Importance of Understanding School Law as an Administrator

School communities are governed by state and federal laws that impact many areas of education. Can you think of three areas of law a school administrator, principal or leader should be familiar with? How about 10? The National School Boards Association provides the latest information and resources about these 15 distinct areas of school law:

  1. Equity and Discrimination – Issues involving age, disability and race, as well as gender and homeless status.
  2. Employment and Labor – Hiring practices, issues of health and other benefits, and employee working conditions and rights
  3. Governance – School board operation and practices
  4. Special Education and Disabilities – Understanding the complex issues and legal responsibilities for compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Act and other federal and state acts and laws
  5. Privatization and Choice – Issues about school choice, charter and private schools, vouchers, and alternative schools.
  6. Student Rights and Discipline – How to provide safe and non-disruptive learning environments while honoring students’ constitutional rights.
  7. Athletics – A variety of requirements and liabilities held by schools including Title IX, gender equity, drug testing, and sports-related injuries.
  8. Curriculum – Questions about standards, religious rights, controversial topics, textbook selection and library materials.
  9. Facilities – Everything related to school property and equipment issues.
  10. Health and Nutrition – Student confidentiality, health services, contagious disease concerns and health accommodations.
  11. Legal System – Compliance with all legal matters at the federal, state and local levels.
  12. Religion – The role of religion, First Amendment rights, Free Exercise and Free Speech.
  13. School Safety – Issues regarding safety in schools, violence, harassment and bullying.
  14. Student Achievement – Standardized and high-stakes testing and academic honors.
  15. Privacy and Technology – Concerns about current and future internet access and use.

Understanding the Law to Protect the School

Society is becoming increasingly litigious, and the number of cases of parents and their children filing claims against school systems is increasing. Some of these issues have worked their way all the way through the legal system to the Supreme Court. Although it is not necessary to turn administrators into lawyers, education leaders do need to have a basic understanding of school law.

It would be impossible for any school administrator to be well-versed on school law in all 15 of these areas. However, principals and administrators must be aware of the areas of legal responsibility that a school administrator may face on a daily basis. The first step is knowing how to find information, as well as when and where to get legal guidance and clarification on the many issues a school administrator may encounter.

Learning about court decisions and statutory law relating to the duties and powers of school officials and employees is important, as is understanding laws about compulsory school attendance, school census, child labor, control and organization. All of these topics are covered in the curriculum for Eastern Washington University’s M.Ed. Educational Leadership, Principal Certification online program.

The EWU Online Program for M.Ed. in Educational Leadership with Principal Certification

Understanding school law as it relates to the duties and responsibilities of school administrators and leaders is a key component of preparedness for the position. Experienced educators who want to assume the role of principal or administrator in the public schools will gain the knowledge and skills they need in Eastern Washington University’s program.

This master’s program is comprised of 12 six-week courses for a total of 49 credit hours. Common core courses — including an internship — make up 25 of the required credit hours. Specialization courses make up the remaining 24 credit hours. Students can complete this program in as few as 12 months.

Along with studying school law, the curriculum addresses current issues in education, methods of educational research, school leadership, school-community relations, school administration, supervision of instruction and more. The rigorous coursework is taught by the same experienced faculty who teach on campus.

Learn more about EWU’s online Master of Education in Educational Leadership, Principal Certification program.


National School Boards Association: School Law

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