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The 200 Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions for Educators

The ideal quick-reference guide for understanding legal issues in schools!

This compact, jargon-free, easy-to-understand reference focuses on 200 common legal issues to provide educators with authoritative, legally defensible approaches for addressing school challenges. Through the easy-to-use Q&A format, educators will find immediate answers on topics such as religious issues, individuals' rights, disciplinary practices, morality, teacher dismissal, liabilities, NCLB, and more. This practical guide provides:

  • A list of relevant court cases pertaining to each question and answer
  • Legal references to guide teachers' and school leaders' actions
  • A glossary of legal terms and a list of federal statutes 
  • Chapter summaries and conclusions

Full description

Product Details
  • Grade Level: K-12
  • ISBN: 9781412965774
  • Published By: Corwin
  • Year: 2009
  • Page Count: 336
  • Publication date: June 24, 2009

Price: $47.95

Price: $47.95
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"This is one of the best books involving legal issues that I have seen. It is practical, well organized, and thorough. Specific court cases and findings clearly illuminate the intent of the law, giving the administrator guidance in making sound legal decisions. This book would be an excellent reference for any administrator's collection."
—Sharon M. Redfern, Principal
Highland Park Elementary School, Lewistown, MT

The ideal quick-reference guide for understanding legal issues in schools!

On a daily basis, today's educators must make legally sound decisions concerning the instruction, supervision, and safety of students while operating within the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution, federal and state laws, and school district policy.

This compact, jargon-free, easy-to-understand reference focuses on two hundred common legal issues to provide school administrators and teachers with authoritative, legally defensible approaches for addressing school challenges. Through the accessible Q&A format, teachers and school leaders can read sequentially or browse for immediate answers on topics such as religious issues, individuals' rights, disciplinary practices, morality, teacher dismissal, liabilities, NCLB, and more. Practical and concise, this guide provides:

  • A list of relevant court cases pertaining to each question and answer
  • Legal references to guide teachers' and school leaders' actions
  • A glossary of legal terms and a list of selected federal statutes
  • Summaries and conclusions at the end of each chapter

The 200 Most Frequently Asked Legal Questions for Educators contains invaluable information to assist educators in performing their duties effectively and in accordance with the law.

Key features

  • Practical, readily accessible, concise, and readable questions and answers are based on timely topics
  • Each question is followed by a specific response and a list of relevant court cases when applicable
  • Provides legal references to guide the actions of school administrators in addressing specific legal issues in their schools or districts
  • Includes a glossary of relevant legal terms and a list of selected federal statutes
  • Offers summaries and conclusions at the end of each chapter


Nathan L. Essex photo

Nathan L. Essex

Nathan L. Essex is professor of educational law and leadership at the University of Memphis and president of Southwest Tennessee Community College. He has held public school teaching and administrative positions prior to completing the doctorate. Essex’s interests include law, educational policy, and personnel administration. He has served as consultant for more than 100 school districts and numerous educational agencies. He served as a policy consultant with the Alabama State Department of Education for 12 years and received numerous awards in recognition of his contributions in the field of education. He is the recipient of the Truman M. Pierce Award for educational leadership and outstanding contributions that advanced the direction of education in the state of Alabama; the Academic Excellence Award in recognition of professional achievement and academic excellence in the research, service, and teaching of education, Capstone College of Education Society, The University of Alabama; Teaching Excellence Award; Distinguished Service Award—Who’s Who in the State of Tennessee; The University of Memphis Distinguished Administrator of the Year 1995-96; “Educator on the Move,” The University of Memphis; Phi Delta Kappa, the President’s award for leadership and service to the community, Youth Services, Inc.; Who’s Who in Corporate Memphis, Grace Magazine; and President Bush’s Community Service Award, just to name a few. Essex has published numerous articles, book chapters, and newsletters on legal issues. Many of his works appear in The Administrator’s Notebook, The Horizon, Compensation Review, The Clearinghouse, The American School Board Journal, American Management Association, Community College Review, Education and Law, and many other professional journals. Essex has authored a law textbook entitled School Law and the Public Schools—A Practical Guide for Educational Leaders, which was published by Allyn & Bacon. A fourth edition was released in January 2007. Essex has also published a textbook for public school teachers, entitled Pocket Guide to School Law, and a booklet on No Child Left Behind that was published by Allyn & Bacon. He is highly sought by educators at all levels to share his knowledge and expertise regarding legal and policy issues that impact educational organizations. He received the BS degree in English at Alabama A&M University, the MS degree in educational administration at Jacksonville State University, and the PhD degree in administration and planning at The University of Alabama.
Table of Contents

Table of Contents



About the Author

I. Educators and the Legal System

1. How Are Teachers Impacted by the U.S. Constitution, State Constitutions, and Federal and State Laws?

2. Why Is the U.S. Constitution So Important?

3. What Should Teachers Know About Their State Constitution?

4. How Do State Agencies Affect Teachers?

5. What Are the Responsibilities of the State Board of Education?

6. What Are the Responsibilities of the State Department of Education?

7. How Do Local Boards of Education Exert Control Over Public Schools?

8. What Is the Role of the Local School Superintendent?

9. What Is the Most Significant Role Played by the Federal Government in Reforming Public Schools?

10. What Primary Sources of Legal Protections Are Available to Teachers to Alleviate Unfair Treatment in Their Schools?

11. How Does the Court System Affect Teachers in Public Schools?

II. Student Rights and Restrictions

12. Are Students Entitled to Constitutional Protection in Public Schools?

13. How Do the Courts View the Interests of Students Versus the Interests of the State in Matters Involving Student Rights?

14. Can Teachers Develop Rules for Student Conduct in Their Classrooms?

15. Do Public School Students Possess Freedom of Speech and Expression Rights?

16. Can Educators Restrict Student Dress and Appearance?

17. How Do Health and Safety Issues Affect Student Dress?

18. Can Students Be Required to Wear School Uniforms?

19. May School Officials Regulate School-Sponsored and Nonschool-Sponsored Student Newspapers?

20. Can School Officials Exercise Control Over the Publication of Nonschool-Sponsored Newspapers?

21. Can a Faculty Advisor to a Student Newspaper Monitor Content Written for Inclusion in the Student Newspaper?

22. Can Faculty Advisors Be Liable for Allowing Inappropriate Content in the Student Newspaper?

23. Are Controversial Slogans and Offensive Language Permitted in Public Schools Under Student Freedom of Expression Rights?

24. Can Students Gain First Amendment Protection When They Use Offensive Language in School?

25. May Teachers and Administrators Conduct Student Searches in Public Schools?

26. What Legal Standards Must Be Met in Searches Involving Educators and Those Involving Law Enforcement Officials?

27. Can Teachers Legally Conduct Personal Searches of Students?

28. Are Canine Searches in Public Schools Permissible?

29. Can School Officials Initiate Random Drug Testing of Students in Public Schools?

30. Can Public Schools Control Internet Access by Students?

31. Can Schools Disallow the Use of Cell Phones and Other Electronic Devices (PDAs) by Students?

III. Student Discipline

32. What Should Teachers Know About Due Process in Their Dealings With Students?

33. What Does Procedural Due Process Entail?

34. What Is the Importance of Substantive Due Process in Dealing With Students?

35. Is In Loco Parentis a Viable Concept for Teachers in Their Dealings With Students?

36. What Legal Standards Are Required for Students Facing Suspension?

37. What Legal Standards Are Required for Students Facing Expulsion?

38. Can Students Be Disciplined for Misconduct That Occurred Off Campus Outside the School Day?

39. Do the Courts View Corporal Punishment as an Acceptable Form of Discipline in Public Schools?

40. Do Teachers Have a Responsibility to Their Students in Situations Involving Bullying?

41. Are Zero Tolerance Policies Supported by the Courts?

42. How Did Zero Tolerance Emerge in Public Schools?

43. Are Unorthodox Disciplinary Practices by Teachers Supported by the Courts?

IV. Liability and Student Records: Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

44. What Is the Buckley Amendment or Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and How Does It Apply to Teachers?

45. Are There Exceptions That Allow Other Parties to Access Records Without Consent?

46. What Is the Importance of the Public Notice Requirement Regarding FERPA?

47. Who Is Affected by FERPA Implementation?

48. How Does No Child Left Behind Impact the Privacy Rights of Students?

49. What Rights Are Provided Parents and Legal Guardians Regarding Student Records?

50. What Must Teachers Know Regarding Access Rights Afforded Students Under FERPA?

51. Is There a FERPA Exception to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Regulations?

52. What Must Teachers Know About Libel and Slander in Handling Student Records, and How Are They Affected?

53. Should Teachers Record Information on Students' Records Based on Their Opinion?

54. What Are the Consequences for Teacher Errors on Confidential Student Records?

55. What Legal Options Are Available to Parents or Students for FERPA Violations?

56. Does a FERPA Violation Occur When Teachers Allow Students to Score Each Other's Papers?

57. Under What Circumstances May Teachers Be Held Liable When They Write Letters of Recommendation for Students?

58. Should Teachers Share Sensitive Information With Coworkers Involving Student Information That Is Found in Student Records?

V. Rights of Students With Special Needs

59. What Federal Laws Protect the Rights of Students With Disabilities?

60. How Do States Qualify for Funding Under IDEA?

61. What Is Meant by Zero Rejection Regarding Students With Disabilities?

62. Must Students With Disabilities Demonstrate That They Can Benefit From Special Education Instruction?

63. What Is the Basic Purpose of the Individuals With Disabilities Act of 2004 (IDEA)?

64. How Is the Term "Children With Disabilities" Defined by the Act?

65. What Mandatory Requirements Apply to School Districts?

66. What Is Meant by Response to Intervention Regarding Students With Disabilities?

67. What Role Does a Regular Teacher Play in Identifying Students Who May Need Special Services?

68. How Is the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) Developed for Children With Disabilities?

69. How Often Must the IEP Be Reviewed?

70. What Must Teachers Know About the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) and Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)?

71. What Should Teachers Know About Inclusion?

72. What Is the Importance of Special Education?Related Services?

73. Why Are Transition Services Important to Students With Disabilities?

74. What Role Does Assistive Technology Play for Students With Disabilities?

75. What Is Meant by Highly Qualified Special Education Teachers Under No Child Left Behind?

76. What Due Process Rights Are Parents and Students Afforded Under IDEA?

77. Can Students With Disabilities Be Disciplined?

78. How Does Manifestation Impact Discipline of Students With Disabilities?

79. Why Would Students With Disabilities Be Placed in an Interim Alternative Educational Setting (IAES)?

80. What Should Teachers Know About The Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504?

VI. Teacher Constitutional Rights and Freedoms

81. How Does the First Amendment Guarantee to Free Speech Apply to Public School Teachers' Speech Outside the Classroom?

82. Can Teachers Be Dismissed for Speaking Out on Controversial Issues Involving the School District Outside of the Classroom?

83. How Do Free Speech Rights of Teachers Apply to Speech Inside the Classroom (Academic Freedom)?

84. Can School Officials Interfere With the Privacy Rights of Public School Teachers?

85. What Political Rights, If Any, Can Public School Teachers Exercise?

86. Can a Teacher Hold Public Office?

87. Can Legitimate Restrictions Be Placed on School Personnel Rights to Freedom of Association?

88. Do Teachers Have an Option Not to Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

89. What Latitude Are Teachers Provided Regarding Their Lifestyle Choices?

90. Can Public School Teachers Exercise Their Religious Beliefs in Public Schools?

91. Can School Officials Require Teachers to Instruct the Prescribed Curriculum Irrespective of Their Religious Views?

92. Do Teachers Have Explicit Rights to Express Themselves Through Religious Dress and Appearance?

VII. Terms and Conditions of Employment

93. What Are the Essential Components of a Teacher's Contract, and When Does It Become Binding?

94. Is the Contract Void if It Is Not Written?

95. Can Supplemental Contracts Create Special Problems for Teachers?

96. Are Oral Contracts Legally Enforceable?

97. When Does a Teacher Breach a Contract?

98. What Consequences Can Teachers Face for Breach of Contract?

99. How Does No Child Left Behind Legislation Affect Teacher Employment?

100. How Should Teacher Evaluations Impact Professional Development of Teachers?

101. When Do Teachers Achieve Tenure?

102. Can a Teacher Earn Tenure by Default?

103. Is It Legal for a State to Abolish Tenure?

104. Do Nontenured Teachers Have Legal Protection Regarding Nonrenewal of Their Teaching Contract?

105. What Does Nontenured Status Really Mean?

106. Can Teachers Be Legally Assigned Duties Outside the Normal School Day?

107. Can School Boards Legally Transfer Teachers From One School or Position to Another?

108. Are School Boards Required to Legally Grant Leaves of Absence for Teachers?

109. What Happens to Teachers Who Are Injured at School in the Course of Executing Their Assigned Duties?

110. What Legal Duties Do Teachers Have in Reporting Suspected Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect?

111. What Are the Consequences If No Child Abuse and Neglect Is Found After Teachers Report It?

VIII. School and District Liability

112. What Is an Intentional Tort, and How Does It Impact Teachers?

113. What Constitutes an Assault?

114. What Constitutes a Battery?

115. When Does Defamation Occur?

116. What Type of Behavior by Teachers May Result in Mental Distress Involving Students?

117. What Must Teachers Know About False Imprisonment?

118. Do Teachers Incur a Lower Degree of Liability if the Tort Is Unintentional?

119. May School Personnel Legitimately Claim Legal Defenses for Liability Charges?

120. What Must Teachers Know About Contributory Negligence?

121. What Is Comparative Negligence?

122. How Does Assumption of Risk Affect Coaches and Teachers Who Supervise Contact-Related Activities Involving Students?

123. Does Immunity Protect Teachers in Liability Cases?

124. Can Teachers Transport Students in Their Personal Vehicles?

125. Do Permission Slips or Release Forms Relieve a School and Its Teachers From Liability?

126. Does the Same Standard of Care Apply to Supervision of Students on Field Trips as It Does on School Grounds?

127. What Should Teachers Understand About Playground Supervision to Avoid Liability?

128. What Responsibility Do Teachers Have Regarding the Use of School Equipment by Students?

129. What Precautions Should Teachers Follow Regarding Students' Science Fair Projects?

130. Can a Teacher Be Held Liable for a Teacher Aide's Conduct That Results in Injury to a Student?

131. Are School Officials and Teachers Liable for Injuries Based on Defective Conditions of School Buildings and Grounds?

132. What Responsibilities Do Teachers Have to Students Who Arrive on Campus Before the School Day Begins or Remain on Campus After School Hours?

IX. School Attendance and Instructional Programs

133. Are Children Required to Attend Public Schools Under Compulsory Attendance Laws?

134. What Latitude Can States Exercise in Matters Regarding Health, Safety, and Residency Requirements in Public Schools?

135. How Do Residency Requirements Apply to School Attendance?

136. What Are Home Schools?

137. What Is a Charter School?

138. What Latitude Are Teachers Provided in Assigning Grades?

139. Can Schools Impose Academic Sanctions for Excessive Student Absences?

140. Can Academic Sanctions Be Imposed on Students for Unexcused Absences?

141. Can Academic Sanctions Be Imposed on Students for School Suspension?

142. Can a Student's Grade Be Reduced for Academic Dishonesty or Misconduct?

143. Can a Student Be Physically Punished for Poor Academic Performance?

144. Can Schools Legally Test Students and Place Them in Academic Tracks?

145. Can a Student's Diploma Be Withheld for Misconduct?

146. What Do Teachers Need to Know About Using Copyrighted Materials in Their Classrooms?

147. What Is the Impact of Educational Malpractice on Public Schools, and How Might It Affect Teachers?

X. Religious Freedoms and Restrictions in Public Schools

148. May Students Legally Initiate Prayer and Devotional Meetings in Public Schools?

149. Can Students Hold Devotional Gatherings on School Grounds?

150. How Do the Courts View the Distribution of Religious Literature on School Property?

151. May Students Refuse to Recite the Pledge of Allegiance?

152. Is Teaching the Bible in Public Schools Legal?

153. Can Public Schools Hold Holiday Concerts and Display Holiday Decorations?

154. Can Holiday Decorations Be Displayed by Teachers in Their Classrooms?

155. May Teachers Be Provided Religious Leaves of Absence?

156. Can School Personnel Offer Prayer, a Period of Silence, or Bible Reading in Public School?

157. Can Teachers Initiate a Period of Silence in Their Classrooms?

158. Can Public Schools Offer Bible Reading Over the School's Intercom?

159. Can Teachers Engage Students in Religious Discussions in Their Classrooms?

160. Can Teachers Refuse to Teach the Prescribed Curriculum Based on Religious Objections?

161. Can Teachers Use Religious Symbols and Displays in Their Classrooms?

152. Can Teachers Wear Religious Dress in Public Schools?

XI. Teacher Dismissal and Due Process

163. What Does Dismissal for Cause Really Mean for Teachers?

164. How Is Incompetency Defined by the Courts?

165. Does Insubordination Involve a Pattern of Nonconforming Behavior, or Can a Single Nonconforming Act Constitute Insubordination?

166. Does It Matter if Neglect of Duty Is Intentional or Unintentional as a Cause for Dismissal?

167. Can Immorality Charges Involve In-School Behavior as Well as Out-of-School Behavior?

168. What Essential Requirements Must Be Met in Abolishing School Personnel Positions?

169. How Does Other Good and Just Cause Affect Teacher Dismissal?

170. Can a Teacher Be Dismissed for Improper Personal Use of School Computers?

XII. Discrimination in Employment

171. How Does Title VII Affect the Operation and Management of Public Schools?

172. What Standard Must Be Met in Hiring Practices for Public Schools?

173. What Areas of Public School Operations Are Affected by Title IX?

174. How Are Public Schools Affected by Racial Discrimination?

175. What Safeguards Are Provided to Teachers Regarding Religious Discrimination?

176. What Protections Do Female Teachers Have Regarding Childbirth and Employment?

177. Must Public School Teachers Retire at a Mandatory Age?

178. What Should Teachers Know About Sexual Harassment?

179. How Does the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, Section 504, Affect Public Schools?

180. Does the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) Apply to Public Schools?

XIII. Collective Negotiations

181. Do Public School Teachers Have Advantages in Public Sector Bargaining Over Individuals Involved in Private Sector Bargaining?

182. Can Teachers Be Assessed Union Fees Even if They Are Not Members of a Recognized Union?

183. Do Teachers Have a Constitutional Right to Join a Union and Engage in Collective Bargaining?

184. How Does the Scope of Collective Bargaining in Public Schools Impact the Negotiations Process?

185. Are Teachers Allowed to Strike if Negotiations Reach an Impasse?

XIV. No Child Left Behind

186. Why Was No Child Left Behind Passed?

187. What Are the Basic Provisions of NCLB?

188. How May Title I Funds for Educational Practices Be Used?

189. What Is Required Through Annual Assessment?

190. How Does the Act Empower Parents?

191. What Is the Impact of NCLB on Teachers and Other School Professionals?

192. Are There Controversies Surrounding NCLB, and When Will It Be Reauthorized?

193. How Does NCLB Affect Students?

194. What Is a Highly Qualified Teacher Under NCLB, and Why Is It So Important?

195. Must Paraprofessionals Meet the Highly Qualified Standard Under NCLB?

196. Are Teachers Required to Meet National Board Certification Standards Under NCLB?

197. Must Charter School Teachers Meet the Highly Qualified Standard Under NCLB?

198. Must Elementary School Subject Specialists Be Highly Qualified in All Subjects or Simply in the Particular Subject They Teach?

199. What Is Meant by Alternative Certification Under NCLB?

200. Are Teachers Who Earn an Emergency Certificate Still Required to Be Highly Qualified?

Resource A: Selected Federal Statutes

Resource B: The Constitution of the United States of America

Resource C: Glossary of Relevant Legal Terms

Resource D: Selected Professional Associations for Teachers and Administrators

Resource E: List of Cases




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