The National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) are currently two of the largest teacher unions and professional associations in the United States. Both have been around for over 100 years and support teachers, as well as other school staff. As unions, both organizations support their members through collective bargaining, where they work with teachers as they negotiate with their respective school districts to resolve disputes, as well as lobby Congress for state and federal laws that would affect education-related issues, including teachers` rights and responsibilities. As soon as a teacher applies for a position in a school and gets it, he receives an apprenticeship contract. An apprenticeship contract is a written agreement between the school system and the teacher and serves as a legal document that defines the roles and responsibilities of the teaching position. When the school board negotiates with a teachers` union, the union`s policies and regulations are also set out in the contract. The apprenticeship contract must be signed by the teacher, the school and ratified by the school authority to be binding. The apprenticeship contract is binding unless it is breached if one of the parties does not work as agreed within the period specified in the apprenticeship contract. Each state has a different definition of the types of apprenticeship contracts subject to teachers within the state, but some traditional types of apprenticeship contracts are explained in Table 5.3. In schools, educators have a responsibility that the courts call „in loco parentis“ or „in place of parents.“ This means that at school, it is the responsibility of educators to make similar judgments to a parent when it comes to child safety. Since an educator is legally responsible for the safety of children under his supervision, a teacher is considered negligent if he does not protect a child from injury or harm.
The state education plan must include, like any state school: due process and the equality protections of the Fourteenth Amendment have a significant impact on education. The equality safeguard clause is discussed in this chapter as it relates to core legal cases, racial issues, and LGBTQ+ rights and discrimination. Next, we will examine how the due process clause affects educators and students. In this chapter, you learned how ethical and legal issues affect education. A professional code of ethics influences a teacher`s practice by setting standards that ensure that all teachers demonstrate integrity, impartiality and ethical behaviour to ensure that students receive a fair and equitable education. Teachers and students do not waive their constitutional rights when attending public schools in the United States. However, the courts have found that there is a difference between the rights of teachers and those of students outside and inside a school. Rights and duties must be consistent with state and federal laws, as well as student safety and the mission of public schools. Case law has provided guidance to schools on procedures and regulations, as well as on the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. The cases highlighted in this chapter are relevant to the purpose and objectives of public education in the United States. Over time, challenges remain, particularly as society changes and the United States diversifies. A strong legal system is necessary to maintain an equitable and accountable education system that supports all students.
Understanding the ethical and legal issues related to education will help you make informed decisions as an educator in our public school system in the United States. Employment does not guarantee a teacher a lifetime job or job security for life (Hart, 2010). The goal of tenure is to support and protect good teachers. It is a well-deserved process that prescribes due process. The advantages of a permanent contract or job are that a school must prove reasons for firing you because you have due process as a teacher. Proponents of employment see its benefits for teachers in the fact that it „significantly strengthens legal protections enshrined in the civil service, civil liberties and labor law“ and „protects a number of discriminatory dismissals that are not covered by racial and sexual protection laws“ (Kahlenberg, 2015, p. 7). In addition, teacher tenure has been shown to improve overall teacher morale and engagement within a school and collaboration among colleagues. Permanency provides teachers with an opportunity to ask questions and connect with the principal about how a school operates and how to build a strong school culture associated with increased student achievement (Lee & Smith, 1996). In 2005, a 13-year-old student with special needs was called out of the classroom and questioned by police officers in the presence of school officials about burglaries in the neighborhood. Her parents were not contacted and her Miranda rights were not read to her, such as the right to remain silent, to leave the room or to have access to a lawyer. The child confessed to the crime, but then tried to suppress his confession because he had not received any evidence of his rights while in police custody in the school`s conference room.
In this case, J.D.B. v. North Carolina (2011) was then heard by the Supreme Court, where it ruled that age should have been taken into account in deciding whether the student was in custody on school grounds. The judges went on to say that there are psychological differences between an adult and a child, and if the police are involved in questioning students, they must use „common sense“ because of differences in children`s development. In this case, Miranda`s warnings should have been applied appropriately to the student prior to his interrogation. The courts have ruled that for a school to operate safely, it must have broad powers to establish rules and regulations regarding student conduct within the school. This means that parents agree to give schools some degree of control over their child`s enrollment in the public school system. The courts have also emphasized that students do not lose all their constitutional rights and that the influence of a school is not absolute. In the legal and educational systems of the United States, control is defined as a standard of adequacy that has been similarly stated in several examples above. In another case, B.H.
and K.M. v. Easton Area School District (2013), students were suspended for wearing bracelets that promoted breast cancer awareness. In this case, the judge ruled in favor of the students. The school district then took the case to the Supreme Court, but the court refused to hear the case, saying the message on the bracelet did not use suggestive language or interfere with the purpose of education. The First Amendment requires schools to consider all student views equally, as long as they are not obscene or disturbing, regardless of the message expressed (Sherwin, 2017). Like freedom of expression, a teacher`s freedom of expression with regard to personal presentation and dress can also be questioned. Lawsuits related to dress code requirements set by school boards and imposed on teachers in their local schools have set a precedent, but this issue continues to be hotly debated. As a teacher in public schools, can you exercise your own „personal freedom“ in the way you dress? Teaching discipline has been brought before the courts to help make decisions on the appropriateness of disciplinary procedures by teachers and schools. While the U.S. judicial system confirms that a school has the power to enforce standards, it also recognizes that this power is not unrestricted. For example, suspensions and breaks cannot restrict students and their right to public education.
Imagine a teacher suspecting that a student has illegal drugs in his backpack. They noticed that the student had put a small pocket in the front pocket of her locker. The teacher immediately reports his suspicions to the principal. What should be the next step? The school administrator must have a „reasonable suspicion“ based on facts specific to the student or the situation. An „intuition“ is not enough. Rather, the principal must believe that the search of the student will produce evidence of a violation of a school rule or law. „Reasonable“ is based on what is being sought and the age of the student. Throughout U.S. history, courts have become more involved in helping school districts make decisions that affect how places and states conduct schooling (Thomas, 2019). As diversity increases in the United States, school policies and procedures continue to be challenged in our court systems.
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