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Educating Educators: Information and Answers about School Law

Disclaimer: Educating the Educators was written by the Texas Young Lawyers Association. It is aimed at teachers but parents may find it useful too. 
 

Overview

Educating Educators is a guide designed to teach anyone with a job in the field of education (especially teachers and administrators) about their rights, responsibilities, and legal obligations.

This guide will help educators understand and cultivate proper, legal relationships with students, parents, and administrators. It also provides guidance on reporting obligations and human trafficking.

The guide also provides information on FERPA and other legal pitfalls educators face, and includes information regarding their rights and responsibilities.

 

Is physical contact of any kind with students illegal?

I have been told that as a teacher, I am not to have any physical contact with my students for any reason. Is this legal?

Yes. School districts have broad authority to adopt necessary rules “for the safety and welfare of students, employees, and property.” 

What about in situations where physical contact is necessary to prevent the disruption of classes or other school activities?

No one can justify touching a student in a harmful, sexual, or offensive manner. However, under the Texas Penal Code, teachers are justified in using reasonable force if they reasonably believe it is necessary to maintain discipline in a group. This law has been in place since 1879, and it is intended to provide teachers with a defense to prosecution rather than a license for the use of physical force.

These rules may vary as applied to special education students. 

See the Educating Educators brochure for more details.

How can school faculty handle problems with administrators?

Because it is "key to your professional success to make sure your relationship with your principals are solid, positive, constructive, and mutually respectful," the Texas Young Lawyers Association has tips for teachers having problems with school principals:

  • Keep a log of all conversations, the subject matters, dates, times, and durations of classroom visits.
  • If the relationship continues to decline, stay calm, be respectful, remain focused and polite, and work together to create a plan to solve any problems.
  • Talk to your union representative or human resources.

See the Educating Educators brochure for more details.

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