The Need for Cyber Law Research in Education

Cyber law in education is an issue that is ripe for scholarly research and analysis.  The importance of this topic is growing exponentially with the meteoric rise in social networking and other online forums which are becoming a primary source of interaction among school aged students. One result of these “virtual” relationships is a blurring of the lines of jurisdiction for disciplinary responsibility. At what point do a student’s actions fall outside of the authority of his or her school? When the student uses school equipment on school grounds the analysis is very clear, but case law has created a continuum that defies any objective definition of where that jurisdiction ends. Similarly, at what point does a teacher or administrator’s actions leave the authority of their employer and become protected by their right to privacy? The question of jurisdiction must be addressed before meaningful processes can be implemented to counteract the damage that online actions can have on the school system.

The harms that are caused at the hands of students through cyber actions include marring the reputation of teachers and administrators, harassing other students and threatening the security of testing and other educational information. Similarly, educators often cause harm through their own cyber actions by using online forums in an inappropriate manner to the detriment of their school or district. These actions may compromise the safety and morals of their students and affect the integrity of the educational system itself. Yet any restriction on these actions runs the risk of violating constitutional rights of free speech and privacy. Needless to say, there is a careful and ever-evolving balancing process that needs to be maintained in this area of law. And the decisions of our courts and enactments of our legislatures must be monitored and influenced by educators and education law experts.

The bullying laws that are springing up in local legislatures provide an excellent example of the issues at stake in this field. There is an important responsibility for governments to protect children from this new form of harassment. At the same time, however, in addition to the inevitable first amendment challenges, educators need to have a voice as to the practical limits on building level school personnel in implementing these new laws. These issues present a fascinating intersection of legal issues that will only become more relevant and topical in the decades to come. 

Research and analysis will be important in normalizing policy in the field. Ultimately statutory enactments and case decisions will  provide the law on these subjects.  However, these statutes and decisions are by no means immutable.  Like any other area of law, they evolve and change over time.  And these shifting principles are all the more prevalent in a field of law that is in its infancy such as this one.  There are no long-standing seminal court decisions on the topic, nor is there any conventional wisdom with respect to a proper statutory framework.  Therefore, in this field more than any other that I can think of within education law, there is a need for scholarly research and publication to help organize and shape the developing legal trends.

10 Things You Should Know About Education Law

If you’re involved in education, then you probably know already how important education law is. If you are new to the education sector, or are now dealing with education establishments, here’s what you need to know.

1. Education establishments such as schools and universities still have the same accountability as other organisations, and so will need to be just as organised in terms of the management, as well as educationally.

2. The health and safety of the pupils and staff is of paramount importance, especially when carrying out experiments, or whilst on trips. The relevant rules and regulation will have to be followed to the letter so that there is no risk of any accidents or injury.

3. Pupil discipline is often in the news, and it’s essential that staff know how to deal with unruly pupils, and their parents, in accordance with school policy and the law.

4. Employment laws are still applicable in a school or university, and so you’ll need to make sure that like pupils, the staff are not subjected to instances of bullying or discrimination, and that any instances are taken seriously.

5. You’ll need to make sure that recruitment policies are fair, and comply with the law. It’s important to remember that potential staff might need to have additional checks carried out on them, and that qualifications and experience are verified.

6. Although you’re not a standard sort of company, you’ll need to make sure that all paperwork, contracts and policies comply with relevant laws, rules and regulations.

7. Schools and universities will be dealing with many suppliers and so might need help with contracts and ensure that they get best value for money. Education law solicitors can help with this.

8. Some schools receive donations and funding, and it’s important that this is all documented properly and that the paperwork is properly filled in and that relevant forms have been submitted properly.

9. You might be involved in estate management, and want to make sure that if you’re buying and selling land that everything is legal and in the best interests of the school.

10. If you’re involved in education construction projects, then you’ll need to be aware that normal planning permission and environmental laws still apply, so you’ll have to make sure that all aspects of the project are legal.

Now you know more about education law, and how it might affect you, perhaps you need the services of an experienced education law solicitor.

Why Do You Need an Education Law Solicitor?

As there’s many aspects of law that effect the education sector, if you work for a school, college or university, then you’re likely to need the help and advice of of an education law solicitor.

Here’s why you’ll need help with education law.

1. Education establishments need to accountable, and so need to do everything properly, and within the law. If you’re not sure about best practice, or how best to manage, why not see how an education law solicitor can help.

2. As health and safety is such a concern for parents of pupils, it needs to be taken care of. No matter whether conducting a science experiment, or planning a trip abroad, the activity will need to meet the relevant legislations, and the risks will need to be fully assessed.

3. Your policies for pupil and staff discipline will need to be checked regularly to ensure that they are still up to date and valid, and that they are enforceable, and comply with relevant laws.

4. Employment laws still apply in educational establishments, so you’ll need to be aware of laws regarding working hours, staff contracts and workers’ rights.

5. Remember that your recruitment policies need to be fair, and that there is no discrimination within your education establishment. You’ll also need to make sure that all necessary checks are carried out on new staff too.

6. It’s important that staff contracts, and internal policies regarding IT are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are up to date and legally binding. If you’re not sure, why not speak to an education law solicitor?

7. You might be dealing with many suppliers and have lots of contracts for supplying cleaners, meals, emergency cover teachers, IT systems and more. You’ll want to make sure that you’re getting the best deals, and that you’re not being treated unfairly.

8. As some schools and colleges rely on donations and funding, it’s important that all of the money is accounted for, and that the school is run in a right and proper way in order to meet the legal requirements.

9. Perhaps you’re involved in estate management, and buying and selling school grounds or buildings. You’ll want to make sure that you get the best deals, and that you meet the legal requirements, so as not to fall foul of the law.

10. If you’re considering expanding the school, you’ll want to obtain planning permission, and to make sure that it is in the best interests of the school. There will also be construction and environmental laws that will need to be considered too.