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Welcome to the School Law Blog

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This is a new Education Week blog on legal issues in education. I have covered school law for the newspaper for more than 15 years. After a few years off the beat, I returned last spring, just in time for the U.S. Supreme Court to finish one of its most significant terms for K-12 education in a generation.

(See a summary of the cases from the 2006-07 term, which is embedded in this story about the decision in one of them, the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" student speech case.)

My plan for this blog is to be newsy, with lots of links to court decisions on matters of interest to educators, policymakers, lawyers who handle education cases, and parents. When appropriate, I'll also try to offer analysis and insight.

A journalist visiting a few years back from The Times Educational Supplement, a British newspaper that is somewhat akin to Education Week, asked me why we had a school law beat. He was surprised when I told him that lawyers and judges can play such a significant role in the operation of U.S. public schools, and that the Supreme Court is often at the center of some of the most contentious education issues. For better or worse, that is how it is in this country.

2 Comments

Hi there,
I have a long-standing question about school law that I sure hope you'll be able to address, even thought my language in asking it may not be technically correct. The law that prohibits age discrimination has two exemptions of interest. One is when age is used as a proxy for another, less measurable, qualification. Schools use age as a proxy for readiness (for a grade or subject or curriculum). I take issue with this, since age is an unreliable proxy for readiness, and readiness is in fact easily measurable by more direct means, and is regularly measured in practice. The other exemption to the age non-discrimination law is schools, regardless of any other provision in the law. If school/class placement decisions were made according to readiness rather than age, students who need more time and/or support would receive it as a matter of course, reducing (not eliminating) the need for expensive special ed programs. Also, students who need greater challenge would receive it as needed, reducing the need for expensive gifted and talented programs which are usually shortchanged anyway. While eliminating age-based progression completely would be too dramatic a shock for current school systems, even opening up grades by a half-year on either end should help alleviate pressure on students to "hurry up" or "slow down". It should also alleviate a problem the National Math Panel cites as one of the greatest concerns of Algebra teachers - great variability among students' preparation and ability (I can attest to this personally).

Can you address the constitutionality of excluding schools from laws against age discrimination?
Thank you.
(p.s. I do not believe that equal experience is an adequate substitute for equal opportunity!)

Cheryl, I want my grandchildren to come to your school and I'd love to help create it. Giving students an "appropriate education" based on their needs is where I hope American education is heading but the pace is sooooo slow.

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