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TITLE: School Law: Legal Framework, Guiding Principles, and Litigated Areas
Legal Framework, Guiding Principles and Litigated Areas is authors Susan Hillman and David Trevaskis’ effort to make school law accessible to the non-lawyer educator who comes to this field of study without a significant background in legal process. The introduction to the book is followed by a chapter on Legal Framework that lays out how school law has evolved to this point and how it will continue to unfold in the future.
The first substantive law chapter focuses on Tort Liability since this area of law is both easily accessible and most likely the area in which readers of this text will have had personal experience to reference. It also allows the reader to see the impact of common law on the field. Church and State law follows, providing an entry into court decision making and highlighting the role of precedent. A chapter on Student Classification, looking at issues of Race, Alienage, Native Language and Gender, explores how school law often reflects our societal struggles with realizing national ideals.
Although this book is not a treatise on special education law, the next chapter on Children with Exceptionalities provides a solid introduction into this significant area. Chapters on Students’ Rights and Teachers’ Rights provide insight into just what rights extend beyond the schoolhouse gate. A final chapter on Employment Law Principles reminds all readers of this text that the job of the professional educator is governed by the law. That message should be very clear by then. The conclusion to the book makes an offer the authors hope you cannot refuse!
Third Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Majorie O. Rendell, a champion of law-related education, often highlights the role of our courts by telling the story of Supreme Court Justice David Souter hosting scholars from the former Soviet Union. One of the Russians asked the Justice which case of the United States Supreme Court was most significant. The Justice answered with the Brown decision to the dismay of the Russian scholar. The Russian proceeded to tell Justice Souter that the Justice was wrong. For the Russian, the most important case was the Watergate decision of United States v. Nixon when President Richard Nixon, the most powerful leader in the world, followed the order of the Supreme Court and released material that led to his impeachment. For the Russian, the tapes case was a message that underscored the fundamental concept of American democracy that the law is above all, more powerful than the Commander in Chief. Those words engraved on the front of the Supreme Court building, “Equal Justice Under the Law”, do hold true. Some students of the law grow cynical when they observe the law subverted for various purposes and examples of such subversion have been highlighted in this text. Yet the authors of this text remain optimistic about the development of school law, believing as did Dr. Martin Luther King, that “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” Or perhaps it is just that they share Winston Churchill’s pragmatism: “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”