Law and Education

B658 is taught by K. Brown, C. Matthews

The scope of this course is limited to a focus on primary and secondary education. The cognitive condition of children makes value inculcation of them inevitable. Thus, the real questions about the next generation of full-fledged adults do not address whether they will endure a socialization process. Rather, they address who will conduct the socialization of the young and how will it be conducted. With a moment of reflection, you will realize that public schools are an indoctrinator's dream. First, attendance is compulsory and students lack the independent knowledge or psychological sophistication necessary to evaluate critically what their teachers tell them. Second, public schools can package their message as highly valued #education# rather than as less trustworthy propaganda. Third, the adult teacher's authority and seemingly vast fund of knowledge will likely impress the children. Finally, teachers reward and punish students according to how well they learn the lesson of the day.

The establishment of public elementary and secondary schools, with concomitant compulsory school attendance statutes, reflects an acknowledgement that the fertile mind of the young is a legitimate subject of public concern. The United States Supreme Court has often stated that the primary purpose of public education is #the inculcation of values necessary for the maintenance of our democratic society.# Thus, we will discuss a number of disputes in public education over which values public schools should seek to advance or protect. In so doing we will discuss values conflicts:

# regarding religious socialization, including first amendment cases that deal with Bible reading, school prayer, moments of silence and the teaching of Creation Science;

# derived from the equal protection clause and federal discrimination laws, including racial challenges to the curriculum, the current status of school desegregation, single sex education, gender discrimination in the provision of opportunities to engage in athletic competition and sexual harassment; and

# student#s constitutional rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Often these cases involve whether school officials can control the messages that students seek to distribute to other students.

We will also discuss the Supreme Court cases dealing with the fourth amendment rights of privacy that students have in public schools and so called #educational malpractice# cases. These are cases where a student seeks a remedy under common law Tort for the failure of the school system to teach him or her basic educational skills such as reading and writing. These cases, effectively, resolve values conflicts based on socio-economic status, because the primary determinants of how well students do in school are parental education and family income. (Quiz your law school classmates and you will find very few first generation students.)

Finally, because one of the most significant educational reform movements regarding public education in urban areas is the rapid expansion of charter schools, we will also discuss these schools. Charter schools are considered public schools. They are, however, under less supervisory control by public educational officials and can often operate somewhat independently of public school authorities. Charter schools are intended to foster new approaches to education with innovative curriculum and instruction. The unique focus of charter schools forms the primary means of attracting parents and children to the school. Almost 2% of public school students now attend charter schools and the percentage is growing every year.