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American Public School Law Course

American Public School Law Course

The following course in American Public School Law is provided in its entirety by Atlantic International University's "Open Access Initiative " which strives to make knowledge and education readily available to those seeking advancement regardless of their socio-economic situation, location or other previously limiting factors. The University's Open Courses are free and do not require any purchase or registration, they are open to the public.

Objectives for American Public School Law:

  • To help students become familiar with relevant educational laws in order to make informed and practical administrative decisions.
  • To enable students to understand their administrative abilities and limitations relating to school law interpretations.
  • To develop students’ understanding of school law and legal principles to help improve the overall operations and management of a school.


Lesson 1: The Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution gives states plenary power over Education

The Tenth Amendment is similar to an earlier provision of the Articles of Confederation: "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled."[1] After the Constitution was ratified, some wanted to add a similar amendment limiting the federal government to powers "expressly" delegated, which would have denied implied powers.[2] However, the word "expressly" ultimately did not appear in the Tenth Amendment as ratified, and therefore the Tenth Amendment did not amend the Necessary and Proper Clause.

The Tenth Amendment, which makes explicit the idea that the federal government is limited only to the powers granted in the Constitution, is generally recognized to be a truism. In United States v. Sprague (1931) the Supreme Court noted that the amendment "added nothing to the [Constitution] as originally ratified."

Video Conference: The Tenth Amendments to the US Constitution gives states plenary power over Education

Lesson 2: Church and State

Thomas Jefferson first called for a “wall of separation” between church and state. This doctrine first appeared in Reynolds’s v. the United States in 1879. The current Supreme Court has disputed this concept, calling it a “metaphor based on bad history”.

Video Conference: Church and State
Case Study I

Lesson 3: School Attendance

The Board of Education recognizes that regular school attendance is a major component of academic success. Through implementation of this policy, the Board expects to reduce the current level of unexcused absences, tardiness, and early departures (referred to in this policy as “ATEDs”), encourage full attendance by all students, maintain an adequate attendance recordkeeping system, identify patterns of student ATEDs and develop effective intervention strategies to improve school attendance.

To be successful in this endeavor, it is imperative that all members of the school community are aware of this policy, its purpose, procedures and the consequences of non-compliance. To ensure that students, parents, teachers and administrators are notified of and understand this policy, the following procedures shall be implemented.

Video Conference: School Attendance

Lesson 4: The Instructional Program

The term, instructional program, refers to a replicable instructional activity that is designed and implemented to achieve an instructional goal, namely, some clearly defined change or changes in a selected group of learners. The primary criteria for determining the success or the effectiveness of an instructional program are these measures of changes in the selected group of learners. These changes can be affective, academic, social, or physical.
Every instructional program combines a curriculum component (what we teach), and a teaching procedure (how we teach). An instructional program can be as small as a social skills lesson to teach a child to say thank you at appropriate times and in appropriate contexts. An instructional program can be as large as a two-semester algebra sequence, or the complete K-6 elementary reading program.
Whether small or large, an instructional program will have a curriculum component that defines the goal or goals we have for the learner and a set of teaching procedures (the pedagogy) which we plan to use to achieve the curriculum goal.
In each instructional program the essence of instructional accountability; e.g., program effectiveness, resides in the relationship between the curriculum component and the teaching component.
If curriculum goals have been carefully and appropriately set for each learner, then teaching procedures must be progressively adjusted and revised based on the extent to which the curriculum goals have been achieved. The determination of goal achievement is based on measures of changes in the learner.

Video Conference: The Instructional Program
Case Study II

Lesson 5: Speech, Expression, Privacy, Common Law, Due Process and Statutory Protection

When the Supreme Court, in BMW of North America, Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), vacated a punitive damages award of $2 million over a botched car paint job that caused a mere $4,000 in actual damages, the business community rejoiced. Finally, corporate defense attorneys said, the Court has put a brake on “runaway juries” that impose astronomical awards of punitive damages that bear no relationship to the actual injury suffered by the plaintiff.
The business community may welcome such limits when a business is the defendant, and the alternative is a system where the sky is the limit for the jury when selecting an appropriate award. But what if the plaintiff is itself a major corporation, and the range of damages has already been set by an act of Congress? Under such circumstances, does the Constitution’s Due Process Clause impose limits on a jury’s award of punitive, or quasi-punitive, damages?
That was the question faced by Boston-based federal District Judge Nancy Gertner in Sony BMG
Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum, 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 68642 (D. Mass. July 7, 2010). Tenenbaum is one of the thousands of cases the major record labels have brought against individuals alleged to have illegally downloaded and distributed (or, if you prefer the euphemism of copyright critics, “shared”) over peer-to-peer networks. And, in a July 7 opinion, Judge Gertner took the unprecedented step of invalidating the jury’s award of $675,000 in statutory damages against defendant Joel Tenenbaum for infringing the sound recording copyright in 30 songs based on the limits on punitive damages set forth in Gore. And while

Judge Gertner’s opinion came in the copyright context, its reasoning could have far-reaching implications in all areas where Congress has legislated the acceptable range of damages in private lawsuits.

Video Conference: Speech, Expression, Privacy, Common Law, Due Process and Statutory Protection

Lesson 6: Rights of Children with Disabilities

By drawing an explicit distinction between “base” and “share” effects, this study examines the potential for inconsistent resource allocation decisions to be made at different administrative levels of school districts and schools. The work builds on the Consortium for Policy Research in Education's “What Dollars Buy” project and employs multivariate models to examine the influences of school district spending, wealth, poverty, and size on internal decisions about how to divide staffing resources across different areas of the curriculum. Results indicate that there is more internal variation across districts in how teacher resources are distributed than is commonly supposed. The study also reveals evidence of inconsistency across levels of decision making about the supply of resources into particular areas of the curriculum. Finally, there is evidence of stronger than expected relationships between spending levels and allocations of resources into administrative uses.

Video Conference: Rights of Children with Disabilities

Lesson 7: Tort Liability

A person who suffers legal damage may be able to use tort law to receive damages (usually monetary compensation) from someone who is responsible or liable for those injuries. Generally speaking, tort law defines what is a legal injury and what is not. A person may be held liable (responsible to pay) for another's injury caused by them. Torts can be classified in a number of different ways, one is to distinguish according to degree of fault, so that there are intentional torts, negligent torts, and strict liability torts.

For example, Alice throws a ball and accidentally hits Brenda in the eye. Brenda may sue Alice for losses occasioned by the accident (such as the cost of medical treatment and lost pay due to missing work), as well as for punitive damages. Whether or not Brenda wins her lawsuit depends on whether she can prove Alice engaged in tortious conduct. Here, Brenda would try to prove that Alice had a responsibility not to harm people and failed to exercise the responsibility which a reasonable person would render in throwing the ball. This is an example of the negligence tort.

Video Conference 1: Tort Liability
Video Conference 2: Tort Liability Case Study III

Lesson 8: Certification, Contracts and Tenure

Recent debates about the utility of teacher education have raised questions about whether certified teachers are, in general, more effective than those who have not met the testing and training requirements for certification, and whether some candidates with strong liberal arts backgrounds might be at least as effective as teacher education graduates. This study examines these questions with a large student-level data set from Houston, Texas that links student characteristics and achievement with data about their teachers’ certification status, experience, and degree levels from 1995-2002. The data set also allows an examination of whether Teach for America (TFA) candidates – recruits from selective universities who receive a few weeks of training before they begin teaching – are as effective as similarly experienced certified teachers. In a series of regression analyses looking at 4th and 5th grade student achievement gains on six different reading and mathematics tests over a six-year period, we find that certified teachers consistently produce significantly stronger student achievement gains than do uncertified teachers. Alternatively certified teachers are also generally less effective than certified teachers.

Video Conference: Certification, Contracts and Tenure

Lesson 9: Teacher Rights and Freedoms

Video Conference: Teacher Rights and Freedoms

Lesson 10: EDEA 630

The quest to change the way teachers are paid is not something new to this first decade of the 21st century. During the last half of the 20th century teacher pay structure changes were tried at least once a decade. And nearly all of the 1980s Nation at Risk reform recommendations included proposals for changing teacher pay structures to some sort of merit- or performance- basis (e.g., National Commission on Equity and Excellence in Education, 1984). But most failed and only a handful survived more than a few years (Murnane & Cohen, 1986; Odden & Kelley, 2002). So today, the single salary schedule that pays teachers on the basis of their years of experience and numbers of education credits and degrees is the schedule used by the vast bulk of states and districts across the country.

Video Conference: EDEA 630

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