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School Law: What Every Teacher Should Know!

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Jennifer Babb

on 16 September 2014

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Transcript of School Law: What Every Teacher Should Know!


A teacher can be held liable for damages to an injured student if the student can prove four things:
1. Duty of care – kids are placed in your care
2. Standard of care – what a reasonably prudent teacher would do in a like situation under similar circumstances
3. Proximate cause – a causal relationship between a teachers action and a subsequent injury
4. Actual injury – there has to be an actual injury, check this first – just because there is an injury doesn’t mean the teacher is liable

School Law: What Every Teacher Should Know!

The special needs child running and getting hurt:
This was an actual case that went to the New York Appeals Court. The teacher was found negligent because she never did anything to prevent the running, nor did she try to find the child when he disappeared around the storage building. The plaintiff’s expert testified that "purposeless, freestyle running should not have been permitted because it was dangerous for special needs children." The jury returned a verdict in
favor of plaintiff for $429,000. The appeals court affirmed the judgment.
Child Abuse and Neglect
By federal law you are required to report ANY type of abuse a child alleges happened to them. Do not get TOO busy!!

Also, in Maryland, a teacher is deemed guilty of "misconduct in office" which is defined as "failure to report child abuse." This is one of 5 ways a teacher may be dismissed from their job.

You could be dismissed from your job, get arrested, serve jail time, and pay fines.
If teachers spread false gossip that harms a student's reputation, they can be found to have slandered the student.

Be careful what you say about a student!
Can you make a copy of a software program from school and download it to your personal computer?

In 2001, a school district in Chicago paid a $50,000.00 fine because a teacher illegally copied a software program to his personal computer.

If a school has a site license, then you can put a program on multiple computers, but not a personal computer.
Can a teacher be sued for making negative comments about a student in classrooms or in the teachers' lounge?
Child Abuse and Neglect
What would happen if a child tells you that they are being abused physically at home at a time you were giving a very important test, and you forgot about it? Are there any ramifications?
Multiple copies
1. A complete poem, if it is less than 250 words
2. An excerpt from a longer poem, if it less than 250 words
3. A complete article, story, or essay, if it less than 2,500 words
4. An excerpt from a prose work, if it is less than 1,000 words
5. One chart, diagram, cartoon, or picture per book

See handout for other copyright policies
Freedom of Expression
Can a student be required to say The Pledge Allegiance?

Freedom of Expression
A New Jersey student refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance. In a federal appeals court the judge ruled in favor of the student. "A requirement that students participate in a form of symbolic speech is unconstitutional and interferes with their right not to participate in the flag ceremony."
Discipline - Search and Seizure
What would you do if you noticed one your electronic devices, or a set of your favorite markers, or one of your favorite books was missing? Would you look in book bags? Would you question the class? These are important items.
Discipline - Search and Seizure
Under Maryland law, TEACHERS DO NOT have the right to search - a teacher doing ANY type of search would make it ILLEGAL! Teachers have no authority to search a kid. You cannot ask the child to empty his/her pockets. That is for administration only.

If you have reasonable cause a search can be done, but only by administrators. So, contact administration immediately with any suspicions.

Be careful because a teacher or school officials can be sued for damages for violation of student rights.
Discipline - Search and Seizure
What would you do if you taught an intermediate grade and a student told you that another student had a knife in his book bag that was stored in the lockers? Would you go out and look with the student?
Discipline - Search and Seizure
Lockers have a low level of privacy because they are owned by the school. However, you still NEED to follow the same procedures as stated previously; that is notify administration with any suspicions, and they will do the searching!
School Records
If you go to a conference with administration and a parent, would the parent be allowed to see your personal notes about their child?
School Records
A teacher's personal notes on children are private until you publicly share. By going to a conference or an IEP meeting you are publicly sharing with someone else, therefore, parents have a right to see what you have written. Parents are allowed to see any email or any type of documentation. Advice - memorize your
notes before attending any type of meeting,
and watch what you send via email or put on
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