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Educators get schooled on legal issues


Launched in June 2008, the Penn State Law and Education Institute is a collaboration between Penn State’s College of Education and Dickinson School of Law designed to educate teachers, counselors, administrators, and attorneys about various legal issues as they relate to education.

According to program coordinator Professor Preston Green, the one-week Institute is popular because it provides a unique opportunity for school administrators and attorneys to come together to learn about educational law. Approximately seventy participants have attended each of the two prior programs, held during the month of June in University Park, Pennsylvania.

"Educators benefit from the Institute because it provides them with a better understanding of legal issues surrounding education, allowing them to feel more confident in their actions," Green explains.

Attorneys also benefit from the Institute. “Many attorneys have a difficult time keeping up with all of the changes in the law because of the demands of their day-to-day practices,” says Green. “The Institute provides attorneys with a way to learn this information in an entertaining fashion.”

Topics have included student rights, speech and religion, school district liability, technology, and special education. Distinguished presenters have included Thomas Hutton, senior staff attorney for the National School Boards Association; David Andrews, an attorney whose law firm represents more than 100 Pennsylvania school districts, Kevin McKenna, general counsel for the Pennsylvania Coalition of Charter Schools; Julie Mead, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin–Madison whose research focuses on the legal issues surrounding students with special needs and school choice initiatives; and Preston Green, a professor of education and law at Penn State, who writes extensively on educational access issues.

The Institute is structured so that participants can select a three-credit class in education leadership (to earn Act 45 credits) or a shorter schedule to earn Continuing Legal Education credits, Act 48 credits, or fewer credits pursuant to Act 45.

This year’s Institute will take place from June 20-26 at the Lewis Katz Building and will include a concentration specifically geared toward non-administrators, such as teachers, counselors, and paraprofessionals.

“Eighty-five percent of teachers have no exposure to educational law in their preparation programs,” explains Green. “The legal training provided by the Institute will empower them by teaching them about their rights and helping them to protect the rights of students.”
 

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