Principals: An Antidote to Educational Malpractice
“You’ll hear from my lawyer,” or “I’m going to sue you!”
Statements like these are made regularly in schools around the country. Though they often are hollow threats, they nevertheless can have a paralyzing effect on educators. This is because a vast majority of teachers (85 percent, according to our research) have not taken any course on school law. As a result, most are uninformed or misinformed about their rights and responsibilities and those of their students. Allowing such a lack of knowledge to exist and failing to do anything about it is a form of educational malpractice, in our view. We believe most schools are guilty of such malpractice, even though a solution lies within schools themselves—the school principal.
Although teaching law is not in their job description, principals already are the chief law teachers in their schools. This is because most principals frequently give legal advice—in staff meetings, in informal conversations, and in the way they develop, interpret, and enforce school rules. While this advice is often appropriate, there are many times when it is confusing, misleading, incomplete, or even incorrect. Such advice (or lack of advice) often leads to two types of mistakes by teachers: 1) failing to take disciplinary action when they should, and 2) unintentionally violating students’ rights...
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