Legal and Ethical Issues in Teaching
Professionals in the field of education have a responsibility to foster an environment that emphasizes student achievement and high expectations, including for students with disabilities. In addition to this moral imperative, there are now legal implications for schools regarding special education. By the end of this video, you should have an understanding of the legal issues that are relevant to working with individuals with disabilities; how to comply with the law, rules, and regulations; as well as additional ethical responsibilities. Let’s get started!
Before we go into the specifics of the law, let’s identify some key vocabulary that will come up throughout this video as well as further research and studying you may do. The first word is legislation. This is the function of mandating, establishing, or regulating rules and laws. Educators are governed by these laws which outline what they need to do. The next is litigation rulings. These are previous court decisions that have taken place which educators can refer to in order to do a better job of developing, implementing, and evaluating IEPs. Another word is regulations. Regulations, in this case, are rules that the US Department of Education issues in order to define legislation and ensure that laws are applied consistently.
First, let’s take a look at the laws and regulations outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Under this act, schools are required to assist qualified students who have disabilities in meeting their educational needs. IDEA has been revised numerous times since 1975 when Congress passed it into law under the name Education of Handicapped Children Act, but the purpose of the law is still the same today.
There are 6 key principles of IDEA. The first is that students who are disabled have access to free and appropriate public education, sometimes referred to as FAPE. A child’s education and services must be designed to meet their unique needs and prepare them for further education, employment, and independence. Additionally, their educational program needs to support the progression toward grade-level achievement, with educational services, if necessary, that allow them to benefit from this instruction. FAPE also includes providing the tools necessary for transitory plans toward college or career.
The second principle requires that all students that are suspected of having a disability receive an appropriate evaluation. Evaluators must use valid and credible materials and procedures, as well as be objective and nondiscriminatory in their assessment.
In the third principle, students should be provided with an IEP. Among the information included in this written document are the student’s current academic performance, annual goals, benchmarking objectives, the services and supplemental aids provided, as well as explanations for instances where the student is not participating in general classroom activities. Additionally, it encompasses the concerns of parents and children, as well as the specific educational, developmental, and functional needs of the child.
The fourth principle calls for placing students in the least restrictive environment, which means that a student with an IEP should learn alongside students without IEPs to the maximum extent possible. This means that students should only be removed from the general education classroom if the severity of their disability has such needs that they are unable to learn satisfactorily in this environment, even with supplemental aids and services. IEP teams must explore several options for enabling an individual to participate in general education classes before an additional placement would be considered.
The fifth principle focuses on parental involvement. To guarantee the placement of a child with a disability in the least restrictive environment, the parents must be members of the group making decisions. It is also required to give notice in advance to families about evaluations that will take place, as well as access to appropriate materials, such as information regarding actions proposed or refused by the school; a description of each evaluation procedure, assessment, or report; and sources for parents to contact to help them understand the provisions.
The sixth principle focuses on procedural safeguards. Under this principle, parental access to information about placement is protected, and procedures are established to resolve disagreement between parents and schools regarding a student’s placement, thereby helping parents and students to enforce their rights under federal law. It is essential that parents are made aware of these rights and that they are explained in detail. A procedural safeguard is a part of the system in order to discuss the special education process and does not directly impact what is included in the IEP.
It is important for school administrators and special education teachers to be actively engaged in the design and implementation of IEPs because there can be legal repercussions if they don’t comply with the requirements. Schools can accomplish this by understanding the IEP process in detail, making sure school staff follow appropriate procedures, and monitoring student progress. In particular, schools should follow an IEP precisely and ensure that it contains all the necessary and pertinent information, and ensure that the content of the IEP is sufficient so that feedback can be provided and changes introduced if the progress is inadequate.
It is also important that the services identified and agreed upon in the IEP are provided to the student at appropriate and consistent times, and that parents are included in any changes that are made. If not done correctly, the parent would then have the option to go through the court system to request that the correct action be taken, since that is what would be in the child’s best interest. One example of a litigation ruling is in the case of Van Duyn versus Baker, where the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a school district denied a free and appropriate education when it didn’t provide as many hours of math as promised in an IEP. If a substantial part of an IEP is not implemented, the school can violate the student’s right to FAPE even if the IEP itself meets all of the requirements of IDEA.
IDEA is not the only law that is important to know. In 1965, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act was passed and then updated in 2002 to the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2015, this law was revised again to become the Every Student Succeed Act, known as ESSA. The purpose of this legislation is to encourage states and districts to improve academic achievement. Students from low-performing groups receive extra attention through its accountability provisions, with the aim of closing the achievement gap. Four key principles of ESSA drive education reform, including enhanced accountability for results, increased flexibility and local control, more parental options, and a focus on teacher qualifications and teaching methods. Some of the ways that schools are held accountable are by addressing academic content standards, academic achievement standards, and state assessments, which demonstrate how well they are teaching students. This also takes into account any accommodations or options for alternative assessments that might be required for students with disabilities. In the past, students with disabilities were not included in state and district-level assessments and accountability systems, and in many cases were not exposed to the general curriculum that was the basis for the state assessments. The No Child Left Behind Act changed this system in order to hold schools responsible for the educational outcomes of all students, and this has continued to be an important part of ESSA. As part of this change, the IEP is required to include information about how students will be able to participate in state assessments.
The ADA Title III, which prohibits discrimination based upon disability within public accommodations, is another important law to know. While special educators may not be held directly responsible for making sure that buildings are following these guidelines, it is still important to know in order to represent the best interests of your students.
While it is essential that special educators uphold laws, regulations, and policies regarding education, there are additional ethical requirements that special educators should be aware of. These include maintaining high standards for your students; respecting their cultures, languages, and backgrounds; and exercising your professional judgment with integrity and competence. Additionally, it includes actively involving families and protecting and supporting their physical and psychological well-being, as well as incorporating empirical data, instructional data, research, and professional knowledge into your daily practice.
As educators, it is essential to know the legal and ethical issues associated with education both for the best interest of the students and for the best interest of the school. By staying up to date on amendments to the laws, legislations, and regulations, special educators can guarantee that they are following protocol and providing the best overall education to their students.
That’s it for today’s video on legal and ethical requirements! Thanks for watching, and happy studying.