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General Course Information:
CCDE 101.01 Understanding School Law
Instructor Information:

Michael Long

Mike Long Welcome:

Welcome to Understanding School Law Online. Many talented people at the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents and at the University of Massachusetts Boston have been working hard to prepare this course in an effort to support and extend the face-to-face workshops that are currently offered.  A word of caution, this format is new to all of us so please show some patience as we embark on this journey together.

Course Description:

The goal of this course is to provide the student with a sufficient knowledge of school law to recognize, evaluate, and assess events occurring in schools or districts, considering the legal duties and responsibilities individuals involved, for purposes of meeting those legal duties and determining district action or policy.


Course Objectives:

1) Understanding of the legal structure and authority of school districts vis-a-vis the state, students (including students’ rights and discipline) staff, the public, and other government bodies e.g. legislature, courts, local elected and appointed officials:

2) Familiarity with personnel issues, including constitutional concepts involving due process and equal protection, “just cause”, employee discipline, anti discrimination laws and personnel contracts;

3) Laws regulating the operation and function of public meetings, public contracts, student and personnel records, and the concepts of school district and educator liability under common and statutory law.

Method of Instruction:

The course will introduce objectives by topic, primarily utilizing the case method through Internet access to law libraries and materials, including materials from public agencies available over the web, and material prepared by the instructor. 


After complition of reading assignments and case studies students will be given the opportunity to apply the material to existing legal issues occuring within districts through threaded discussions that will be addressed by the instructor.

Method of Evaluation:

Participants taking Superintendent Academy courses for PDP points or graduate credits should inform the instructor prior to the start of the course of their intentions. They will then be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Completion of assigned readings in a timely fashion in essential to meaningful participation and in completion satisfactory of the course. 
  • Assessment of each student’s performance in relation to objectives will be ongoing, based on the quality of analysis provided during threaded discussions
  • and by written work reflecting the student’s recognition of legal issues requiring consideration prior to district action. 
Outline: To see course discussion questions click here.
Session 1. School Committee/Board Duties and Responsibilities
1. Policy
2. Personnel

a. General Authority
b. Specific Authority
3. Superintendents Role
Recommendation/Implementation of Policy/Academic Leadership

a. Courses of Study
b. Text books
c. Methods
Budget Responsibilities
a. Management
b. Reporting
c. Accountability
a. Discpline-Supervision &  

a. Credentials
b. Hiring Practices
c. Hire/Fire
d. Suspension & Discharge
e. Contractual Issues Just Cause/Good Cause
f.  Layoffs/RIF

Non-Discrimination Termination/Discipline Issues
a. Management Rights
b. Collective Bargaining;

Staff Civil Rights
a. Speech
b. Union Activity
c. Political Activity
d. Privacy Issues (orientation, search seizure)
a. Staff Role in Selecting Curriculum
b. Performance Evaluation
1. Goods
2. Review Observation Process
3. Staff Feedback
4. Recommendations
Academic Freedom
a. Content
b. Grading System

A. Attendance/Opportunity
1. Residency
2. Age
3. Assignment to School
a. Equality of Opportunity Funding

B. Discipline
1. Due Process
2. Handbooks
3. Statutory Grounds

C. Academic Responsibilities
1. Integrity of Work
2. Promotion
3. Graduation

Session IV. First Ammendment and Civil Rights
Civil Rights

a. Religious
b. Dress
c. Student Press
d. Political Speech
e. Internet Search and Seizure

Session V. Collective Bargaining and Negotiation

Terms and Conditions of Employment
Rules for Contract Interpretation
Past Practice
Unilateral Change

Session VI. General Issues and Running a Business
Tort Liability
a. History of Immunity
b. Statutory Liability
1. Indemnification
2. Scope of Employment
3. Discretionary Functions
4. Exclusions from Indemnification
5. Intentional Acts
Insurance Issues
a. Covered Entities
b. Covered Individuals
c. Covered Events/Losses