Making Sure No Child is Left Behind – Education Law Degree

While I do not have a law degree, working in education has allowed me to cross paths with education lawyers on numerous occasions. I found the issues they deal with on a daily basis to be both noble and challenging.

What is Education Law?

Education law deals with schools, school systems and school boards charged with educating children. It is a branch of civil law that encompasses the laws and regulations that govern federal and state education, administration and operation of educational institutions, school athletics and education programs, methods and materials.

What do Education Lawyers do?

Education lawyers work very closely with school faculty, staff, students and administration. They spend their time going over issues such as discipline, suspension, expulsion and discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex and disability. Additionally, education lawyer’s deal with questions related to school attendance, authority, civil rights, dress codes, drugs, disability, home schooling, immigrant visas, medical requirements, sexual harassment, and special education rights. As you can see, the span of topics coming across the desk of an education lawyer is impressive.

Careers in Education Law

Given that the span of topic covered by this area of the law is quite broad, so are the career opportunities. With an education law degree you could represent post-secondary educational institutions and institutions of higher learning in a number of different matters. Your clients could include a number of colleges, universities as well as school districts.

While representing these education institutions you would work on issues involving discrimination, disability, financial aid, and accreditation and licensing issues facing schools, staff and teachers/professors. Additionally, you could represent individuals, parents or students as well as teachers, professor and school employees on similar issues.

Job Outlook

Education law, and the lawyers that practice it, will continue to be a part of the education system. They are a necessity tasked with ensuring that every student has a fair and equal access to education.

According to the Department of Labor Statistics, employment of lawyers is expected to grow 11% during 2006-2016, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The increased demands for legal services will result in increased job opportunities. However, due to a large number of students graduating from law school, competition for jobs is quite intense. Those with strong academic records will have the best job opportunities.

The Need for Cyber Law Research in Education

Cyber law in education is an issue that is ripe for scholarly research and analysis.  The importance of this topic is growing exponentially with the meteoric rise in social networking and other online forums which are becoming a primary source of interaction among school aged students. One result of these “virtual” relationships is a blurring of the lines of jurisdiction for disciplinary responsibility. At what point do a student’s actions fall outside of the authority of his or her school? When the student uses school equipment on school grounds the analysis is very clear, but case law has created a continuum that defies any objective definition of where that jurisdiction ends. Similarly, at what point does a teacher or administrator’s actions leave the authority of their employer and become protected by their right to privacy? The question of jurisdiction must be addressed before meaningful processes can be implemented to counteract the damage that online actions can have on the school system.

The harms that are caused at the hands of students through cyber actions include marring the reputation of teachers and administrators, harassing other students and threatening the security of testing and other educational information. Similarly, educators often cause harm through their own cyber actions by using online forums in an inappropriate manner to the detriment of their school or district. These actions may compromise the safety and morals of their students and affect the integrity of the educational system itself. Yet any restriction on these actions runs the risk of violating constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. Needless to say, there is a careful and ever-evolving balancing process that needs to be maintained in this area of law. And the decisions of our courts and enactments of our legislatures must be monitored and influenced by educators and education law experts.

The bullying laws that are springing up in local legislatures provide an excellent example of the issues at stake in this field. There is an important responsibility for governments to protect children from this new form of harassment. At the same time, however, in addition to the inevitable first amendment challenges, educators need to have a voice as to the practical limits on building level school personnel in implementing these new laws. These issues present a fascinating intersection of legal issues that will only become more relevant and topical in the decades to come. 

Research and analysis will be important in normalizing policy in the field. Ultimately statutory enactments and case decisions will  provide the law on these subjects.  However, these statutes and decisions are by no means immutable.  Like any other area of law, they evolve and change over time.  And these shifting principles are all the more prevalent in a field of law that is in its infancy such as this one.  There are no long-standing seminal court decisions on the topic, nor is there any conventional wisdom with respect to a proper statutory framework.  Therefore, in this field more than any other that I can think of within education law, there is a need for scholarly research and publication to help organize and shape the developing legal trends.

Educational Law

Grace Victor is working as a law teacher at East Willow high school in Newborn, Georgia.

I love teaching law. I completed my degree in law, and preferred to work as a teacher rather than becoming a lawyer. Its not that I have anything against legal practice, but it’s just that I prefer teaching. My dad always wanted me to be a teacher. So it was always my dream to be a teacher. When I enrolled into Law College, I wanted to learn law- not to practice it, but to teach it.

Education law deals with laws regarding colleges, universities and schools. School systems vary from state to state. The department of education administers public school working. In the United States, education is offered by public sector. The financial resources are received from 3 levels: local level, state level, and federal level. It is compulsory for children to get educated. The school policies like teaching, funding etc are determined by school boards that are locally elected. You can teach your kids at private or public schools. Or if you want, you can teach them at an approved home school program.

Education in US is generally categorized in 3 levels: high school, middle school, and elementary school. After these levels, comes college education, or post secondary education. There is a powerful concern regarding equality of education. You cannot discriminate your students based on their national origin, sex, color, or race. This has been stated in the Equal Education Opportunities Act (1974).

Parents are given a right to choose the best school for their kids. If they want, they can send their kids to private schools. However, these private schools are also regulated by state laws. According to the Establishment clause, these schools operate on their own funding, and no government funding is provided to them.

Apart from these schools, there are special schools for kids with disabilities. First, the special needs of the child are assessed, and accordingly, based on the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, he or she is sent to a special school.

In case you do not want your child to attend schooling from outside, you can home school him or her, but it requires a lot of time and attention. If you want to home school your child, you need to register with the department of education.

Educating your children is very easy in United States, and government has made full provisions that each and every child is educated.

Education Law in the 21st Century

While it is not an area of law in which a great many cases are undertaken, the cases and issues that end up arising and being litigated in the education law area tends to prove to be very significant. This has been the history of education law and remains the reality in this day and age. Through this article you are provided an overview of some of the more significant and transitory issues associated with education law in this day and age.

A good many of the cases that have arisen in the education law arena have centered on equal access to educational opportunities based upon issues pertaining to ethnicity, race, sex and religion. Some of the most significant issues pertaining to education law have involved access to educational experiences by people of minority races. Of course, the most significant case in this regard actually was handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States in 1959. The case of Brown vs. Board of Education brought an end to the concept of “separate but equal”, which guided educational systems across the United States.

Although the Brown case was handed down by the Supreme Court many years ago, there remain issues that still arise when it comes to making sure that minority students have an appropriate access to educational opportunities in the country. For example, many school districts became embroiled in cases involving the busing of students to achieve racial equality when it came to educational systems, only in recent times have attendant issues been resolved.

Some of the newer issues and cases involving race, sex and related issues and education law have centered on access to scholarships and other educational financing opportunities. There are still cases that arise in which a contention is made that certain financing options are not fully available to all individuals.

Most recently, many of the cases involving education law issues have involved individuals with physical or other types of impairments. The goal in regard to these cases is to work to ensure that educational opportunities are made regularly and fully available to people no matter their physical status. (Related cases also center on individuals who have some sort of intellectual or mental health issue as well.)

Finally, another active area in education law in this day and age involves public school financing. First of all, there are cases that center upon working to ensure that all public school systems in a particular state are fairly funded. Second, there are cases and issues that focus upon the funding of private school educational experiences. Legislative leaders have also found themselves involved in developing new laws to attempt to deal with these two types of issues in more recent years – a trend that is expected to carry forth into the future.

There remain lawyers in business today who are specializing in education law. More often than not these attorneys are most frequently involved in ensuring that people have an even and equal access to appropriate and meaningful educational opportunities.

6 Things You Need to Know About State Special Education Laws That Will Empower Your Advocacy!

Are you the parents of a child with Autism or other type of disability who receives special education services? Are you currently having a dispute with your school district related to your child’s education? Would you like to learn about State special education laws and regulations to use in your advocacy? This article is for you and will be discussing these laws,and information that you need to know to empower your advocacy!

1. Every state is required by IDEA 2004 (federal special education law) to have laws and regulations that will show how they will be complying with the law.

2. State regulations cannot “establish provisions that reduce parent’s rights or are otherwise in conflict with the requirements of IDEA and Federal Regulations.” Federal law “trumps” or is stronger than State law. State law can give a parent more rights but cannot take away rights.

3. Many States laws are not consistent with federal laws.

4. Some states have been told that they must change their state regulations to be consistent with federal law. For example: New Jersey stated in their regulations that school districts had the right to test a child in an area that they did not previously test—if a parent asked for an independent educational evaluation at public expense (IEE at public expense). Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) found this inconsistent with IDEA 2004 (300.502). They have required NJ to revise their regulations and until they do so make sure school districts are not evaluating children in an area not previously evaluated before paying for an IEE.

5. Other States regulations are also inconsistent with federal law but have not been told by the U.S. DOE that they must change their regulations. One example is New York who has a regulation that ESY eligibility is only for children with multiple disabilities and/or who show regression and slow recoupment. This is not consistent with federal special education law and may hurt children by denying them needed services. Another example is in my State of Illinois the parent guide states that parents must “request” an IEE before the testing is done. IDEA 2004 states that parents have the right to “obtain” an IEE if they disagree with the schools evaluation. A letter to the Illinois State Board of Education pointing out this inconsistency was answered with this statement “The office plans to review the identified guidance document and initiate any necessary revisions during the summer of 2012. Your information will be considered during the course of that process.” It is now 2014, and I will not be holding my breath for the State of Illinois to revise their parent guide.

6. OSEP policy letters often address inconsistent State laws and regulations! They are great advocacy tools and can be found at: http://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/index.html#topiclisting. I use them all the time to show special educators how the Office of Special Education Programs (at the U.S. DOE) interpret IDEA 2004 and inconsistent State regulations.

By understanding these 6 things about State Special Education Law, your advocacy will be empowered! Good Luck!