I had a fascinating discussion recently with educator and trainer Susan Fitzell about teachers' communications with and about students and parents. She has written a great article with some very practical pointers on things to be cautious about. You can check it out on the Teachers.net Gazette (and yes, I'm quoted in it!).
First off, no this is not another post about staying away from your students. It IS a post about a new study that has implications for your interactions with your students.
The journal of Sexual Health, as reported by Salon.com, surveyed adults to determine how they define sex. It turns out there is little concensus on what acts are included when you use the term "sex." It's fascinating and a little baffling, especially the 95% number (you'll have to read the article yourself to find out what 95% percent say - and what 5% DON'T).
As the Salon article points out, the results are important because they have implications for how we talk about sex with each other and, in the case of educators, with students. Teenagers in particular are already very good at being as literal as possible when you give them rules or instructions, so if you have reason to talk about sexual behavior with students, or anyone else for that matter, it's vitally important to know that we don't all share the same definition for the word "sex."
And in the interest of clarity, I'll just say that intimate contact between a teacher and student is always inappropriate and usually illegal, no matter what word you use to describe it.
Teachers in Texas are veterans at fighting for good health insurance. See what is going on at the federal level right now, in plain language as reported by the Washington Post. 8 Questions About Health Care Reform
The final increase in the minimum wage, passed into law two years ago, occurs on July 24. The federal minimum wage is set to increase from $6.55 per hour to $7.25 per hour. Hourly school employees currently making less than $7.25 will be getting a raise on July 25.
Football in Texas is, well, football in Texas. People are SERIOUS about football. But you all know that. We like to say football teaches character, and this story shows that in a wholly unexpected way. Read it when you can be in a place where you don't mind people seeing you tear up. Grab a tissue before you click. Football Story
I joined Twitter a few days ago to check it out. I've been seeing more and more interest in it in my legal readings, so I finally got around to looking into it. I think I'll probably keep it up, I've already found some very interesting folks and sites with it.
If you are a twitter user, you can find the link to follow me at the bottom of the left hand sidebar on this page. See you there!
It's nice to be recognized for good work, and awards are great honors even as we acknowledge that many other great teachers go unrecognized. So in that spirit, I was excited and proud to see the list of finalists for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
One of the finalists is Candy Ellard from Pillow Elementary school here in Austin. She was my own daughter's fifth grade teacher, and Cassidy loved her. Since my ballet obsessed, very creative writer daughter who struggles with math and science work is now a 7th grader at the Science and Math magnet program, I can only say that Ms. Ellard must be really good at what she does.
Congratulations to all you teachers out there who take pride in your work.
It's hard to have to hear you're fired. But it's also hard to tell someone they're fired. And no matter how the news gets revealed, it's never pleasant for either side.
But there are some ways that are worse than others. Like leaving a note on a chair. And before you conjure up pictures in your head of your favorite "bad" principal, I'll tell you that the note on the chair was how a law firm told one of it's own partners that he was fired. They put the note on his chair in the middle of the day while he was out working on a case.
Teachers in Texas who are being fired must be told in writing, but the law is not specific as to how the writing is delivered. So, in theory, a teacher could find a notice of non-renewal pinned to a purse or briefcase. But let's hope not.
Here's the full story from Canada's Financial Post.
I am working to improve the usefulness and the useability of this blog. To that end, I am introducing some new features:
categories - posts will be assigned a category based upon their topic, and links in the sidebar will enable you to pull up all posts on that topic at once. I will be assigning categories to all previous posts, but it will take a little time before that task has been completed.
Fundamentals - each Friday will see a post discussing some specific aspect of school law
Community - I have included links to all the Texas based teacher groups that I am aware of, and I will be inviting each of them to contribute a post describing their mission, their goals, and how they serve the teaching profession. If you are associated with a group that I have missed, please let me know and I will gladly include it as long the group is primarily involved with k-12 teaching in a school setting
Tasks on Tuesday - Tuesdays will see posts that give a short, specific task for you to do that will keep your career in order
Resources - Wednesdays will have links to or forms and templates that will help you do your job
My aim is for this site to be not only a source of information, but also a tool to help you enjoy your career. As I get it going, jump in and let me know what helps and what else you'd like to see here.
Personal, individual liability on the part of an educator is rare.But a recent case found just that.
A federal district court ruled this past November that a Dallas ISD principal had illegally discriminated against students at her elementary school campus, and awarded $20,000 to the plaintiffs.The principal must pay that $20,000 on her own – the school district cannot pay it for her.The court found that only the principal was responsible for the discrimination, and therefore the district was off the hook (at least for damages; they did have to hire attorneys and go to court, which is no small expense).
The case is interesting for a number of reasons, many of them of interest primarily to attorneys and insurance companies. There was a lot of discussion regarding official versus individual capacity and which of the many federal civil rights statutes would or would not apply.Civil rights law is complicated, a lot like the IRS code.We all know we have to pay taxes on our income, but navigating the dense network of deductions, deferments, alternatives, shelters, exemptions and who knows what else is a job best done by people who do nothing but taxes all day every day.In the case of civil rights law, we all know that the government is not supposed to discriminate against us based on our color, race, sex, religion, disability, age, or national origin, but figuring out exactly who is responsible for what under which statute is the stuff of 108 page court opinions.
For those of you teaching in your classrooms, you don’t really need to know all those details.What you do need to know is this:
Pay attention to what you are doing
Pay attention to what you are told to do by your supervisors
Pause and question anything that seems questionable, and
Don’t try to get away with stuffwhen you think no one is looking
Questioning an action or proposed action can be done many different ways.You might simply need to ask yourself, “Does this feel right?” You could also talk to your administrators, or your teacher organization, or run it by a friend, or call an attorney if all else fails.
Teachers can be held liable for violating the civil rights of their students when they violate a clearly established right.This generally means that you knew or should have known that you were doing something that shouldn’t have been done. By following the four rules above, you can stay out of trouble.
If you're interested in reading more about this case, you can read the court's opinion here, and you can find a good article on the immunity issues here.school lawteacher