Sunday, July 20, 2008
Ahhh. Another weekend spent in pursuit of higher knowledge. I have spent the past few days in an education law class in long discussions about student free speech and the establishment and exercise of religion in public schools. I’ve had most of this stuff several times before, but there are always new cases out there that have to be digested.
We live in a litigious society and schools are often at the center of that litigation. I am always aware that as an agent of the state everything I do in the workplace is an official act. If I mess it up a lawsuit could follow. It pays to be very aware of what is going on in the legal system out there. I would really rather finish my career without my name being attached to one of those cases for someone else to study some day.
I deal with a lot of controversial topics in my daily grind. Drugs. Student searches. Teacher rights. Student rights. Evaluations. Suspensions. Violent episodes. Religion. Student organizations. Homosexuality. Bullying and harassment. All of these situations require me to make a judgment, often a quick one. I am not a lawyer but I have to be aware of the law. This is really what I am paid to do….exercise my best judgment in a charged environment dealing with emotional issues. In doing so I often make someone mad. I am sure my name has been taken in vain quite a few times just in the past year. I certainly don’t want to get sued or have my employer sued over my actions.
Sometimes this requires a little humility, the ability to admit you might have been wrong, might have miscalculated, need to make an adjustment in your original thinking. You also can’t operate in paralysis in fear of legal action either. I really do my best to operate in a fair and ethical manner and believe that if you do that you will be in the right most of the time. I’m not always right but I try to be!
I had a student tell me once, “I’m gonna sue you!”. I don’t even remember what it was about. I leaned back, smiled, and said, “ok, you can do that. You go hire an attorney and have your attorney call my attorney. In the meantime we have to finish dealing with this situation!” When I saw him a month or so later I asked, “whatever happened to that lawsuit you were going to file?” “Oh Mr. S., I decided not to sue my favorite principal!”
Nice job kid.