School Law Primer - Legal Pointers

The School Law Primer series contains topical outlines and PowerPoint presentations that can be used for training new associates or giving presentations to school board clients. Each topic contains an overview, constitutional and statutory provisions, list of landmark cases, major principles, curriculum content and case summaries. Download the PowerPoint presentation from within the attachments tab in the PDF document.


Additional Resources

Legal Pointers on Curricular Control: A School Law Primer
Updated July 2010 - The state has considerable power to regulate curricular matters. Most state legislatures have traditionally delegated to local districts the power to establish curricular requirements, adopt materials, and set grading practices. However, recent education reforms focusing on standards, assessment, and accountability have spurred some states to reclaim some of this authority. No matter whether these requirements are imposed by the state or the local school district, students attending public schools must comply with them unless the law allows some exception, e.g., accommodation of a disability or religion.

Legal Pointers on Employee Rights: A School Law Primer
Updated June 2012 - Public employees have rights conferred by the United States and the various state constitutions, federal and state laws and regulations, school board policies, individual contracts, and in many settings, collective bargaining or similar agreements with unions or employee associations. There have been several recent Supreme Court and lower court cases that have a major impact on the interpretation of these rights. In addition, several new laws and amendments have been passed that affect the relationship between public employers and their employees. This School Law Primer looks only at frequently encountered rights to which public employees are entitled under the federal Constitution and selected federal laws. School districts have experienced a “federalization” of the employment relationship with their employees over the past half-century as Congress has enacted numerous laws affecting employees’ rights, making it critically important that school lawyers have a working knowledge of these rules. Employees’ due process rights under the U.S. Constitution are examined in a separate School Law Primer on employee discipline.

Legal Pointers on Discrimination: A School Law Primer
Updated July 2011 - The Equal Protection Clause, federal statutes and regulations, state laws, local ordinances, and district policies all prohibit schools from engaging in discrimination. These anti-discrimination rules that protect various classes of individuals apply to school district education programs as well as employment practices and decisions.

Legal Pointers on Negligence: A School Law Primer
April 2003 - This training program examines negligence, the tort most commonly asserted against school districts. The discussion explains the basic principles of duty, breach, causation and injury as they apply to negligence in the school context, and it concludes with a brief look at the defenses that might be raised against such claims.

Legal Pointers on Religion: A School Law Primer
Updated August 2011 - The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees religious freedom in separate clauses that are often in tension with one another. One prohibits the establishment of religion by the government, and the other prevents the government from infringing on an individual‘s free exercise of religion. This chapter examines how the courts have interpreted these two clauses within the public school environment.

Legal Pointers on School Board Authority: School Law Primer
Updated December 2012 - Public education is a state function. However, with a few states as exceptions, local school boards control it. The authority of school boards is derived from state constitutional, statutory, and/or administrative provisions. The specific scope of authority, as well as potential liability, is defined through statute, administrative regulations, and case law. In addition to specific state and federal statutes relating to education, school boards are also subject to laws governing public bodies, such as open meetings requirements. Power point presentation included.

Legal Pointers on School Safety: A School Law Primer
Updated September 2012 - The continuing interest in school safety is fueled not only by several tragic events around the county, but also by the more common but less extreme violence that occurs far too frequently. As a result of acts of violence there is a fear among students, a feeling of loss of control by school staff, and calls for action from the community. What can schools do to reduce the risks of violence? Districts must face the reality that tragic violence cannot be completely eliminated by the actions of schools. Such violence is often the culmination of many factors over which schools have no control.

Legal Pointers on Sexual Harassment: A School Law Primer
Updated April 2013 - This training program provides a basic understanding of the law on sexual harassment as it relates to employee claims brought under Title VII and student claims asserted under Title IX. Using recent Supreme Court opinions and agency guidance, it discusses the types of conduct covered by both statutes, some of the key issues surrounding each type of claim, and the standards that must be met before school districts can be held liable.

Legal Pointers on Special Education: A School Law Primer
Updated April 2012 - This training program provides an overview of the federal laws governing special education and accommodations for students with disabilities. It covers the major principles of the IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Major case summaries are included.

Legal Pointers on Student Discipline: A School Law Primer
Updated October 2012 - School districts have the right to adopt reasonable rules and regulations to control student conduct. Such rules are necessary to ensure order and safety and to set the parameters of appropriate behavior. The rights of school officials to adopt and enforce reasonable rules of student conduct are not unlimited as students enjoy certain constitutional, statutory, and regulatory protections from arbitrary and unreasonable discipline. When dealing with the modern public school, it may be more helpful to think about the scope of a school’s authority within the context of students’ rights.

Legal Pointers on Student Rights: A School Law Primer
Updated October 2009 - Students have various Constitutional and statutory rights, including the right to free speech, the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, and certain privacy rights. In evaluating student freedoms, the courts have used a “reasonableness” standard to assess the constitutionality of school officials’ conduct. The reasonableness standard has been used both for student expression and student search cases. Any proposed action by school officials should be based on policies, procedures, and rules that have been clearly communicated to students. Authorities considering actions that will implicate student rights should ensure that the potential actions are reasonable in light of the circumstances.

Legal Pointers on Teacher Discipline: A School Law Primer
Updated August 2010 - Teacher discipline in the public school context can take various forms. The most common forms being dismissal, non-renewal, suspension, reprimand/warning and fine. Employee discipline is usually governed by state law, board policies, administrative regulations, and collective bargaining agreements. Where a teacher has tenure or another form of expectation of continued employment, the teacher will have a constitutionally protected property right in his or her employment.

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