794 W - Education Law
Professor: Charles E. Wilson
Semester: 2008 Autumn
Second Writing? No
Professional Responsibility? No
Schools are the major organizational mechanisms for personal achievement and social stability, so it is little wonder that they are also the staging grounds for the major social battles and disagreements of our time. Consequently, legal issues involving education have greatly proliferated in recent times. The Supreme Court has addressed at least one issue affecting education virtually every term in the last thirty years. There does not appear to be any abatement in the near future in either the number or complexity of legal issues arising in the education context.
Because of the importance of education and its mandatory nature in the K-12 level, it is inevitable that some of society’s most important civil rights issues are litigated within the school context. These include equality of opportunity, affirmative action, race, gender, language and disability discrimination, freedom of expression, loyalty oaths, the constitutionally permissible scope of religion in the public sphere, and constitutional limits on search and seizure. This course will be centered around these themes.
Virtually everyone possesses a certain degree of expertise in identifying and appreciating the implications of legal issues in the education context because everyone has experienced the education process. This course will offer you an opportunity to use that personal expertise to assess the important issues presented in this course. Your experience in the educational process also provides you with an understanding of the scope of unanswered legal questions that remain as challenges for the educational issues of the future. This course will serve as a platform for a discussion of those issues.
This course will focus primarily on K-12 education. My teaching of the materials in this course will be informed by my current service on a local school board and my occasional representation of school boards in collective bargaining. My hope is that this course will reflect this ongoing contact with the day-to-day realities of K-12 education. In addition, as appropriate I anticipate having guest speakers to further inform our discussion of these complex legal issues.
Public schooling is an arm of the state that is charged with the duty of preparing children to become productive members of society. The legal framework for public education will be our focus. We will study school safety issues and related efforts to protect student privacy and freedom of expression, including combating threatening behavior, peer harassment, and peer mistreatment; the parameters of the right to equal educational opportunity and related legal efforts to increase educational quality for all students, including the rights of students with special needs such as English learners and students with disabilities; church-state relations in education, including religion, morality, and values in public education; the powers and procedures of local school boards; school finance; the use of school funds and property; tort and contractual liability of school boards, officers, and employees; the rights of educators, including teacher certification, tenure, dismissal, retirement, academic freedom, employment discrimination, labor relations, and collective bargaining; student rights, including discipline procedures, suspension, expulsion, searches of students, drug testing, controls over student free speech-expressive activities, sexual harassment, and sexual orientation; and school desegregation.
Finally, this course will raise issues that are among the most controversial that any of us will ever have to face. These include, but of course are not limited to, controversies regarding race/ethnicity, gender, LGBT status, and religion. When addressing these controversial issues I will expect all students to manifest sensitivity and respect and to help create an atmosphere where all students are equally valued. Furthermore, I hope that all students will feel comfortable expressing their genuine beliefs and personal perspectives, no matter how popular or unpopular those viewpoints might be.
The course materials listed above are for informational purposes only and should not be considered final. Students must check with the Registrar for a current list of closed courses.