School administrators are charged with keeping students safe while providing access to education. Principals and other educational leaders should understand how the law impacts decisions on dress codes, student privacy issues, First Amendment rights, disciplinary actions and more.
Teachers and administrators are aware that their decisions and behavior can be a topic of legal action. A principal who is knowledgeable in local and federal laws that affect their legal responsibilities ultimately benefits a school system and community of students, educators and administrators.
The online Graduate Certificate – Principal program from Eastern Washington University (EWU) will strengthen your knowledge of school law, leadership, governance and strategic planning. Learn how to oversee teachers, develop and execute curriculum and work successfully with parents, district leaders and the community. This online certificate program can prepare you to become an efficacious leader whether you choose to be a program administrator, principal or assistant principal.
Why is Legal Knowledge Important?
School principals wear many hats: they act as police, lawyers, counselors and educators while balancing their relationship with parents, teachers and the community. For principals to be successful, they need to have a basic understanding of school law and how it relates to daily administration practices. Understanding laws and court decisions that impact equity, discrimination, health, school safety, special education compliance and more will help professionals make informed decisions. Knowing First Amendment rights for students related to dress codes, censorship of yearbooks and newspapers, hairstyles, off-campus speech and social media posts will help them make informed decisions regarding school guidelines and avoid legal action from students and parents.
The School Law course in EWU’s Graduate Certificate – Principal online program delves into these areas. This course covers statutory law and court decisions relating to the powers and responsibilities of school leaders, child labor, control, school census, mandatory school attendance and organization. When school principals have a basic understanding of First Amendment rights and school law, they can pass on this knowledge to teachers and avoid disciplinary incidents that violate students’ rights and empower their staff to teach their best.
Examples of Laws that Impact School Communities
Every school district is required to follow its local and state legislation that impacts teachers, staff and administrators within that area, and nearly every school in the United States must follow federal laws. The purpose of this type of legislation is to instruct administrators and educators about how to conduct the daily workings of the school. Some federal laws that impact school communities are:
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). This federal law pertains to any school that receives funds from relevant programs of the U.S. Department of Education. This law protects the privacy of a student’s educational records. After children turn 18, parents no longer have certain rights pertaining to their child’s academic records. With few exceptions, schools need to have written permission from a parent or student over 18 years of age to release information from a student’s record.
- No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB)/Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). The NCLB Act of 2002 spotlights where students need additional support regardless of race, zip code, income, language, background or disability. Since lawmakers deemed some of the act’s provisions unworkable for educators and schools, the act was revised in 2015 and renamed the ESSA Act of 2015. This act advances equality by requiring that all students receive high academic standards, helps grow and support innovation and maintains accountability in the lowest-performing schools.
Educators interested in pursuing a career as a school principal or administrator will gain the skills and knowledge they need from Eastern Washington University’s online principalship program. This graduate certificate program offers seven start dates per year and allows students to earn their certification anywhere and on their own time.