School districts are always on the lookout for legal issues that could affect them. From safety to privacy, there is a lot of ground to cover. It's impossible for school districts to know about every single issue, which is why we've created this blog post! We'll discuss the most common legal issues in public K-12 education today.
This is the most common legal issue that schools and school districts face. As we'll discuss in a bit, there are many requirements and regulations when it comes to hiring new employees, but equally important is how you work with your existing staff members. The biggest thing to avoid here is any kind of discrimination or harassment against an employee for reasons such as race, religion, disability status (including mental health), etc. It's vital that all employees feel safe at their place of employment. There are also laws surrounding minimum wage and overtime pay for hourly workers which could come into play depending on what kind of positions you hire people for.
Student privacy continues to be a hot topic today's society; after all, they are our future! With the rise of technology and the internet, most schools have a very strict no tolerance policy when it comes to cyberbullying. Not only does this help students who may be facing harassment from other students online, but there is also a legal aspect to consider with lawsuits that could arise. It's important for school districts to take an active role in educating their student body on how they can keep themselves safe while using social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram .
Another privacy concern relates more directly to your staff members: what kind of information do you collect from them? Do you record any personal data about employees without consent, even if required by law? Can teachers monitor students' use of electronic devices during class time? These questions are just some that should be answered before you begin to collect any kind of data.
Every school has a set of safety concerns, but there are certain areas where it is absolutely necessary for schools and school districts to have the proper paperwork in place. Having an emergency plan prepared for your students is not only great practice if something did happen, but also shows parents how seriously you take their children's safety. The same goes with having up-to-date healthcare policies on file; accidents can always happen when kids are at play or doing work outside after all. There may be other legal issues surrounding health care that could arise depending on who provides services to your student population (IE nurses). Just make sure everyone involved knows what their roles and responsibilities are.
As we mentioned earlier about student privacy online, another key area of technology usage is how much access students have to computers during class time. Do the students have a school-owned laptop that they use during class or do you provide them with iPads? If it's a device provided by the district, then there are going to be much stricter policies surrounding its usage. One of which being what kind of content is allowed on student devices (ie internet access). There can also be other legal issues such as plagiarism and copyright infringement if teachers aren't careful about how they monitor their students' system usage.
Fair Labor Standards Act:
This act was put into place to establish standards across all states for things like minimum wage , overtime pay, record keeping for employers, etc. It doesn't affect schools directly but rather your employees who work hourly positions (and even some salaried positions). It's also important for school districts to be aware of what positions fall under this act and which ones do not.
Criminal Background Checks on Employees:
This is another key area where school districts need to be on the same page. There are some states that require employees, even volunteers, to have a clean background check before they can begin working with students or other staff members. This requirement also applies for administrators as well.
Student Rights vs Student Privacy:
It's no secret how much student information gets collected during their time at public schools, so it only makes sense that there would be laws surrounding those practices. It's important to be aware of what is required in order to protect the privacy rights of students and their families .
There are a lot more legal issues that need to be discussed when it comes to schools, including civil rights for all students , disabilities laws, etc. There can also be some tricky ethical concerns that you should keep an eye on such as religious/faith-based instruction during school hours. How much time should public schools allow for non-school related activities at assemblies or events outside the classroom? This list could literally go on forever so we'll stop here! If there's anything specific about your district or situation then feel free to give us a call at (512) 494-9949.