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Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Schools and Justice: Recent Legal Cases in the Education System

When I was first starting my education to become a teacher, I realized that teaching is not always fun and games. There are some very serious implications that come along with being a teacher, and many, unfortunately, are legal issues. Here are some examples of court cases and legal actions that have happened in schools recently.

In the case of State v. Amero , that happened around January 2007, Julie Amero was convicted of "four counts of risk of injury to a minor, or impairing the morals of a child" (Balko, 2007, para. 1). Amero was using the computer to demonstrate in front of the class when a virus caused a loop of pornographic pop- ups to start opening up on the screen. The teacher claims she had not intention of this happening, and tried to close them while they continued to open up ( Balko, 2007, para. 1). The school never had the computer tested for malware and did not have active filtering software on the computers. Julie Amero is facing 40 years in prison ( Balko, 2007, para. 1).
I feel that this ruling is wrong on many levels. I think that the school should be held responsible for the lack of active filters on the computers not the unsuspecting teacher. I also feel that 40 years in prison is not fair when murderers do not always receive that many years. I think that the teacher should not be liable because she tried to handle the situation appropriately. I think she was not aware of the possible dangers that could occur while using this computer by no fault of her own. It is not Amero's fault that the school did not check these computers for viruses and did not renew the filters that are meant to limit what the children can view. I also believe that it is unfair to assume that she should have been prepared for this event because this event would not have occurred if the school was taking care of their computers appropriately. Overall I feel she was not acting in a way that was negative towards the students and there is no way she could have anticipated these events taking place.
Rolland v. Judd is another case that features the educator as the defendant. This case happened in the year 2000, when Alicia Judd was accused of violating Kayla Rolland's "due process right to life" when a child left unattended shot another student (Dowling-Sendor, 2006, p. 52). The judge ruling this case stated that there are the "three elements of agency liability under the state-created danger doctrine" were not all established and the judge ruled in favor of Judd (Dowling-Sendor, 2006, p.54).
I feel that this is a tough case to rule on, but I do agree with the ruling. I believe that although this child was an obvious danger and should not have been left alone with other students, there is no way that Judd could have anticipated the child possessing a gun. I also agree that the Judd's presence in the classroom might not have had any effect on the student's behavior.
There are many court cases that feature the teacher or school faculty as the defendant, but there are many cases as well that feature the student as the defendant and accused.
In the case of Morse v. Frederick, which occurred around June 2007, a student held up a banner that said "Bong Hits for Jesus" across the street from his school during school hours and under supervision of teachers (Walsh, 2007, para.1). The student was asked to put down the banner, refused, and was suspended for 10 days. The Supreme Court did not rule in favor of the student on grounds that it promotes illegal drug use amongst students and does not have any political or societal value (Walsh, 2007).
I think that it is an unfair decision because it violates the First Amendment rights of the students. I think that the fact that it is not considered to have societal or political connotations does not make it less of an infringement on the students' right to freedom of speech. I think that it would have been more of a credible argument if the school had argued that the student was representing the school in a negative manner, or if the idea that the student was making negative connotations toward a religion was brought into account in this case. I feel that ruling on this should have been more based on education disruption or students disrespect for religion. I do not feel that religion and state should be together, but I feel in a matter of respect for other people this is an important point, and respect for other people's beliefs should be emphasized in schools.
Another case where the defendant is also a student is Zachary Guiles v. Seth Mareneau. This case occurred between 2004-2006. Zachary Guiles wore an anti President Bush shirt that depicted illegal drugs and the President in a negative manner. "The U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont ruled in favor of the school when it held that the school's censorship of the drug and alcohol images was proper since the images were plainly offensive and inappropriate" (Nguyen, 2006, para. 8). Guiles then took his to court for an appeal and won on the basis that the images depicted where not "lewd, vulgar, or indecent" ( Nguyen, 2006,para. 9).
I feel that it is fair that the court ruled in favor of the student because it is his right to expression. The student's shirt was not disruptive to the learning environment, and this should be one of the most important factors in these court cases. Wearing such a shirt should be protected by the First Amendment because it is a basic right that our country is based on. I also think that it is important that students are allowed to make political commentary if they choose.
All of these court cases make me weary to be a teacher, but in such a sensitive environment, it is important to have laws and rules to follow.
Balko, Radley. (2007). Pop-up crackdown. Reason, 39 (1 ), 10 . Retrieved September 9, 2007, from EBSCO Host database.
Dowling-Sendor, Benjamin. (2006). When child's play turns tragic. American School Board Journal, 193 (6), 52-54 . Retrieved September 9, 2007, from EBSCO host database.
Nguyen, Helen. (2006). Appellate court smacks school over Bush shirt censorship. Long Island Business News,7 . Retrieved September 9, 2007, from EBSCO Host database.
Walsh, Mark. (2007). Ruling in 'bong hits' case seen as leaving protection for students' free speech. Education Week, 26 (43), 27-28 . Retrieved September 9, 2007, from EBSCO Host database.

By Sarah Ganly

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