School Law



Week 1
Discussion:
NCLB has changed the way all schools operate. We now have "test driven accountability" as stated by Jack Jennings in the publication Ten Big Effects of the No Child Left Behind Act on Public Schools. Our school focuses on Math and Science, because this the area that needs the most attention. Our students met AYP last school year. We are trying to maintain and have gains for the this school year. Core subject teachers have a greater burden on them because of test driven accountability. They are expected to produce, despite the challenges that they face daily with the students they have to work with. Many do an awesome job.

My collegues know that we must work together for the success of our students and the school. The most negative impact, I feel, is that students with limited proficiencies are placed in classes that are far above thier ability. But, I think of it as the "Gump Effect." Everytime I have a student who can not meet standards set for my class, I remember Forrest Gump. Even though he had limited abilities, he did not allow them to keep him from succeeding. In Gump's case, he did not really realize he had accomplished anything. He received accolades with the expression of most of our special needs students, unaware of what is going on around him. So, I guess, that could be considered a positive impact. It forces our kids with limited ability to stive to accomplish tasks. As teachers, all we can do is scaffold those who need the most support and ask those who get it to help those who do not. I remember in my undergraduate classes, we learned about the Matthew Effect. "The "Matthew Effect" is a term coined by Keith Stanovich, a psychologist who has done extensive research on reading and language disabilities. The "Matthew Effect" refers to the idea that in reading (as in other areas of life), the rich get richer and the poor get poorer (http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/test.matthew.effect.htm)." This is how I think of our school and its students. Those who get it will always succeed. We have to work harder with those who do not get it. That is where NCLB comes in.

Week 2
Discussion:
Discuss a scenario you have experienced that has blurred the line between student expression and school safety or discipline. How did your school handle the situation?
I think our District's strict dress code policy blurs the line between student expression and school safety. Our students are allowed to wear three colors on campus except on spirit day with a spirit shirt. This is not shades or hues of the color, but specific colors. The premise of the uniform is to cut down on gang related activities. But, I feel that all the dress code has done is given students a new way to express themselves. It has also given gangs a new way to identify each other. I see more students with tattoos and body piercings than ever before. I also see more students wearing the crucifix; and I know they are not Catholic. I think that we tend to forget that high school students need to have a way to express themselves. One form of expression is in the way they dress. The code is so strict that girls cannot accessorize. I concur that large hoop earrings can be a safety concern.

The way the school handles dress code violations is to send students to ISS until a parent brings the "proper" attire or home.I was in the ARD of a student who had been sent to ISS on numerous occasions because he was out of dress standard. He did not know where he would spend the night or wake up in the morning. Many days he came to school dirty and out of dress standard. He diagnostician said she is amazed he comes to school at all with all that he has working against him at home. I also had a student whose Mother had thrown him and all of clothes out of the house.He had nothing to wear except what was on his back. In the case of the former, the ISS teacher and the diagnostician worked out a plan for the student. In the case of the latter, the student went to ISS every day until he had clothes that were proper. The first student is a 10th grade student at the school, the latter graduated last year.

The dress 'standard' has changed the school environment in that it causes teachers to spend more time looking at what a student wears and instead of focusing on getting students to the next level academically, which is life outside of high school.

Week 3
Discussion:
You are the new principal of a large middle school. You are receiving second-hand reports that an experienced teacher in your building is saying things to other teachers on your campus, as well as to other district employees, that are both false and potentially damaging to your reputation. This teacher was extremely loyal to the principal who preceded you, who was transferred to another position in the district. From what you have observed, she is an excellent teacher, but you have concerns about the things you are hearing.
Based upon this week's lectures and readings regarding teacher speech and personnel management, how would you approach this problem?
As principal, the first thing I would do is not listen to he said, she said. This will never stand up in the court of law. Many witnesses and testimonies are disputed because they are unsubstantiated. Dr. Hopson stated that "teachers do not leave their right to free speech at the school room door." As principal, I would talk to the teacher, letting her know that I have gotten wind of uncomplimentary and untrue statements coming from her. The teacher may have the right to face her accuser(s). First, I must consider, "Is this just teachers' lounge gossip?" According to the lecture, as part of the teacher's due process hearing, I need to allow her to give her side of the story, or a as Dr. Hopson said, a thank you for sharing session. I can then give an oral or written notice for her to cease and desist the negative conversation. If she continues, I will have to give her written notice that her behavior will not be tolerated. Also, according to the lecture, if this is just a gripe session it does not fit the description or get the protection of free speech because it is not a matter of public concern. I would need to consider "Are the comments undermining the superior/subordinate relationship?" I already know that the teacher does a great job, and her comments may not breach confidentiality. Does it become my personal mission to fire this teacher or will oral and written reprimands be enough to keep her on my team?

Week 4
Discussion:
A freshman at your high school comes running into the main office claiming that he was assaulted by three upper-classmen in the restroom. He said that a teacher came in and saw him being pushed down to the restroom floor, but the teacher quickly left. The student says he can identify the three people who assaulted him.
How do you go about investigating this student's claim? Since the school is like most, there will have video surveillance of people coming from and going to the restroom. So the first thing I would do is take a detailed, signed statement from the student. I would get signed statements form the three boys accused of the assault. I would also get signed corroborating accounts from others who may have been in the restroom at the time. I would also get a report from the teacher who did not stay to assist. His actions shows that he did not take the safety of the student involved in consideration. It further show a lack of judgment. Next I would look at the video to see if it supports the accounts. I feel that the Doe v. Taylor case, though very different, may the case that sets the precedence for avoiding deliberate indifference.
If it turns out that there was an assault, can you or the school be held liable? The school can be held liable only if there is no investigation. I would have to investigate all aspect of the altercation. I cannot assume that this is a case of "boys will be boys." Also, three boys attacking one boy is not boys being boys but rather it is boys being bullies. This is never acceptable.
What about the teacher who entered and then left the restroom? The teacher who left the scene and did not render aid may be held liable on grounds of indifference.
Hopson, M. (n.d.). School Liability [Video file]. Retrieved from https://lamar.epiclms.net/.

Week 5
Discussion:
My view of educations's role in society leans toward schools helping "to teach students to think and express themselves independently. (Hopson, M.)" Schools must have a delicate balance of both "marketplace of ideas" and "value inculcation." Students need to be able to express their ideas and viewpoints in the safe environment of the school. But, school leaders must have the ability to censure that expression if it is biased or harmful. I grew up in the 60's and graduated from high school in the early 70's. I understand both viewpoints. My generation was the one that pushed every envelope. We were the ones fighting for free speech, especially on issues like Viet Nam, women's rights, the rights of people of color, and religious freedom. There were times when people of my generation went to jail for that freedom; they gave up their physical freedom for the right to express the fundamental freedom found in the "Bill of Rights." I feel that our students should enjoy the right to express their opinions. I think that schools should be the marketplace of ideas. This generation is faced with issues like gay rights, whether marijuana should be legalized, same-sex marriage, etc. Again, I feel that our students need a safe place to define their viewpoints on these issues. Value inculcation, expressing values that the general public is most comfortable with, gives students the balance they need to formulate their position or viewpoints on these issues and others that they must address in their lifetimes. We can help students explore all sides of an issue.
As a school leader I would encourage the healthy discourse needed to help our students develop into productive, informed, adults. If they are not exposed to anything, they will not know anything. I try to challenge students with news stories that allows them to write their comments and thoughts on various issues. I want them to know that there is life outside of our small town. I also want them to know what are hot issues. We also are a Channel One campus. I allow students to view and write comments about issues discussed on Channel One. The election in California was of great interest to them, especially Prop 19! The balance allows them to formulate how they feel about the issue. We also looked at the Supreme Courts' decision to ban the sale of violent games to minors. I received many comments, some were very thought-provoking, about both issues.
Hopson, M. (n.d.). School Liability [Video file]. Retrieved from https://lamar.epiclms.net/.