Special Legal Rights Enjoyed by Teachers


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Teachers are provided special legal rights through employment contracts, prohibition of instances of discrimination, protections from dismissal in various forms and other state and federal provisions. While these are enjoyed by educators, it is important to know what these special legal rights mean.

Contracts for Employment

Teachers are hired through employment contracts that could involve one or multiple years within a school administration. The renewal periods may provide new contracts for longer work, but there are also extensions that may be applied to these contracts when a position was initially only temporary. The contractual document states what terms and conditions apply, and the teacher may be subjected to certain periods of supervision and checkups. However, termination or dismissal during these contracted years is difficult for the administration to accomplish once the conditions are binding. This is added security in career outlooks.

Constitutional Provisions

Teachers and other school staff have been provided additional protections and special provisions by the law than others in similar fields including private school educators. The teacher is given the right to receive notice of dismissal and a hearing through substantive and procedural due process. The freedoms granted by the First Amendment for freedom of expression are greater for these persons. Academic freedoms are observed through principles of the First Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is extended to these persons even when not to students through protection against any unreasonable searches or seizures of property by any school official.

Various other protections are provided that are similar to those in a company such as the Civil Rights Act, prohibition of discrimination and harassment, safeguards from retaliation, workplace environment safety from hostility and contracts rights of due process and the need to provide notice to the teacher before termination. These are afforded to both public and private school educators in a limited fashion. The teaching certificate is separate from the employment contract and the requirements to maintain or acquire them may change based on the year and the state. However, the state agencies are not permitted to make arbitrary changes or revoke certificates for these reasons.

Special Protections through Tenure

Arbitrary dismissal and other changes are not permitted when they affect public educator due to tenure statutes. Once the teacher has acquired tenure, his or her employment contract will automatically renew every year. Dismissal in these instances is only possible then if there is just cause. Procedural requirements demand processesí satisfaction and charges must specify why the dismissal is necessary. A meaningful hearing is mandatory for the educator as well as notice of both the dismissal and hearing. Some states provide probationary status for so many years with automatic tenure once it has been completed. In other locations in the country, it is the school board that must action the tenure status.

Special Rights against Dismissal

While teachers that are in a probationary or contractual status only may not be as protected, those that have reached tenure may not be dismissed for any reason without cause. Some states even go further and protect these professionals with a list of circumstances that are the only reasons why just cause is possible. These situations are similar to the usual reasons for teacher certification revocation. These include incompetence in the job, neglect of his or her duties with the students, immoral conduct both in and outside of the school, school laws noncompliance, criminal conviction, insubordination and instances of either fraud or misrepresentation.

Due Process Protections

The Fourteenth, Fourth, First and Fifth Amendments are all used to protect teachers from various issues that may occur. The Due Process Clause is in the Fourteen Amendment and is similar to the Fifth Amendment terms where an individual is protected through life, liberty, personal property and the due processes of laws. Each public school district must satisfy the minimum procedural requirements when dismissing the educator when tenure has been acquired. The school administration must follow the correct procedures if a teacher is to be dismissed for the reasons the state has supplied. Additionally, the state rules may exceed the minimum needs for the Due Process Clause depending on the location of the country.

Teacher Legal Support Provided by a Lawyer

When a breach of contract for employment, dismissal for no cause or unjustifiable cause or similar circumstances occur, it is imperative to hire a lawyer. Legal representation may protect the teacher from these situation, provide a means to acquire a remedy or help him or her become reinstated in the school administration.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.

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