Syllabus for EDL-550



A large and growing body of case law relating to public schools continues to impact schools and educational practice. Educational leaders must know how the legal process deals with controversial issues, especially those related to schooling, that play a central role in our culture. Issues of equity, gender discrimination, providing for disabled students (IDEA), Title I and Title IX regulations, racial and ethnic discrimination, sexual harassment, First Amendment rights pertaining to freedom of expression and freedom of speech in student publications, objectionable instructional materials, religion in the schools, and Fourth Amendment rights pertaining to searches and seizures of student property will be addressed. Students focus on these and other problem areas that frequently result in litigation involving school districts, principals, and other educators as named parties. Students critically assess the impact of federal and state constitutions, statutes, and regulations on the operation of schools. They explore interactions among national, state, and local regulations and examine the impact of federal law and New Jersey state cases on the rights of students, parents, and public school employees. Of special importance, students learn about procedural due process considerations and the constitutional rights of personnel and students balanced against the duties of the school (ISLLC 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6; NJDOE 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).


On successful completion of the course, you should be able to:

  1. Discuss the legal framework of education and its historical development.
  2. Explain the legal role of federal and state government in setting educational policy and operating the schools.
  3. Differentiate the role of church and state in the overview and operations of public and private education.
  4. Measure the impact of laws and court decisions on curriculum and instruction in the schools.
  5. Apply the concepts of laws and court decisions to student behavior and activity relative to their individual rights in speech and expression as well as the right to privacy.
  6. Employ laws and court decisions to support the appropriate positions of a school district in the areas of student discipline, due process, and protecting children.
  7. Examine the employment conditions of teachers and other school personnel with specific interest in certification, contracts, tenure, termination, and personal rights.
  8. Analyze the rights of teachers and other school personnel in order to ensure that any disciplinary action taken against them is fair and legal.
  9. Examine the potential problem associated with issues of liability for school staff individually and the school district in general when accused of neglect or malpractice.
  10. Evaluate local school district policies and procedures in their ability to address equity and diversity in education.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbook is available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbook

  • Alexander, K., and Alexander M. D. (2012). American public school law (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

ISBN-13: 978-0495910497

Electronic Portfolio Registration

As a capstone experience in the Educational Leadership program, you will prepare an electronic portfolio that demonstrates your incremental achievement of the program standards. Each course in the program helps you to identify artifacts to place in your portfolio on completion of the course. To this end, you are required to purchase an electronic portfolio registration code upon your entry into the Master of Arts in Educational Leadership program. Basic directions for purchasing access to and using your electronic portfolio are posted within the Educational Leadership Students Organization (online community).


School Law is a three-credit online course, consisting of eleven modules. Modules include topics, learning objectives, a study assignment, an online discussion, and a writing assignment. You are also required to complete two court case reports and to submit a final paper or project. Module titles and topics are listed below.


Public school law


Power and function of courts


American court system


History of public schools and American democracy


U.S. Constitution and education


Role of federal government


Individual rights in education


New Jersey Constitution


Governmental functions in education


Role of local boards of education


Wall of separation


History of religious involvement in education


Public schools and religion


Church and state separation




Equal Access Act


Attendance in public schools


"Marketplace of ideas"


First Amendment issues


Curriculum issues


Student testing


Grading and academic concerns


No Child Left Behind


Freedom of speech and expression


Student appearance


Student publications


Search and seizure


Internet and free speech


Common law and the student


Due process for students


Disciplinary actions


Sexual harassment


Child abuse


Teacher certification


Contracts for staff


Teacher contracts




Rights of school staff


Speech issues


Right to privacy


Four aspects of due process


Due process for staff


Constitutional protection


Civil rights legislation and agencies






History of neglect






Rights to public education






Definition of tort


Intentional interference


Student liability






Education malpractice


History of desegregation


Separate but equal


Brown v. Board of Education






Equity in schools


Diversity in schools


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete writing assignments, and complete a final paper or project. See below for more details.

Consult the Course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Discussion Forums

Each module in the course has an online class discussion forum.

Online discussions provide an opportunity for you to interact with your classmates. During this aspect of the course, you respond to prompts that assist you in developing your ideas, you share those ideas with your classmates, and you comment on their posts. Discussion forum interactions promote development of a community of learners, critical thinking, and exploratory learning.

Please participate in online discussions as you would in constructive face-to-face discussions. You are expected to post well-reasoned and thoughtful reflections for each item, making reference, as appropriate, to your readings. You are also expected to reply to your classmates' posts in a respectful, professional, and courteous manner. You may, of course, post questions asking for clarification or further elucidation on a topic.

evaluation rubric.

Writing Assignments

Each module in the course concludes with a short writing assignment of about 500 words. The writing assignments require you to write well-reasoned and thoughtful papers on questions derived from the module objectives, making reference, as appropriate, to the readings and other sources of information. You are required to follow current APA style guidelines in formatting your work and for all references.

evaluation rubric.

Court Case Reports

During the semester, you will write two analyses of important court cases. One report should be based on a case covered in Modules 1–5; the second report should be based on a case covered in Modules 6–11.

In these reports you are expected to cite the case correctly and completely, identify the topic and issue(s) addressed, present the facts of the case, summarize the findings (of both the trial court and appellate court, if any), explain the reasoning behind the court's decision, and assess the implication of the decision for administrators. In preparing your report, please use the template provided (click link for a rich-text version, then File > Download) and the course text as the source for the court cases. Included here as well is a list of cases and page locations in the text from which you can select the two cases.

evaluation rubric.

Final Paper or Project

The final paper or project constitutes another principal artifact for your portfolio and counts 25% toward your grade. Choose one of the following options:

  1. Paper option—The paper option takes the form of a traditional research paper on the subject of school law. In such a paper, you should follow accepted research approaches, citations (APA), and discussion processes. The product would be a well-organized report of 10–12 pages (2500–3000 words).

evaluation rubric.

  1. Project option—An alternative to the research paper would be a practical project, for example, the development of guidelines for student publications. Involved in this process would be an overall description of your role, an example of the work you developed or wrote, and other artifacts of your participation.

evaluation rubric.

Please note that by Module 7 you should have come to an agreement with your mentor about the topic of your paper or the subject of the project. You are required to follow current APA style guidelines in formatting and organizing your paper and for any citations.

Portfolio Artifacts and Reflective Narrative

The principal artifacts for this course are the two court case reports and your final paper or project. Accompanying the artifact is a reflective narrative that describes the process and how the artifact meets specific standards and prepares you for school leadership.

Upload your artifact to your electronic portfolio, and be certain to indicate its alignment to the applicable ISLLC standards.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:


















Below 73

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or higher on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., assignments, discussion postings, projects, etc.). Graduate students must maintain a B average overall to remain in good academic standing.


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > “Citing Sources.”)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance and originality report checking, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Originality Report Checking at Turnitin

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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