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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Teachers Fight Back

Teachers I know are angry. Now, it's time to not take it anymore. 

We’re Not Going to Take it Anymore! Teachers Fight Back
By Alan Haskvitz


About: Alan Haskvitz is a member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame and has been selected one of the nation's most successful and innovative teachers many times. His record of student accomplishments has been featured in books, periodicals, and on national radio and television. He is a classroom teacher with experience at every grade level and every major subject.

Teachers and the Law

Teachers are pushing back.

All too often teachers have been the victims of their own tendency to be too nice. Dedicated to helping others, schooled for years on being role models for society, teachers are held up as the epitome of moderation and understanding. This has resulted in teaching being rated as a highly valued and most honorable profession in public polls. Sadly, this willingness to cooperate has also resulted in teachers taking abuse by politicians, a few parents, and administrators not willing or able to stand-up for their staffs.

But something may be happening. There is a small number of teachers who are using the court system to fight back. And bless them for their actions as it would have been so much easier for them to just get along and not rock the boat. Better yet, it may be telling the public that teachers have rights and aren’t afraid of using them when conditions warrant.

In the News

Most recently, the National Post of Canada reported that a teacher had successful sued parents for casting aspirations on her ability to teach after they sued saying that the teacher had humiliated and intimidated their son in front of the class. The parents told the press that she was unprofessional and she took action. Although the case may be appealed, the teacher won and the $230,000 case. The amount is irrelevant. The point is a another teacher isn’t being pushed around.

Read more:

In Australia a teacher is suing for half a million dollars (AUS) because she says her larynx was damaged by having to yell at rowdy children. Sounds amusing, but wait till you see what the district did and didn’t do before you decide it is frivolous. The district gave her 31 special needs children, including a diabetic child who required insulin injections, two autistic children, a child with cardiac disorders and a number of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. And, she claims, the district didn’t provide the correct number of staff to monitor the large number of students in the class and she states that her training was inadequate. To repeat; 31 special needs students in one class apparently without much support. Anyone not believe her story?

Read more:

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a teacher is suing parents over abuse claims. The teacher was accused by a first-grader of being physically abusive to the boy. The teacher filed a defamation of character suit against the parents citing his beliefs that the parents are continuing to make false, public accusations against him. The District placed the teacher on paid administrative leave while investigating the claim that he grabbed the boy and yelled at him so strongly that he sprayed the boy’s face with saliva. An attorney said that the the investigation found no abuse. Imagine, parents spreading stories causes a law suit. I wonder how common teachers being slandered is?

Read more:

Teachers Protection from Slander

A teacher at Riveroaks Elementary School filed suit against the East Baton Rouge, La., school and its administrators because, she claims, she was asked to teach fourth grade by the school’s principal in order to help raise grades and help students prepare for the state mandated test. What came next is interesting to say the least and probably something that other teachers may have faced. She was apparently told by the administrator that no student was to get a failing grade. The teacher complied, but filed a grievance with the district. She claims that after that she was harassed. The suit mentions loss of reputation, standing in the community, and more. What is equally interesting in the article was a statement by Perry A Zirkel, a professor in education and law at Lehigh University. He is quoted as saying that while courts generally agree that a teacher’s right to grade is protected by the First Amendment, they also find that administrators have the same right and can change grades as they like.“So the teacher wins the right to give a D and the school has the right to change it to an A,” he said. I have never read and heard of that before, but maybe readers would like to comment on that statement. Here is a case with just the opposite outcome:

Read more about the Riveroaks case

A former Georgia kindergarten teacher acquitted of charges she molested three young girls,
filed a federal lawsuit against her accusers’ families and the sheriff’s department that arrested her because, she claims, that the incident cost her the custody of her daughter, loss of her home, and more. She is asking for $25 million in damages and demands that employees of two Georgia children’s advocacy centers and the sheriff’s department receive better training in how to handle accusations of molestation.

A jury found her not guilty of any charges filed against her after three girls told their parents she had molested them, and she says that the sheriff’s department filed charges against her without proper evidence of a crime. In other words, the Salem Witch Trials revisited.

Read more:

And here’s one from Teachers.Net

Anthony Caprio says he is seeking justice because of injuries he suffered when he came between two angry Hillhouse High School students. He was a substitute teacher and the fight was between two females students. Interesting, he is asking for damages over those of Workmen’s Compensation and making a case for all teachers who have been injured in such events. I wonder how much training is given teachers on how to break up a fight or if they should?
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A female, 24 years of age, claimed she was forced to resign because of what was posted on her Facebook profile. She was pictured holding an alcoholic beverages and posting a message about a “Bitch BINGO” event on her Facebook profile. The suit asked the court to order the Board of Education to hold a hearing, as well as back pay and court costs. The principal meet with her without prior notice and asked her about the Facebook entry. The teacher didn’t know her rights, apparently, and resigned. State law requires that a teacher be given written notice of alleged charges before a hearing with the school board and she did not get this, according to the plantiff. An interesting aside to this case was the fact that the photos were taken while she was on vacation in Europe and the Bitch Bingo was the name of a game played at an Atlanta restaurant. Are your Facebook pages any business of a school district? Where does your privacy end?

All of these cases have one thing in common and that is the fact that teachers are taking action when they feel that they have been unjustly accused. They aren’t going to take it anymore. Why not share some of your stories in the comment section?

Teachers and the Law
It is no secret school systems and teachers have become the source of countless legal claims in recent years. In fact, the most dangerous time in a teacher's life is not in the classroom, but while on yard duty or supervision. So all educators should review these sites to refresh their knowledge about the law; they should also check with their union.

What is the Loco Parentis Doctrine?

This doctrine is the cornerstone of educators' legal rights, and it means "in the place of parents." In other words, an educator has the right to act as a parent (in the absence of the parent) while the student is in school. In reality, the doctrine is limited for school authorities since parents are not required to provide procedural due process before initiating discipline. However, rules should not be contrary to the basic wishes of parents. Although courts fully realize the responsibility of the school system to establish proper educational settings, one must remember school board members are elected to represent their constituents (parents) of a given political jurisdiction.

The following resources cover a number of the legal issues for educators. In addition, some offer guidance in understanding why teachers might not be eligible for full Social Security benefits, making it vital for teachers to have a good retirement plan. Also, remember that Horace Mann offers coverage for assault cases.

Copyright law and the Internet

General Education Law

Social Security, IRS and teachers

Teacher liability and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Teaching religion and tolerance in the classroom

Union support

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