The legacy of Justice Anthony Kennedy

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In his more than 30 years on the Supreme Court, Justice Anthony Kennedy was a key voice on cases involving individual liberty, including several involving public schools. Justice Anthony Kennedy captured the nation’s attention the last day of the 2017-18 Supreme Court term when he announced his retirement. He has been an influential and stable [...]

What Janus means for teachers unions 

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The Supreme Court will soon issue a ruling on whether public employees, including teachers, can be required to pay union fees.  Nearly every U.S. Supreme Court case is significant, but this year brings a remarkable case with the potential of overturning 40-year-old precedent and dramatically changing public employment law. On February 26, the U.S. Supreme [...]

The state of teacher tenure

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As states change their teacher tenure rules, they must take care not to revoke rights they have previously granted. Originally enacted to protect against potential evils in state and local employment systems, such as nepotism, arbitrary dismissal, and political favoritism, tenure has become a common expectation of teacher employment. State teacher tenure laws are not [...]

School uniforms, dress codes, and free expression: What’s the balance?

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  Requiring school uniforms may be less legally fraught than implementing a school dress code. More and more public schools are adopting school uniform policies. In 2013, 23% of public elementary schools and 15% of public high schools required students to wear uniforms — up from 3% of all schools in 1996 (NCES, 2016). Most [...]

Education as an American right?

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    Federal law in the U.S. has never recognized a right to public education. But Congress or the Supreme Court might be sympathetic to an argument for educational rights based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of the rights of citizenship. The right to an education is guaranteed by international law in the Universal Declaration [...]

School districts control teachers’ classroom speech 

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  School boards set the curriculum for schools, and they have the legal right to decide what materials and speech are appropriate for the classroom.  Teachers face particular challenges when they are teaching political or controversial topics in classrooms. They must navigate a narrow passage between delivering the curriculum as required by their local board of education [...]

When federal and state laws differ: The case of private schools and the IDEA

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  On the provision of special education services for students attending private schools, state laws may grant rights that federal regulations do not. In education, the federal government takes a back seat to the states. The U.S. Constitution does not give Congress authority over education, which means Congress cannot directly regulate education. But Congress does [...]

Kneeling during the national anthem: At schools, it’s protected speech

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By Julie Underwood If high school football players — or other public school athletes — choose to “take a knee” during upcoming competitions, the First Amendment will support their action. NFL football differs from public high school football in many ways. Different rules apply — and not just different rules of play. As employees, professional [...]

The privacy of a student’s backpack

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  Does a student have a reasonable expectation of privacy when he leaves a backpack behind? Is the school behaving reasonably when personnel open an unattended backpack? School personnel must often balance a student’s right to privacy with a school’s interest in protecting all students. A recent decision by the Ohio Supreme Court brings to [...]

An interesting year of cases in the U.S. Supreme Court

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    A number of recent Supreme Court decisions are likely to have significant implications for K-12 education. By Julie Underwood One thing about being a U.S. Supreme Court watcher is that it is never dull. Recently, for example, we’ve seen an unexpected vacancy caused by the death of the noted and highly visible Justice [...]

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