Legally Speaking – 10/4/18

By October 3, 2018Legal, What's New

Legally Speaking

CEAI members ask …
The answers or opinions expressed in this article are not intended to render legal advice. The factual and legal issues in each circumstance must be considered and may require the advice of an attorney.

by CEAI Executive Staff

Question

I have a student who somehow obtained my cell number and called me six times. I didn’t answer the phone because I didn’t recognize the number. However, he did leave one message. He sounded slurred and was using foul language. He then sent a text message that included swearing and name-calling directed at me. He hasn’t outright threatened me, but I am very upset and feel harassed.

I contacted the school administration, and they suggested I contact the police. This same student has had previous issues, and the prior discipline was obviously not helping to curb this type of behavior. My principal is planning to call the parents today to inform them of the situation.

Do you have any additional advice?

Is it worth calling the police?

Answer

I suggest you take the situation seriously and turn it over to the police. It sounds like you are indeed being harassed by a student. Since unfettered written assault can easily escalate to physical assault, I suggest you ask for police protection. You might even consider pressing charges if necessary.

I also suggest you ask the district to get involved because the district is responsible for creating a safe working environment for you as a teacher. As long as this child has access to you, you can claim you do not feel safe. In our current culture, action should be taken pre-violence. I suggest you overreact rather than underreact.

Beyond the safety concerns, consider the moral aspect of the issue. The child needs to understand that bullying and harassment are NOT acceptable behaviors.

Question

Even though I have earned excellent ratings on observations for over 11 years, I was just non-voluntarily removed from my classroom and given another assignment. Can my administrators demote me like this?

Answer

Yes, the courts have been clear that administrators do have the authority to reassign teachers as they deem best for the district. A transfer is difficult to fight unless it results in a demotion in pay, violates board policy, or breaks the negotiated agreement. If your pay remains the same, your transfer is not considered a demotion, even if it feels like it.

Question

I am a school librarian. Recently, my superintendent informed me that I must work one day a week in another school district. (I am currently employed by my home district full-time with full-time benefits.) The other district has said that they will pay my home district for one day of my salary per week and mileage. So basically, they are contracting my services through my home district. Is this legal? Can I fight this?

Answer

Legally, the district must honor your contract with compensation and benefits. You might want to check board policy on issues of assignment to make sure they have not violated any of their own policies. If they have, we can help you file a grievance. But, the courts have clearly ruled that your assignment is the prerogative of the administrators.

If they are within board policy, you could politely appeal, expressing any concerns you have. Just be sure not to refuse, which could be considered insubordination and result in termination.

Before you take action, you may want to determine if your district is trying to keep your full-time position rather than reducing you to part-time. Working full-time for one district is generally more of a benefit to you than working part-time for two different districts. It is possible that your superintendent is working with this other district for your benefit.

We will be praying for you and your situation.

Question

Students are allowed to use their cellular devices during non-instructional time in the middle school where I teach. If I am responsible for their care and safety during non-instructional time (lunch transition, restroom visits, and lunch time), can I be held responsible for what students are listening to, looking at, or texting during this time? Should I worry about legal ramifications if a student is engaged in activities such as bullying, sexting, taking photographs of others, or videotaping gatherings?

Answer

As long as your school holds an open policy for the use of cellular devices, your personal liability would be low, unless you knew something was taking place and you ignored it.

Since even unjust lawsuits get filed on occasion, coverage through CEAI for such a lawsuit would include unlimited legal consultation, legal representation, and damages up to $2,000,000, whether you are found guilty or not.

Be at peace and do your best under the circumstances … even the Lord would expect no more.

If you have a question about religious freedoms in public schools.

Ask An Attorney

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