Moral and Legal Education

Employment does not guarantee a teacher a lifetime job or job security for life (Hart, 2010). The goal of tenure is to support and protect good teachers. It is a well-deserved process that prescribes due process. The advantages of a permanent contract or job are that a school must prove reasons for firing you because you have due process as a teacher. Proponents of employment see its benefits for teachers in the fact that it “significantly strengthens legal protections enshrined in the civil service, civil liberties and labor law” and “protects a number of discriminatory dismissals that are not covered by racial and sexual protection laws” (Kahlenberg, 2015, p. 7). In addition, teacher tenure has been shown to improve overall teacher morale and engagement within a school and collaboration among colleagues. Permanency provides teachers with an opportunity to ask questions and connect with the principal about how a school operates and how to build a strong school culture associated with increased student achievement (Lee & Smith, 1996). In East Hartford Education Association v. Board of Education (1977), a public school teacher was reprimanded for not wearing a tie during English classes.

Together with his teachers` union, he sued the Education Committee on the grounds that the dress code warning violated his right to freedom of expression and privacy. This case was heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals, which found that the school board had the power to impose the dress code. As a teacher and civil servant in a position of trust, the court considered that this professional requirement and the general control exercised by the school authority over the conduct of its teachers were justified. This decision was later challenged in 1986 when a student in a speech at a meeting used language considered “vulgar” by the school. The student was reprimanded by the school and the student sued the school on the grounds that his constitutional right to freedom of expression had been violated. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where Bethel School District Court No. 403 v. Fraser (1986) that a school is not required to permit offensive or disruptive speech on school grounds at a school-sanctioned event because the offensive speech or language interferes with the educational mission of the school and is not appropriate for a school environment. As you learned from this activity, there is not always a good “answer” to a particular situation. A code of ethics provides moral standards to help guide your decision-making and teaching practice.

It helps with what you should do. There are no specific instructions on what to do or how to do it. The courts have ruled that for a school to operate safely, it must have broad powers to establish rules and regulations regarding student conduct within the school. This means that parents agree to give schools some degree of control over their child`s enrollment in the public school system. The courts have also emphasized that students do not lose all their constitutional rights and that the influence of a school is not absolute. In the legal and educational systems of the United States, control is defined as a standard of adequacy that has been similarly stated in several examples above. In this chapter, you learned how ethical and legal issues affect education. A professional code of ethics influences a teacher`s practice by setting standards that ensure that all teachers demonstrate integrity, impartiality and ethical behaviour to ensure that students receive a fair and equitable education. Teachers and students do not waive their constitutional rights when attending public schools in the United States. However, the courts have found that there is a difference between the rights of teachers and those of students outside and inside a school.

Rights and duties must be consistent with state and federal laws, as well as student safety and the mission of public schools. Case law has provided guidance to schools on procedures and regulations, as well as on the roles and responsibilities of teachers and students. The cases highlighted in this chapter are relevant to the purpose and objectives of public education in the United States. Over time, challenges remain, particularly as society changes and the United States diversifies. A strong legal system is necessary to maintain an equitable and accountable education system that supports all students. Understanding the ethical and legal issues related to education will help you make informed decisions as an educator in our public school system in the United States. If the decision is not accepted, the complaint may be forwarded to the superintendent for review. If the accused is still not satisfied with the decision, he or she may file a complaint with the State Education Authority or the State Superintendent. In addition, the action may be brought at any time before the lower court within the jurisdiction of the school. A teacher or student can also file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education`s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which will investigate the complaint to determine if a civil rights law has been violated (U.S. Department of Education, 2020c).

Ethical decisions take place every day in our classrooms. Often, you may believe that treating students equally is an ethical approach. But when you walk into a classroom, you may notice that a teacher is calling a shy student rather than another student who usually dominates the discussion. Is it the same thing? The teacher clearly treats the two students differently. This is what we call good teaching practices in education. The NEA Code of Ethics guides your teaching behavior by putting your students at the center of your practice. Always keep in mind that you should treat all students equally, not necessarily equally. As soon as a teacher applies for a position in a school and gets it, he receives an apprenticeship contract.

An apprenticeship contract is a written agreement between the school system and the teacher and serves as a legal document that defines the roles and responsibilities of the teaching position. When the school board negotiates with a teachers` union, the union`s policies and regulations are also set out in the contract. The apprenticeship contract must be signed by the teacher, the school and ratified by the school authority to be binding. The apprenticeship contract is binding unless it is breached if one of the parties does not work as agreed within the period specified in the apprenticeship contract. Each state has a different definition of the types of apprenticeship contracts subject to teachers within the state, but some traditional types of apprenticeship contracts are explained in Table 5.3. Throughout U.S. history, courts have become more involved in helping school districts make decisions that affect how places and states conduct schooling (Thomas, 2019). As diversity increases in the United States, school policies and procedures continue to be challenged in our court systems.