Education law is the legal discipline covering all issues pertaining to schools, from kindergarten through higher education. Historically, attorneys practicing education law have worked toward expanding access to a high-quality education for all children, as well as providing for greater access to higher education. But this practice area has expanded to include issues such as students’ rights; teachers’ rights; school safety; discrimination; conduct and discipline; special education; curriculum; and education options such as homeschooling and charter schools.
Since the federal Department of Education funds and regulates all U.S. public schools to some degree, education lawyers are well-versed in administrative law (the body of law governing administrative agencies). But typically, parents who believe their children’s rights have been violated must first file a grievance with the district (each school district has its own procedures).
Terms to Know
- School Board: A state or local board organized for government and management of schools in a state or municipality.
- School District: A public and quasi-municipal corporation, organized by legislative authority comprising a defined territory, for the erection, maintenance, government and support of the public schools within its territory.
- Freedom of Religion: The right guaranteed under the free exercise clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to practice one’s religion or exercise one’s beliefs without intervention by the government and to be free of the exercise of authority by a church through the government.
Special Education and Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities-including those enrolled in special education programs-have the right to be tested in order to determine which accommodations they may need. Specifically, the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) guarantees access to an education that prepares them for employment and independent living. IDEA also involves the parents in the child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) team and gives parents ways to air grievances and offer suggestions.
Teachers and school administrators need to be able to discipline students to maintain order in the classroom and on campus. Besides after-school detention (which doesn’t remove the student from school), the main types of discipline are suspension and expulsion. Since these are quite serious and can have a lasting impact on your child’s education and future prospects, parents who feel their child has been unfairly disciplined may consider suing the district.
Bullying and Harassment
Bullying and sexual harassment in public schools is nothing new. But unfortunately, mobile phones and social media sites have proven to be powerful weapons for school bullies. While virtually all schools prohibit bullying and harassment, at least within the school or district, some states have passed laws protecting students. This means schools may be held liable for damages caused by the bullying or harassment of other students and teachers