Today I attended a session at the Education Law Association entitled “Legal Literacy: The View for the Education Law Bar” by Mark Paige (University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth) and Vince Connolly (University of New Hampshire). They shared their results from a survey of education law attorneys about what legal issues administrators and teachers need the most support from attorneys.
A key point underlying the study is that school administrators and teachers must have a working knowledge of the law in order to do their jobs. One definition of ”legal literacy” that was promoted during the session was a deep interconnected knowledge about school legal issues so school leaders and teachers have a sense of what to do in certain legal situations and knowing when they should call a lawyer for assistance.
Administrators need guidance on issues surrounding discipline, teacher employment & termination, teacher evaluation, first amendment rights of teachers & students. Other important issues include sexual harassment, Office of Civil Rights investigations, and discrimination issues in schools.
Teachers need guidance on bullying, teacher evaluation, special education services, student records, student First Amendment rights, and student discipline.
What was interesting about this study is that the legal issues differ based on the role individuals play in schools. Educational leadership programs are cognizant of this fact when they design courses to inform school personnel about relevant legal issues and principles. I look forward to learning more from this study about key legal issues and how to promote legal literacy as this work continues.