Term of Award

Winter 2001

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Administration

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (restricted to Georgia Southern)

Committee Chair

Michel D. Richardson

Committee Member 1

T. C. Chan

Committee Member 2

Catherine Wooddy

Committee Member 3

Jay Hertzog

Committee Member 4

Ron Nelson

Abstract

This descriptive study was an assessment of the knowledge level that Georgia public school teachers have of their professional and personal rights and liabilities as impacted by laws and judicial decisions at the federal, state, and local government levels. The focus of the study was on teachers because Georgia teachers are not required to study school law as part of their professional preparation. The study's sample consisted of 505 pre-school through 12th grade teachers from 15 stratified, randomly selected Georgia public schools. A 45 item, researcher-developed instrument was used to assess teacher knowledge in five school law areas (employment, freedom of expression, religious freedom, ethics and lifestyle, and tort liability). No participant answered all 45 items correctly, nor was any item answered correctly by all participants. A mean correct response score of 70% was used to describe a minimum acceptable level of school law knowledge. The sample mean was 50.71% and only 33 participants scored higher than 70% correct. Within the independent variables, teachers who had previous school law instruction scored significantly (p < .05) higher than those without such instruction. Participants with 21-30 years of teaching experience scored significantly higher than those with less than three years experience. However, even where significant differences were found, most participants scored less than 70% correct.

The results of the survey were a clear indication that the sample evinced a lack of knowledge of teacher legal rights and liabilities. This finding supports previous studies of teacher school law knowledge that have been conducted in the last 20 years and found that teachers lack a basic knowledge of school law. State policymakers and school district administrators need to know that their teachers are competent educational professionals, and teachers need to be able to educate students without fear of falling into legal quagmires. It is a duty of teacher preparation institutions, education officials, and school administrators to insure that teachers have the tools they need to fulfill the requirements of their primary mission - educating students. One of the most important tools is an adequate knowledge of school law, specifically those areas of school law that concern teachers' rights and liabilities as professional educators.

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