Ethics refers to the discipline of dealing with what is good and bad with moral duty and obligation. The application of ethics in education is essential for students as well as teachers. It lets everyone know the right thing to do, and provides a moral framework so that schools and students can work together to pursue learning in the best possible manner. Ethical teaching practices create a positive atmosphere for the growth of students and provide them with clear examples of how to live ethical lives of their own.

Law and ethics go hand in hand. Law, however, is enforced based on written principles and regulations by parties who have been given the power to do so, such as magistrates or judges. Teachers are responsible to know their own rights and legal obligations as well as those of their students and schools. This article discusses legal and ethical issues as they pertain to education law and how they ought to be applied to ensure quality teaching and learning.

What are the ethics of education? In solving ethical issues, it is first important to be as informed as possible. What is the situation? What are the students’ rights? What are your rights as a teacher? It is important to be empathetic to all parties involved, but also to know the law and the guidelines of the system within which you work. Codes of ethics vary, but useful codes may be found both in the national sphere, such as the National Education Association, and at the state level. The InTASC Standards may also be useful in discerning the correct procedure in a complex ethical situation.

What are your legal rights as an educator? Laws vary from state to state, but there are certain guidelines that should be followed. Teachers are liable for any harm that occurs to a student under their care, if they personally harm the student, have not issued proper safety guidelines, or are not adequately supervising the student. Title IX forbids discrimination according to gender in the workplace. No teacher should feel discriminated against because of gender issues.

What are the legal rights of school districts? Most school districts around the country now ban corporal punishment (as of 2012, 39 states banned corporal punishment outright). Sexual harassment continues to be a major issue in schools, and in particular for female and gay male students. Over half of female students reported being sexually harassed (AAUW, 2011). The law has taken an increasingly harder line against the use of religious elements such as school prayers, though personal expression of religion is protected.

What are the legal rights of parents and students? Though parents have tried to sue schools over the right to keep their children from learning about condoms, for example, the law generally comes down on the side of the school. Students, on the other hand, sometimes complain that their freedom is being infringed upon. For example, they chafe against wearing uniforms. Again, the law generally sides with the schools in these situations.

Parents have the right to access information about their children, including school records, and should have a say in who gets to view this information. Schools cannot discriminate against pregnant students, and the law is increasingly siding with gay, lesbian, and bisexual students. Students’ rights of free speech and protection from unreasonable searches are protected by law, though schools have more leeway in this area than some other institutions in order to maintain order within the school.