Article Critique: Education in Law

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Education in Law

Litigation and Education: What Educators Really Think of the Lawsuit

The access to equal and fair education is extremely important. Recent efforts to ensure this have ended in litigation, legally testing the ability of this nation to protect the basic rights of all of its students. Yet, not all educators favor litigation so highly. A recent study conducted by Johnson & Duffett (2003) tests how litigation is perceived by educators and administrators.

The study examines the real beliefs of modern day educators. According to the study itself, "Lawsuits were instrumental in ending segregation and extending public education to children with disabilities," (Johnson & Duffett 2003:2). State and federal courts have regulated over education for years, trying to ensure that every child receives an equal and satisfactory education (State Legislatures 2004). A wide variety of issues from funding, segregation, to sexual harassment are covered by litigation ruling over education. Major progress in achieving equality during the Civil Rights Era came through litigation, especially in the case of Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 (Aldridge 1978). This research looks at the views of teachers, principles, and superintendents and how they feel about the role of litigation within the larger realm of education. It examined the viewpoints of individuals within three focus groups. Additionally implemented a nation-wide survey on the topic of litigation, in order to examine educator feelings regarding litigation.

The study concluded with several key findings. According to the research, "For many teachers and principals, the possibility of being sued or being accused of physical or sexual abuse of a student is ever present in their minds," (Johnson & Duffett 2003:3). In fact, it is so prevalent among teaching considerations, that many educators decide to take a strong practice of never touching their children at all, even in the slightest of instances, as a way to protect from their actions being misconstrued, then causing potential legal ramifications. This is known as taking a hands-off approach (Johnson & Duffett 2003:7). Thus, it is clear that lawsuits are on teacher's minds.

Yet, it is the principals that overwhelmingly see themselves as potential targets for misunderstandings. Many principals and superintendents see lawsuits and litigation proceedings as time-consuming and extremely frustrating, actually standing in the way of progress rather than pushing progressively forward. Although teachers are too in danger of potential law suits, "principals and superintendents have an added layer of responsibility," (Johnson & Duffett 2003:8). They can be sued for a greater variety of potential infractions, some which they may have direct control of, and others barely any control at all. Many principals also report being constantly threatened with lawsuits as a way to try and get selfish demands met by parents and even the students themselves.

This can become increasingly messy within the field of special education

According to research, many parents refuse to accept their child's placement within special education programs. In many cases, these angered parents will sue.

"A parent objecting to her child's education has cost that district over half a million dollars in legal fees," (Johnson & Duffett 2003:10). Additionally, individuals in more of an administrative role must be forced to deal with the backlash of discipline. When a child is disciplined, there is always a slight chance that the story might later come up as a legal issue. Moreover, principals and superintendents must also worry about the issue of disciplining staff, including termination proceedings that may also end up in legal disputes.

In many cases, these individuals also see litigation as a way for people to get their way, no… [END OF PREVIEW]

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