It’s easy for school leaders to feel overwhelmed by the constantly evolving and complicated legal landscape surrounding the delivery of public education today. Sometimes it helps to step back and review the fundamental expectations we should have of every educator throughout the system. Adherence to these core responsibilities will allow your team to stay focused on improving student outcomes rather than defending mistakes and failures. Some of those responsibilities include:
- Supporting every student’s right to learn in a welcoming, harassment-free, nondiscriminatory environment.
- Establishing a positive rapport with students and adults (parents, staff, district leadership, and community members) and promptly responding to concerns.
- Fully implementing all Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), Section 504 Plans, and Health Care Plans for students with disabilities and health conditions.
- Reporting all suspected child abuse or neglect to the proper authorities, including troubling behavior by any adult in the school (employee, volunteer, visitor) toward a student.
- Addressing all reported safety concerns and following through with discipline, threat assessments, safety plans, and other supports, as needed.
- Understanding that the Constitution affords certain rights to students – such as free speech and freedom from unreasonable searches – though these rights are limited in the school environment.
As a former in-house counsel, I know all too well the benefit of proactive efforts to avoid legal issues – from training to early involvement of legal counsel. The school education law practice team at Caplan & Earnest, representing over half of the school districts in the state, is ready to partner with you to deliver practical training and to engage in early, strategic problem solving.