Educational leaders must be well informed of the laws that oversee the function and management of educational institutions. Increasingly, educational leaders will need to implement good judgment in creating reasonable and legally defendable decisions that concern students (Essex, 2002). Educational leaders will also need to direct the development and implementation of reliable and well-developed policies, rules, and regulations pertaining to students (Essex, 2002, Lometa, 2000).
The Bill of Rights characterizes an essential foundation of individual rights and freedoms given to individuals under the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution imparts an outline of law in which governmental processes function and is thus a principal source of law (Essex, 2002). Although the Constitution does not refer to education, the Constitution and Supreme Court decisions, do influence the function and management of educational organizations, predominantly with respect to amendments, that safeguard the individual rights of students (Essex, 2002). School administrators have a responsibility to develop an appreciation for the significance of landmark cases and be able to recognize similar patterns of fact that one may encounter in an educational setting (Lometa, 2000).
The following treatise will identify landmark cases in the areas of student code of conduct, exceptional needs, and First Amendment rights, the impact of these cases on contemporary education will also be explained. In addition, this treatise will include the school’s responsibility to accommodate the needs of designated students as well as how these accommodations negatively affect the learning environment.
Landmark Cases concerning Student Code of Conduct
Harassment is a type of sexual discrimination. In a landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled that public schools might be sued for failing to contend with students who harass their classmates. The Supreme Court also specified that lawsuits are applicable only when the harassing student’s behavior is severe, persistent, offensive, and denies the victim equal access to an education (Essex, 2002). In addition, harassment claims are valid only when school officials are noticeably unreasonable and intentionally indifferent toward the alleged harassing behavior. The student, LaShonda Davis, who is black, filed suit against the school district in 1992 claiming that school officials failed to take action concerning harassment by a white student, but later took action when the same student offended another white student (Essex, 2002). The student alleged that the teacher, principal, and other school officials violated her Fourteenth Amendment rights.
Reasonable suspicion is all that is required for school officials to initiate a search. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided that when a school official is conducting a search under reasonable suspicion in school-related searches, he or she is not violating any constitutional rights (Essex, 2002). In the landmark case, New Jersey v. T.L.O. (1985), a teacher revealed two girls smoking in a restroom. T.L.O, one of the students in the restroom denied the allegation while her companion stated that she violated school rules. The assistant vice principal insisted upon examination of the girl’s purse and found a pack of cigarettes. At the time, the assistant vice principal also noticed a pack of rolling papers typically associated with the use of marijuana, and with this evidence of drug use, the assistant vice principal thoroughly examined the purse (Essex, 2002). Numerous indications of not only drug use but the sale of drugs was obtained from the purse.
Impact on Contemporary Education
An implication concerning student code of conduct is that school officials are not liable for harassment claims unless he or she were aware of the behavior and failed to respond accordingly. However, if students are aware of such behavior, the difficulty might be for school leaders to claim ignorance to the behavior and therefore be susceptible to liability charges (Essex, 2002).
In an attempt to maintain a proper learning environment school officials only need justifiable and reasonable suspicions to search students in an educational setting; waiting for a warrant could get in the way of disciplinary measures needed in schools (Essex, 2002). Consequently, school officials should have reasonable grounds to consider a search of a particular student is necessary to provide pertinent proof that the student has violated a particular policy, rule, or law. Further, the search must be restricted to the immediate episode (Essex, 2002).
Landmark Cases concerning Exceptional Needs
The IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) guarantees students with disabilities the right to a free, appropriate education in public schools (Essex, 2002). In the landmark case Board of Education of Hendrick Hudson Central School v. Rowley (1982), parents of a nearly deaf student brought suit against the school district maintaining that the school district failed to provide a sign language interpreter to the student in her classes. The school district had already provided the student with a hearing aid, and a tutor.
The U.S. Supreme Court contended that the EAHCA (The Education for All Handicapped Children Act) was reasonably met and enabled the student to attain passing grades and be promoted from grade to grade. The school district is not required to provide a sign language interpreter but to allow the student to receive an education. This case aided in influencing the suitable interpretation of free, appropriate education (Essex, 2002).
In another case, Timothy W. v. Rochester, New Hampshire School District (1989), the court attended to the issue a school district may inevitably require a student to validate a benefit as a stipulation before participation in special education. This particular student had multiple physical handicaps and was severely mentally retarded. The school district refused to offer educational services requested by the student’s mother and stated that the student would not benefit from an education (Essex, 2002). Ultimately, the First Circuit Court observed that IDEA expressly acknowledges that education for children with severe physical disabilities is to be defined to include basic functional life skills as well as academic skills (Essex, 2002).
Impact on Contemporary Education
The impact on contemporary education through this landmark case demonstrates that no child with disabilities may be barred from receiving a free, appropriate public education. In addition, no child with disabilities may be obliged to demonstrate that he or she will benefit from special education as a stipulation prior to receiving appropriate services (Essex, 2002).
Landmark Cases concerning First Amendment Rights
A notorious landmark case concerning First Amendment rights is Tinker vs. Des Moines (1969). Three students were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to school protesting government policy in Vietnam. The principals in the Des Moines school district implemented a policy to ban the wearing of armbands after becoming aware of the individuals intention to do so. Students wearing an armband on school property would first be asked to remove the armband and if the student declined, he or she would be suspended until conformance to the policy was granted. The individuals were aware of the policy implemented by the principals (Findlaw, 2006).
The Supreme Court’s decision acknowledged that school officials prohibited and sought to punish the students in this case for a quiet, inactive expression of opinion, without any turmoil or disruption by the students. There is no evidence whatsoever that the student’s disrupted the school day or conflicted with other students. The wearing of the black armbands was totally separated from disruptive or likely disruptive behavior by the participating students, as such; they were afforded the protection of the First Amendment (Essex, 2002).
The landmark case Reynolds V. United States (1879) deemed separation of church and state. As pointed out in Essex (2002) the First Amendment to the Constitution offer U.S. citizens the freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly. In Cantwell v. Connecticut, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed that this provision also applied to the states, thus omitting religious practices in public schools. Consequently, public schools must sustain an impartial stance regarding religious matters (Essex, 2002).
Prayer existed in public schools until the landmark Engle v. Vitale (1962), which banned prayer from public schools. However, in Jones B. Clear Creek Independent School District (1987), the Fifth Circuit Court contended that prayer was acceptable at graduation ceremonies as long as the students initiated the subject and that the school did not sponsor the prayer. This procedure was seen as the First Amendment right to free speech (Essex, 2002). In Sante Fe Independent School District v. Jane Doe, prayer at athletic events, graduations, and other school events was deemed forbidden (Essex, 2002). Prior to this decision, individual states were permitted to determine if prayer should be offered at school events (Essex, 2002).
In consideration of the First Amendment right to freedom of expression, decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. A landmark case was heard in 1986, a student gave a speech nominating another student for a student council office. In this speech, the first student referred to his candidate by a sexual metaphor even though he had been warned by two teachers not to do so (Essex, 2002). The student was informed that he had violated school policy regarding obscene language or gestures and was suspended for three days. The student sued the school district declaring that his First Amendment right to freedom of speech had been violated. The U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, deemed that the school district failed to prove that the student’s speech interrupted the educational environment; furthermore, The U.S. Supreme Court decided that students maintain the right to support disliked and controversial views in school but that right must be in harmony with the schools’ relevance in teaching socially appropriate behavior (Essex, 2002).
In consideration of the First Amendment right to freedom of speech, the landmark case Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (1983), in which the school principal prevented articles from being publicized that included pregnant students, and reasons for students parents’ divorces. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the principal did not violate students’ free speech rights by ordering certain material removed from an issue of the student newspaper (Essex, 2002).
Impact on Contemporary Education
The impact of landmark cases on contemporary education concerning First Amendment rights is the concept that students benefit from the same constitutional rights as adults and that these rights do not end at the school door (Essex, 2002). The decision by the court considerably changed the relationship between students and school officials. The ruling in this landmark case instructed that school officials show consideration for the civil rights of students in the school. Consequently, in cases involving restrictions of student’s rights, school officials must establish a justifiable or reasonable cause for doing so. In addition, students are permitted to communicate his or her viewpoints in an organized manner (Essex, 2002).
The U.S. Supreme Court deemed that the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit remain which would allow states across the nation to formulate separate decisions about student-led graduation prayers. However, the Fifth Circuit ruling concerned only Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In the Texas case, the district’s policy did not mandate prayer but simply made conditions if the senior students agree. The prayer, if supported by students, would be nondenominational and be free of converting aspects. Consequently, students were able to do what school officials could not. Other states soon followed the Texas decision (Essex, 2002). The Hazelwood case has an important impact on contemporary education. Student newspapers that are part of the school’s curriculum may have restrictions placed on them based on reasonable grounds (Essex, 2002).
Schools Responsibility Accommodating the Needs of Designated Students
IDEA follows the Education of All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, in an attempt to clearly describe the responsibilities of school districts concerning children with disabilities and to impart financial support to help states meet these obligations (Essex, 2002). The IDEA fundamentally ensures children with disabilities, the right to a free, suitable education in public schools (Bradley, 2006; Essex, 2002).
Regular classroom teachers encompass the task of distinguishing students who may require special services in order to obtain the inclusive benefits of an education (Essex, 2002). This process should take place before any formal assessment or special education transpires. Concisely, the teacher must propose the inquiry after carefully working with the student over a period and scrutinizing the student’s work to conclude if he or she requires special assistance beyond that which is provided in the regular classroom (Kolstad, Wilkinson. & Briggs, 1997). However, this inquiry should only materialize after constant and various attempts have failed to meet the needs of the student in the course of the regular classroom instruction (Essex, 2002). Teachers should consider this process with sensitivity, since the student’s education will be affected. School districts are obligated to assess every child with disabilities to establish the nature of the disability and the necessity for special education and associated services (Essex, 2002, Levy, 2001).
Schools also need to place students with disabilities into regular classroom conditions, when suitable (Essex, 2002; Kolstad, Wilkinson. & Briggs, 1997). Consequently, enabling these students to socialize, interact, and learn with other students. When not in a regular classroom setting, the school district is required to demonstrate that another educational setting is more appropriate for the disabled student (Essex, 2002; Idol, 2006). Although inclusion is a requirement for disabled students, and teachers must meet this challenge, oftentimes the teacher is unprepared to do so; not only academic needs but related services that the student might require such as seizure monitoring. As a result, school districts are responsible for meeting the diverse needs of all students and may be held liable if unable to meet students’ needs (Essex, 2002; (Heron& Jorgensen, 1995).
In instances where the school district cannot meet the needs of specific students, the district is required to pay private school tuition and related expenses. School districts are also responsible to discipline disabled students for unacceptable behavior as long as the behavior is not associated with the disability and must not interrupt the student’s education (Bradley, 2006; Essex, 2002).
Possible Negative Effects on the Learning Environment
There are two main concerns on the accommodations to meet the needs of designated students. One is the possibility of negative interactions with classmates, and the other is the possibility of a lowered quality of a non-designated student’s education (Kindler, 1997). The issue of training and support also necessitates attention when accommodating the needs of designated students (Idol, 2006; (Heron& Jorgensen, 1995). Teachers may be apprehensive about the teaching objectives of different levels within the same classroom and thus jeopardize his or her sense of control (Kindler, 1997; (Heron& Jorgensen, 1995). In addition, most teachers do not have the essential knowledge of methods and materials to ensure designated students will succeed in his or her classroom (Kolstad, Wilkinson & Briggs, 1997).
Teachers and students do not leave their constitutional rights at the door to the school (Findlaw, 2006). The rights of students are not unconditional and are dependent on reasonable limits that must be justified by school officials (Essex, 2002). School districts and teachers maintain a responsibility to all students, disabled and non-disabled and may be held accountable for his or her actions.
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Broderick, A, Mehta-Parekh, H. & Reid, D. K. (2005). Differentiating instruction for disabled students in inclusive classroom. Theory into Practice, 44 (3). Retrieved December 6, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Essex, N. L. (2002). School law and the public schools (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon
Findlaw (2006). U.S. Supreme Court Tinker v. Des Moines School Dist., 393 U.S. 503
(1969) Retrieved on December6,2006 fromhttp://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=search&court=US&case=/data/us/393/503.html
Heron, E. & Jorgensen, C.M. (1995). Addressing learning differences right from the start.Educational Leadership, 52 (4). Retrieved December 7, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Idol, L. (2006). Toward inclusion of special education students in general education: A program evaluation of eight schools. Remedial and Special Education, 2 (77).Retrieved December 8, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Kindler, M. D. (1997). Perceptions of inclusion at Bigge Elementary School. Dissertation. University of Virginia. (UMI No. 9824263). Retrieved on December 5, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Kolstad, R., Wilkinson, M.M. & Briggs, L.D. (1997). Inclusion programs for learning disabled students in middle schools. Retrieved December 4, 2006 from ProQuest database
Levy, T.I. (2001). Legal obligations and workplace implications for institutions of higher education. Journal of Law and Education, 30, (1). Retrieved December 8, 2006 from ProQuest database.
Lometa (2000). Important Landmark Cases in Educational Law. Retrieved on December 5, 2006 from http://everything2.com/index.pl?node_id=736350&lastnode_id=0