Active learning requires more than the provision of the right environment and hoping it will optimize learning outcomes. The actors must understand the limits, implications, and consequences of actions; because other than good grades, the school should teach how to leave harmoniously in the society and respect for those in authority. Appropriate behavior anchors on discipline, both on the part of the educator and learner. Failure to behave as expected may attract disciplinary actions that vary in severity. Nevertheless, the disciplinary tools at the disposal of teachers are regulated by the law thus complicating them greatly. This essay, therefore, discusses the different corrective measures and their legal dimensions in light of McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, and Eckes's "Public school law: Teachers' and students' rights." Students are not lesser humans when they violate school rules and regulations; their fundamental rights must be preserved even when administering punishment.
For such a long time, corporal punishment has been ubiquitously used in the learning setting to suppress undesirable conduct. However, the constitutionality of this form of behavior control strategy has sparked heated debate that has extended to the courts. The central question has been whether a corporal punishment violates the Eighth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. The former proscribes any government punishing action deemed to be cruel and unusual while the latter maintains that procedural due process must be adhered to when undertaking official state duties that encompass teaching.
The responses regarding the legal nature of the disciplinary intervention have been varied leaving the offended a lot of burdens. In 1977, the Supreme Court held that corporal punishment was constitutional as it neither violated the Eighth Amendment or the Fourteenth Amendment. In fact, the need for this form of behaviour deterrent intervention to conform to due process requirement was seen as unnecessary as it would undermine its effectiveness (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). On the contrary, the Fourth Circuit contended that "unreasonable" corporal punishment could impair the victim's right to be subjected to zero brutal and egregious dangers. Nevertheless, the student has to convincingly argue that when this method of behavior regulation is applied, the actor violated the principle of reasonableness evidenced by infliction of disproportionate pain and "abuse of power" in a manner that shocks the "conscience" (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014, p. 241).
Signifying a positive change towards upholding students' substantive due process right, statutory and institutional changes have been made in response to the use of corporal punishment. Notably, many states already proscribe using this form of chastisement. Institutional regulations have also been put in place whereby the school boards stipulate requirements for administering corporal punishment. While it may be a convenient way of enhancing discipline among students, corporal punishment is, apparently, not the only intervention.
Academic sanctions are not novel in the teaching and learning environment. These interventions have been instrumental in addressing disciplinary issues such as absences and misconduct. Absenteeism is arguably one of the chronic problems plaguing the education system; students decide to miss school and ultimately fail to meet course requirements. Some academic sanctions employed to ensure that truancy is under control include deduction of a given number of points from the grades of a leaner who absconds or absents from school impermissibly. Likewise, misconduct has been deterred using academic sanctions. For example, educators deduct a significant number of points from the grades of the learners, especially if they stay away because of suspension for unacceptable behaviour within the school precincts or beyond. Despite their popularity and appropriateness, academic sanctions have been subject to legal challenges as well.
Search and Seizure
Search and seizure has found varied applications in the educational system to control students' behaviour. These interventions have been sanctioned for purposes of enhancing safety within the school environment. Nonetheless, searches raise significant issues especially when the concept of Fourth Amendment is involved. It has been determined that educators are part of state officials, and thus bound by the provisions of the Fourth Amendment. The Amendment implies that a state official must obtain a legal warrant before carrying out a search mission; otherwise, it would be considered an unwarranted search thus rendering the perpetrator liable for being charged in court. Moreover, any evidence obtained through unjustified search is inadmissible in court as well as any potentially incriminating lead that may have emerged following the nonprocedural search.
Within the school, seeking a court order to conduct to conduct a reasonable search may be time-consuming, especially if the matter is urgent and a potential cause of harm. Accordingly, school authorities have a guideline to help them enhance safety while avoiding the unreasonable search by first evaluating its reasonableness in light of the circumstances surrounding it. Reasonableness means taking into account who initiates the search, who conducts it, necessity, purpose, information and factors prompting the search, item or person to search, and the use to which the evidence is to be put (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). Whether the search involves lockers - property of the school - or personal possessions like books and purse, it is mandatory to determine reasonableness upfront. One way to justify a search of a bag is after it triggers an alarming sound from a metal detector. Sometimes, it is even necessary to involve the police, but after an order is guaranteed.
Expulsion and Suspension
Expulsions and suspensions are not unique to any one school's approach to instilling discipline. They are both considered legal; however, due process is a requisite in these disciplinary procedures as a basis for fairness and impartiality. One's right to due process delineated by the Constitution may be forfeited should he be found in possession of weapons or when the school authority determines that the student poses a danger to self or others (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). While suspension may fall within the jurisdiction of an educator, a teacher has no powers to expel a student, and it must be done by the boa. It is worth noting that students can be dismissed for fractions within the school, during a school activity outside the school, like sports, and sometimes when they act defiantly outside the school. Just like the previous techniques, expulsion and suspension can be challenged in court.
Remedies for Unlawful Disciplinary Actions
Disciplinary measures sometimes are not just unfair but reflect a flagrant violation of the law. In such a case, the affected can take many legal remedies. For example, illegally administered physical punishment may be countered by seeking damages through assault and battery. There are cases where teachers have been disciplined and discharged for violating state or school's regulations of punishment (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). On the other hand, when affected by unwarranted suspension or expulsions, students are reinstated minus deduction of marks from grades. Additionally, their school records are deleted for all references to illegal penal action.
There are also instances when the procedural due process is violated when disciplining a student. Such occurrences are addressed by reversing the board's decision. Some academic penalties already discussed may be imposed unlawfully prompting restoration of the affected learner's grades followed by alteration of transcripts. Similarly, an unconstitutional search attracts suppression of illegally seized evidence, expunging of school records, and compensation for damages alongside award of court costs if a student wins against an institution.
Enhancing Lawfulness of School Disciplinary Procedures
Ensuring that every disciplinary action meets legal threshold is vital. Given the sensitivity of corporal punishment, for instance, educators are advised to be cautious; learn state laws and applicable school board policies, avoid using excessive force, rid themselves of malice, record all incidences of use together with valid reasons for each, and consider minimum procedural safeguards (McCarthy, Cambron-McCabe, & Eckes, 2014). Conversely, the school must ensure that academic sanctions and other disciplinary approaches are reasonable, addresses absences or behavioral issue at hand, and works towards the attainment of genuine school purpose.
Students and teachers have rights worth preserving during the emotional laden disciplinary process. As the discussion has shown, corrective measures from which teachers can choose are many, including corporal punishment, academic sanctions, search and seizure, expulsions, and suspensions. The appropriateness of any depends on the magnitude of the mistake, and teachers are advised to ensure that any disciplinary action is in strict adherence with the law and serves legitimate school purposes; otherwise, the educators can be punished instead through termination, unpaid leave, monetary damages, and imprisonment.
McCarthy, M. M., Cambron-McCabe, N. H., & Eckes, S. (2014). Public school law: Teachers' and students' rights (5th ed.).
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