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1. 2 THE IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL LAW ON THE EVERYDAY PRACTICE OF EDUCATORS Jerome G. Delaney, Ph.D. Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland.

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Presentation on theme: "1. 2 THE IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL LAW ON THE EVERYDAY PRACTICE OF EDUCATORS Jerome G. Delaney, Ph.D. Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland."— Presentation transcript:

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2 2 THE IMPACT OF EDUCATIONAL LAW ON THE EVERYDAY PRACTICE OF EDUCATORS Jerome G. Delaney, Ph.D. Faculty of Education Memorial University of Newfoundland A Presentation to the Canadian Association for the Practical Study of Law in Education (CAPSLE) Annual Conference, Halifax, NS April 20-22, 2008

3 3 THIS STUDY Qualitative Survey Qualitative Survey Participants: 5 Classes of Education 4420 (Legal & Moral Issues in Education) and 5 Classes of Education 6335 (The Legal Foundations of Educational Administration) Participants: 5 Classes of Education 4420 (Legal & Moral Issues in Education) and 5 Classes of Education 6335 (The Legal Foundations of Educational Administration) PRIMARY RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the positive/negative impacts, if any, Educational Law has had on the everyday practice of students (now teachers) who have taken these courses? PRIMARY RESEARCH QUESTION: What are the positive/negative impacts, if any, Educational Law has had on the everyday practice of students (now teachers) who have taken these courses?

4 4 THE LITERATURE Appears to be a void in the literature with respect to the impacts/influences Educational Law has had on the everyday practice of educators. Appears to be a void in the literature with respect to the impacts/influences Educational Law has had on the everyday practice of educators. The U. S. literature: pre-occupied with legal litigation. The U. S. literature: pre-occupied with legal litigation. The Canadian literature: pre-occupied with the legal literacy of school administrators. The Canadian literature: pre-occupied with the legal literacy of school administrators.

5 5 Wagner (2008) Re Legal Litigation: It can be argued that public school litigation has had an important impact upon education. In the previous century, lawsuits were influential in ending segregation, protecting the First Amendment rights of all students, and expanding the public education opportunities for children with disabilities. Presently, there are lawsuits seeking to change schools (e. g., school funding challenges, school choice, and the No Child Left Behind Act). While it can be argued that education lawsuits have had an important impact on education, others argue that there are too many school lawsuits and that matters could be resolved in other nonlitigious ways. (p. 2)

6 6 Findlay (2007) Re Legal Literacy: The data suggest that principals, based on their median score, may not be the best source of legal information for their vice-principals or their staffs” The data suggest that principals, based on their median score, may not be the best source of legal information for their vice-principals or their staffs” (p. 197). If administrators’ legal decisions are not based on accurate knowledge, it would appear that even those with extensive experience are at risk of encountering legal difficulties. The tendency of school administrators to make decisions based on experience or intuition could lead them into legal difficulty. (p. 197) If administrators’ legal decisions are not based on accurate knowledge, it would appear that even those with extensive experience are at risk of encountering legal difficulties. The tendency of school administrators to make decisions based on experience or intuition could lead them into legal difficulty. (p. 197)

7 7 THE STUDY’S RESEARCH QUESTIONS

8 8 1.As a result of your having done a course in Educational Law in your university studies, have there been any positive impacts/influences on your everyday work as an educator? Please list any of those impacts/influences and any practical examples that you might recall. 2.As a result of your having done a course in Educational Law in your university studies, have there been any negative impacts/influences on your everyday work as an educator? Please list any of those impacts/influences and any practical examples that you might recall. Primary Questions

9 9 1.Do you think a course in Educational Law should be a compulsory course in every Bachelor of Education course in Canada? Please elaborate. 2.Do you think a course in Educational Law should be a compulsory course in a Master of Education program in Educational Leadership/Educational Administration in every university across Canada? Please elaborate. 3.Please list any additional comments/points you would like to make re the usefulness or lack of usefulness of a course in Educational Law in a Bachelor of Education program? Secondary Questions

10 10 Emergent Themes Primary Research Question # 1: 1.The heightening of awareness, understanding and sensitivity with respect to the various legal issues confronted by educators in today’s schools; 2.The facilitation of sound and responsible decision making when dealing with various legal issues in schools; 3.The fostering of a certain degree of professionalism and collegiality; and lastly, 4. The raising of teachers’ self-confidence levels.

11 11 Primary Research Question # 2: 1. The potential for paranoia. 2.The potential to impede teacher risk taking and creativity. 3.The potential to increase teachers’ stress levels.

12 12 Participant Commentary The Positive Heightening of Awareness, Understanding and Sensitivity Mary, currently a first year teacher in a Kindergarten to Grade 9 school, commented that “I am more conscious of my own rights as a teacher as well as the fact that I am more conscious of my own actions. An example was a student asked me for a ride home; the humanitarian in me wanted to say yes, just hop in, no problem. If I had not done the Educational Law course, I would have done just that. Since doing that course, I knew that I could not give this student a ride without going through the proper steps. Basically, it saved me from future and unnecessary trouble”.

13 13 Facilitation of Sound and Responsible Decision Making Gloria, teaching in a large senior high school, stated that “The courses that I have completed in Educational Law have helped me in so many different ways. As a new teacher, there are many things that you wish someone would tell you and Educational Law has done exactly that. For example, when a student “hit” on me in the hallways and tried to spread around rumors that we were dating, I immediately remembered the many case studies that we had discussed in class. I was afraid that my job would be on the line and I wanted the matter cleared up immediately. I wrote up the incident and I reported to the administration. I then insisted that “Joe” make an apology to me and in front of the principal as well”.

14 14 The Fostering of Professionalism and Collegiality Monica, an elementary teacher, states that the course in Educational Law provided her with a awareness of professional boundaries with parents and caregivers. Specifically, she referred to her being able “to maintain a professional and calm nature when addressing sensitive issues with parents”.

15 15 The Raising of Teachers’ Self-Confidence Levels Philip is a junior high teacher in a northern school. He offers this perspective on having done a course in Educational Law: “It's been very helpful for me as an educator in a Northern school, I am teaching junior high and it has been beyond anything I could have possibly imagined. It has been very helpful to know the law and the ins and outs of the Collective Agreement. I have been in constant meetings with parents, students, and principals because of discipline problems and it has been very helpful to know my rights”.

16 16 The Potential for Paranoia Junior high teacher Sally commented that the only negative thing she found about doing the Educational Law was that it “makes you more cautious and sometimes I think this could lead to paranoia. I think that a classroom has to be made as comfortable as possible for the teacher and the students and knowing too much information could hinder this from happening”. Participant Commentary The Negative

17 17 The Potential To Impede Teacher Risk Taking and Creativity Senior high teacher Denise offered this point of view: “I was recently asked to take part in a downhill skiing and I immediately remembered the many legal issues we discussed in our classes. I realized that I would be taking on a huge responsibility, especially with a lot of the rougher kids signed up for the trip. Because of the possible implications/accidents that may have occurred, I decided to turn the opportunity down. Instead, I opted for bowling, which seemed a lot safer for both me and the kids. I guess if I had not taken the course, then I may have gone. But I do believe I can make more informed decisions now and that would be considered a positive thing on my part.

18 18 The Potential for Heightened Teacher Stress Levels Tim is a teacher in a Kindergarten to Grade 12 school and he pointed out that “sometimes hearing about scary legal situations forces you to over think or be overly nervous”.

19 19 1.Do you think a course in Educational Law should be a compulsory course in every Bachelor of Education course in Canada? Please elaborate. Secondary Questions

20 20 Sample Response “I think it is very important to have an Educational Law course as a compulsory component in every B.Ed. program. Sending teachers into the classroom without understanding all the laws which they must obey, as well as the laws that are in place to protect them, would be a huge risk.”

21 21 2.Do you think a course in Education Law should be a compulsory course in a Master of Education program in Educational Leadership/Educational Administration in every university across Canada? Please elaborate.

22 22 Sample Response “It is also important for teachers who will move forward in their career to become principals and vice-principals to have an in-depth understanding of the laws that govern teachers and their profession. Oftentimes, teachers might have questions for their school leaders regarding an issue. It would be good for these leaders to have an answer for them and not have to immediately hand the question off to someone else.”

23 23 3.Please list any additional comments/points you would like to make re the usefulness or lack of usefulness of a course in Educational Law in a Bachelor of Education program?

24 24 Sample Response “ “I think that legal issues are one of the most, if not the most important topic that should be covered in the Education program. There is a lot of great terminology and concepts to become familiar with before going out into the teaching profession. As a teacher you are dealing with a vast number of people everyday (co- workers, administration, students, parents as well as community organizations), thus it is very important to have some stable grounds before entering the field. I think that many of the situations that have arisen in the past have been largely due to the fact that they were unknowledgeable in the area. I have all the documents and notes of this course in particular kept in a handy location and know that if anything comes up that I am unsure of, I will refer to the notes. If I cannot find an answer within the notes, I will use one of the useful contacts/organizations that we were given…. Somehow, by doing that course I can surely find results. I think that it is better to be over cautious then under cautious.”

25 25 CONCLUSIONS 1. The formal study of Educational Law, either at the undergraduate or at the graduate level, does serve to heighten an awareness and understanding of and a sensitivity to the various legal issues permeating today’s school systems. 2. The formal study of Educational Law does facilitate sound, reasonable and informed decision making in school matters. 3.The formal study of Educational Law does foster professionalism and collegiality.

26 26 4.As a result of having studied Educational Law, educators are much better informed and consequently, are more self-confident as they go about their daily practice. 5. As a result of having studied Educational Law, the potential for paranoia is one that educators need to be cognizant of and attentive to as they go about their daily work. 6.As a result of having studied Educational Law, teachers may be less inclined to take risks and to be creative in their teaching.

27 27 7.As a result of having studied Educational Law, there is a potential for heightened teacher stress levels. 8.A course in Educational Law is a highly valuable component in any Bachelor of Education program and should be compulsory for all students. 9. A course in Educational Law is a highly valuable component in any Master of Education program in Educational Leadership / Educational Administration and should be a required course in that program.

28 28 Educational Law: Friend or Foe?

29 29 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A sincere thank you to the former students of Education 4420 and Education 6335 who have participated in this study.

30 30

31 31 For follow-up, please contact: Jerome Delaney Tel: Thank you for attending this presentation.


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