LEGAL ISSUES IN THE CLASSROOM Jane Turner, Esq. Executive Director, CERRA July 2012 These days everyone seems to be aware of the many legal issues that can arise in the classroom… And students in today’s classrooms are very savvy… Teachers make decisions in the classroom every day that could have legal implications for students, teachers, and school districts… Legal Framework for Those Decisions • Federal laws and regulations • State laws and regulations • School board policies and procedures • School-level rules and practices Other Framework for Those Decisions • Training and knowledge/understanding • Professionalism/composure • Practical guidelines, such as the “ask, then act” and the “fly on the wall” rules Decisions Every Teacher Should Be Prepared To Make: • Should I search a student’s book bag? • Should I cover another teacher’s class while the teacher is taking care of other business? • If I came upon two students fighting, should I attempt to break up the fight? • What should I do if a fellow teacher was constantly telling me about the discipline problems of a student in his/her class? • Is it permisable for me to take a student by the arm and “direct” him/her back to his/her seat? • What can I say if a student tells me she is pregnant and thinking about getting an abortion? • What should I do if a student asks if he can lead the class in a blessing before lunch? • What should I do if a student tells me he or she is having trouble with a fellow student “hitting” on him or her? • If you told an administrator that you suspected one of your students was being abused at home and the administrator said he or she would handle it, do you need to do anything else? • If you noticed that a student was being repeatedly teased and taunted by other students, in the hallways between classes, for example, but the student never complained to you about it, should you do anything? Take-Aways… • Know your school’s rules and practices, as well as your school administrators’ expectations • Ask questions if you have any hesitation about what you should do in any given situation • Keep your cool • Let an administrator know if anything has occurred that you aren’t sure you handled correctly QUESTIONS?