In the United States, as well as in any other country, people pay special attention to education and the conditions under which students are able to develop their skills and improve their knowledge. It is hard to create the conditions under which all possible conflicts and misunderstandings could be avoided. Therefore, many American universities and colleges have to address or be involved in court trials, litigations, and personal conflicts. In this assignment, a legal conflict that occurred between one student and the University and resulted in litigation will be discussed to explain how the laws should be applied in practice, how conflicts may be resolved, and what lessons could be used to achieve more positive results in the future.
In one of the American universities, there was a situation when a conflict between one student and one teacher turned out to be a serious legal case the solution of which was possible in litigation only. After a terrible car accident, one of the students became blind. The University under consideration declared itself as an educational institution that provided all students with the knowledge and equal opportunities. After surgery and a short recovery period, the student made a decision to return to the university and finish his education (it was the last year). In almost all classes, teachers understood the situation and tried to create all appropriate conditions for that student’s learning process. One conflict occurred between the student and the teacher when the teacher refused to assist a student with a task using the phrase “equal conditions for all students” and explaining that there was no appropriate equipment to explain the topic to blind students. As a result, the student got C- and decided to address an educational leader about the conditions that could and could not be offered within this University.
The educational leader of the University tried to discuss this situation with the teacher and the student separately not to make this case available to the court and find an effective and quick solution. However, the teacher refused to search for some options, and the student was offended by the teacher.
On the one hand, there are several laws that can be used to support the position of the student. According to the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), the provision of special education services for all qualified students with disabilities was approved (Russo, 2010). The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is another law according to which all educational institutions have to make all important accommodations to ensure that students with disabilities may access all facilities and programs (Dunkee & Shoop, 2006). Such unpredictable disability of the student made many teachers and students re-evaluate their methods of communication and expectations because of the blindness. According to Balch, Memory, and Hofmesiter (2008), the law makes teachers perform with “reasonable prudence” (p. 7). In case teachers’ actions are below the standard of care, there is a threat of unpredictable injuries, dissatisfaction, and results. Therefore, it is expected of teachers to assume their liabilities and ensure the safety of students and the quality of knowledge.
On the other hand, the teacher who had to spend personal time with no additional payment relied on the Fair Labor Standards Act. According to this Act, the employees in the field of education have a right to overtime pay in case they have to work more than is required by the already established standards (Russo, 2010). Both parties of the conflict had certain rights to advocate, as well as enough reasons for proving their positions and the importance of human rights.
The resolution of this case was definite: the student was provided with a certain sum of money as a kind of compensation offered by the University. This compensation was explained as the inability of the University to have all necessary equipment in the classroom for students with disabilities. There was no fault of the teacher who refused to assist the student in this situation as well. However, the administrative workers of the University were upset with the teacher’s behavior and the inability to find consensus with the student without the court trial. From a legal point of view, the student, as the plaintiff in the case, won and received money with a possibility to continue the education in the same group under the same conditions offered to other students. Technical and administrative aspects of the University had to be investigated in a short period of time to make sure that the University had enough sources and appropriate conditions for educating blind students.
After an interview with an educational leader (see Appendix), several conclusions could be made, as well as several important lessons have to be remembered. First of all, any university or other educational organization has to be ready for different, unpredictable situations, injuries, losses, and challenges. Being qualified and so close to graduation student, this person faced a serious challenge. Though it is a personal and health problem of a student, it is also a problem of the University and the necessity to think about the conditions under which this student may be graduated from this University. Instead of considering some personal and human factors of the situation, the parties made a decision to use the law in order to support their positions. As a result, the University was blamed, and its reputation underwent certain critiques and discussions. In other words, one personal problem turned into a serious administrative violation. The main lessons to be remembered are as follows:
- The intersection between the law and education may have different forms and, and people have to be careful with their decisions and statements in legal conflicts;
- Sometimes, the discussion of one personal problem in the facility may help to avoid numerous problems and organizational challenges in the future;
- Any educational facility is a group of people with their own demands, expectations, and styles of work, and it is wrong to believe that all employees are eager to work under the same conditions and follow the same rules or requests.
School life may be a challenge for one person and a real pleasure for another person (Raskin, 2008). It is impossible to predict all possible organizational problems and personal success. Educational leaders should understand the importance of such tasks, their decisions, and the outcomes of their work on other people. In this situation, an educational leader made one single mistake – did not communicate with all teachers about the situation with the student who had a vision disability. It was possible to avoid this problem in case all teachers were informed about the necessity to work with one student in a special way. Those teachers who refused to work under such conditions had to be provided with other options, and some alternatives had to be developed.
Balch, B.V., Memory, D.M., & Hofmesiter, D.R. (2008). Teachers and the law: Application essentials, general considerations, and specific examples. The Clearing House, 82(1), 5-9.
Dunklee, D.R., & Shoop, R.J. (2006). The principal’s quick-reference guide to school law: Reducing liability, litigation, and other potential legal tangles. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Raskin, J.B. (2008). We the Students: Supreme court cases for and about students. Washington, DC: CQ Press.
Russo, C.J. (2010). Encyclopedia of law and high education. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.