher in that state, but
$317,000 if the teacher appeals.
6 Ways Teachers Could Lose Their Jobs
• Incompetence: includes lack of
knowledge, failure to adapt to new
teaching methods, violation of school
rules, persistent negligence
• Incapacity: any physical or mental
condition that keeps a teacher from
performing assigned duties
Insubordination: willful violation
of reasonable school rules and
Conduct: insulting fellow
teachers, taking time off without
permission, drinking to excess,
and even telling wrestlers to lie
about their weights when
registering for meets
• Immorality: criminal activity, sexual
misconduct, drug use, and dishonesty
• Other Causes: intemperance, neglect
of duty, cruelty, and willful
• Must be given Due Process!!!
Professional Rights & Responsibilities
Reporting Child Abuse
•A teacher is in a position, where they can
spot young people who have been abused.
•All 50 states and the District of Columbia
have laws that make mandatory the
reporting of suspected instances of child
•As a result of a teacher being in the
position of spotting child abuse, they are
designated “mandatory reporters.”
•Teachers have a legal obligation to report
any given instance of suspected child
•If any suspected cases are NOT reported,
teacher may face up to six months in jail,
and/or a $1,000 fine.
•Teachers need not to fear retribution as a
consequence of reporting potential child
•All states provide some type of protection
from lawsuits for reports of child abuse.
• Many states include a provision to pay for
an attorney for a suit filed against of
teacher for reporting suspected child
• In most cases of reporting child abuse, the
teacher reporting the case will not have
his/her name given out to the public.
may not be
disciplined by employer for
reporting suspected child
abuse, unless it is reported for
malicious reasons.
According to the prevent child
abuse website, each year over
3,000,000 cases of child abuse
are reported.
Academic Freedom
• The idea is that teachers and learners
should be able to inquire about any topic,
even one that its highly controversial.
• Courts generally support the teacher’s
• The School board has the right to
prohibit certain texts or materials.
• Not all look at academic freedom as a
positive thing
• Who decides?
• Birth control, religious beliefs, army recruiter
•Courts find teachers qualified to assess
•Courts are reluctant to overturn teachers
grading decisions.
•To avoid “arbitrary grading”:
•Have clear grading scale.
•Keep accurate records.
•Do not lower grades as a punishment for
nonacademic misbehavior
Teachers’ Tort Liability
• Tort—civil wrongdoing, not criminal
• Involve an injury against another person
that resulted from a breach of legal duty.
• Torts are settled with some kind of award
• Torts against teachers have been
increasing in numbers
• Tort laws are based on common law
and the concept of fault or intent.
• In tort cases, finding do not need to
prove fault “beyond a reasonable
• Questions that are relevant to injury-related
suits against teachers include:
– Did the teacher have a duty of care under
the law to avoid the injury?
– If so, was the duty breached?
– If a breach of legal duty occurred, was it
the proximate cause of the injury.
Use of Force in Discipline
(1977) can use reasonable but not
excessive force
by locals
• LEGAL ACTION – Not protected
What is Negligence?
• Negligence is the failure to use
reasonable care to prevent harm from
coming to someone.
• Someone can be found guilty of
negligence without intending to inflict
• Gross negligence is an act in reckless
disregard of the consequences affecting
the life or property of another
3 Kinds of Negligence
• Misfeasance- a teacher acts unwisely or
without taking proper safeguards.
• Nonfeasance- a failure to act, by being
away from their assigned area.
• Malfeasance- behavior that is
undertaken deliberately and knowingly
to harm another.
How to Protect Yourself
• Have a basic understanding of what
creates liability
• Foresee and prevent the conditions that
give rise to injury
• Keep informed of specific ways to avoid
liability and make operations safer
• Join groups promoting safety
• Conditions that might lead to a
malpractice suit:
• A failure to bring achievement up to
satisfactory levels
• An injury to the development of the
• A failure to act to protect a seriously
threatened learner
Courts Say In The Matter
• The courts say there are other factors
than teachers that affect achievement
• Home backgrounds
• Motivational levels
• Appropriate materials and resources
Slander & Libel
Does not have to be physical harm
False statements that expose a student to
contempt, ridicule, or disgrace may harm
Spoken called ______, written called _____
Care in writing comments, only
observations – this person is a thief
If malicious intent?
Sexual Harassment
More litigations that ever
Care in working with learners outside of
class or school
School can be held if notified
Also can be held for learner to learner case
Can not ignore, anymore
Teachers’ Civil Rights
• In the past there has been many
restrictions on teachers’ lives away
from school.
• Today, there are few restrictions.
There have been court cases centered
on the personal rights of teachers.
• Some people believe that teachers are
role models, so they have a
responsibility to behave better than
“typical” citizens
Teachers’ Civil Rights
 The
courts have ruled that teachers can
not be punished for exercising their
constitutional rights.
• when teachers have been dismissed
because of actions in their personal
lives, the school district had to present
convincing evidence that the behavior
was having a negative impact on their
performance in the classroom.
Teachers’ Civil Rights
• One exception to teachers’ rights is
when they work in a religious setting.
• The church that controls the school
has “the right to discriminate on the
basis of marital status, family/parental
status, sexual orientation, race, or
Freedom of Association
Can/should schools be allowed to dismiss
teachers if they belong to radical
-relation to a school board member
Why and Why Not?
• If a teacher supports • Courts’ rulings
illegal activities
on freedom of
• If a teacher tries to
speech even in
indoctrinate students
the workplace
• If the teacher’s
support is disruptive
Teachers should not be dismissed for
their support of political organizations
or school board members as long as
they do not manipulate students,
seriously disrupt the teaching
or support illegal action.
Freedom of Conscience
•The separation of church and state is the
main concern in this subject, which leads to
•Teachers may have different religious
backgrounds, and express to students
different views.
•Teachers who share their views are
frowned upon by society.
What do Teachers Think?
• Many court cases regarding teacher
dress code!
• When the teachers fail to follow the
dress code, what happens?
• Teachers have taken these issues to
Do you think this is appropriate?
Court Rulings
• Teacher rights
• The court usually rules in favor of the
teachers unless the teacher can prove
unreasonable regulation
–Grooming standards negatively affect
matters associated with racial pride or
academic freedom.
Teacher Dress Codes
• Teachers have to follow dress codes too.
• Who decides the teacher dress code?
• Who enforces the teacher dress code?
• Examples of teacher dress codes…
–Jeans only on Friday - Does this fringe
on the rights of the teachers?
Lifestyle Issues
Sexual orientation
Unmarried cohabitation .
Use of vulgar language
Even, breast feeding in school
– Sexual orientation not enough to dismiss
– However, if public flaunting of
unconventional sexual conduct?
Thompson vs. Southwest School District, 1980
• Situation specific – courts size,
sophistication, community values,
reactions, & notoriety
• When relations with learners, always
• Courts have acted in support of dismissal
• Courts look at the teacher’s behavior and
how it influenced both his/her standing in
the community. If their actions have
outraged the community it will lead to
• Teachers that have been involved with
other adults are not as likely to be
Other Problems
• Courts have ruled that teachers do have
the right to take leave for religious
holidays, which they may practice as long
as their absence does not cause hardship.
• Teachers views may not be right to others.
• Should school be a place where children
are taught religious morals?
Criminal Conduct
Conviction or even indictment can be
grounds for dismissal
Often must reveal any convictions
Varies widely from place to place
preponderance of evidence is all that is
Revocation of certificate not as strict