I don’t know exactly what Ms. Moffett - the Audenried teacher whose disciplinary transfer Ben Herold described in two recent stories - said or did. Plus, I’m not an employment lawyer. So I can't really speak to her legal situation.
I do know, though, that public employees, such as teachers, have First Amendment rights – even if, as in many areas, those rights are not absolute.
"Teach" comes to a close tonight with a final essay in Tony Danza’s class. By the end of the show, it’s Danza who ends up learning a lesson: that different students respond to discipline in totally different ways. And as the season ends, we’re given a chance to think about what "Teach" taught us too.
Picture yourself walking into a huge, noisy factory that makes education. We won’t stop right now to talk about the quality of the product. Instead, we’ll just take in, for a moment, the commotion, the people racing around, the machines rising and falling and clanking and crashing. We’ll call this factory the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
Where do big lawsuits come from?
This is the Darwinian question that occurred to me last week when I learned about “webcamgate” (as some Lower Merion students have called it). That’s the situation that has led to a class action complaint in which a student accuses the district of spying on him and others in their homes, through cameras installed in laptops.
Of all the grumpy things that people say about immigrants, one of the more unusual is that they don’t sit their kids down on arrival and teach them English. But that’s one of several points made by Christopher Paslay in an op-ed earlier this week.
To the blizzard (oh, just a word that came to mind) of questions being asked on these pages about the Renaissance School plan, I’d like to add a legal worry. It has to do with the enthusiasm for spinning schools off to become charters or “contract” schools, operated by private managers.
One can say lots of justifiably critical things about school districts, and about this one in particular. But to those who believe the response to failures by this (or any) school district should be to remove schools from its control, I suggest some caution.
I wondered, in the wake of Heidi Ramirez’ resignation, whether state law is at all unclear about the respective roles of the SRC and the superintendent.
The 2001 takeover law, quaintly entitled “Distress in school districts of the first class,” is actually a sledgehammer of a statute, designed to place broad powers in the hands of the newly-created SRC. (Inconveniently, the takeover law isn’t readily available on the web – in fact, none of Pennsylvania’s statutes are – but you can find it by going to a law library and asking to see 24 PS § 6-696, or by contacting me.)
Among other things, the law says flatly that the SRC shall be responsible for “the operation, management and educational program of the school district of the first class” -- about as sweeping a provision as could be written.
“Strip search case splits court,” the Inquirer reported after the oral argument in Safford Unified School District v. Redding last April, noting that the justices had expressed “sharp differences” in their views.
This, you might remember, was the case in which the assistant principal of Savana Redding’s middle school got a tip suggesting that she might be carrying ibuprofen. School officials searched Savana’s backpack and outer clothing; when they found nothing, they had her take off her clothes and “pull out” her bra and underwear -- after which, having still found nothing, they let her go. (For more details, see my earlier blog on the case. )
Thursday the Supreme Court ruled that the strip search of a teenage girl, who was suspected of having ibuprofen, was illegal. The ruling was an 8-1 verdict that school officials violated the law, but the Court kicked back to lower courts the issue of if the school officials can be held liable in a lawsuit. Justice Ginsburg dissented from that second point, along with Justice Stevens, stating "Wilson's treatment of Redding was abusive and it was not reasonable for him to believe that the law permitted it."
Len Rieser blogged about the case when it was heard at the Court in April. Check back soon for more about this case and other education law cases being decided by the Court.
ETA: The article now also includes a reference to Horne v. Flores, a case from Arizona about English language learning education. In a 5-4 decision the Court ruled that a federal court's supervision of ELL services overstepped the court's bounds. Len also blogged about this case in his post from April. CNN has a more involved look at this decision.
So now we know, from the Inquirer and the Notebook, that the School District– involuntarily, to be sure – spends $4.56 million per year on salaries and benefits for 80 employees of the Bureau of Revision of Taxes. Which made me wonder: where's the law that gives the District the authority to spend all that money on these folks?