Anyone who is involved in the field of education knows that it is constantly changing. New methods of instruction, assessment, and classroom management are being implemented on a daily basis. In addition to these changes educators must also pay attention to changes in school law. The world of school law can be complex and complicated and it is important that those individuals involved with the educational process understand their responsibilities and limitations under the law. To help solve or interpret problems that arise from disputes that involve the law our judicial system has established a number of different courts.
There are three levels of federal courts including; district courts, circuit courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. In the book Legal Rights of Teachers and Students the authors state: Although most constitutional provisions and statutory enactments never become the subject of litigation, some provisions require judicial clarification. Since federal and state constitutions set for broad policy statements rather than specific guides to action, courts serve an important function in interpreting such mandates and in determining the legality of various policies and practices.
(McCarthy, Cambron, & Thomas, 2004, p. 17) It is through the functioning of these different courts that cases involving the educational system have been decided and precedence set. In the state of Oregon there are three Federal District Courts located in Portland, Eugene, and Medford with the main office located in Portland. Any case that reaches the Federal District Court level in Roseburg takes place in Eugene. There are thirteen different Federal Circuit Courts of Appeal. In their
book McCarthy, Cambron, & Thomas state: On the federal appeals level, the nation is divided into 12 geographic circuits, each with its own federal circuit court of appeals. A thirteenth federal circuit court has national jurisdiction to hear appeals regarding specific claims (e. g. , customs; copyrights, patents, and trademarks; international trade). (McCarthy, Cambron, & Thomas, 2004, p. 21) Oregon is located in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals; and has an office located in Portland. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also includes the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Idaho, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, Washington, and Guam.
The main office for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is located in San Francisco California. Within the state of Oregon there is a state board of education that directs the school districts throughout the state on different issues that are associated with the educational process. McCarthy, Cambron, & Thomas suggest that, “In most states, members of the state board of education are elected by the citizenry or appointed by the governor, and the board usually functions immediately below the legislation in the hierarchy of educational governance” (2004, p. 3).
Some of the duties of the state board of education include making sure that local school districts are implementing policies that have been adopted by the state and federal governments. One of the areas that the state board of education focuses on is accreditation. McCarthy, Cambron, & Thomas state that: Accreditation is an important tool used by state boards to compel local school districts to abide by their directives. School districts often must satisfy state accreditation requirements as a condition of receiving state funds. (2004, p. 3)
It is important that state and local school boards work together in order to provide a positive learning experience for the students that they serve. One of the most important aspects of the teaching profession that educators need to be aware of is the need for documentation of incidents that may arise. There may be an incident that arises that places an educator in a situation that can only be resolved through the court system. For this reason it is important that those individuals involved in the education field document any incident that occurs.
One such incident that occurred in my classroom involved a student who was cheating on an exam by using a cell phone. Our school has a policy on cell phones that states that students may have a cell phone as long as they are turned off and out of sight during class time. The student in question was taking a unit exam and it came to my attention that they were using a cell phone during the exam. I had this happen once before and didn’t document any of it and just took the cell phone and the exam and gave the student a zero.
The student then said that they had received a text from a parent that had nothing to do with the exam. As a result I had to allow the student to re-take the exam. When the situation came about this time I spent 10-15 minutes observing the student and documenting what it was that I saw. Through the use of documentation this student was punished for cheating. However, if I had not documented the incident I am sure that it would have ended like the time before. It is important that educators have an understanding of the basic laws that apply to the world of education.
By knowing the law teachers can take the necessary precautions to make sure that incidents don’t occur that would require our judicial system in order to work the problem out. In addition to understanding the different rights of students it is also important that teachers understand their own rights as educators and how the law can protect them from prosecution. References: McCarthy, M. M. , Cambron-McCabe, N. H. , & Thomas, S. B. (2004). Legal rights of teachers and students. Boston: Allyn & Bacon