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4 Laws Teachers Should Know

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Happy National Teacher's Day!

Thank you teachers for teaching us our ABC's and 123's. Thank you for all the sleepless nights because we couldn't finish our homework before bedtime.

In appreciation of National Teacher's Day, here are four laws every teacher should know:

1. Student Loans

"I'm doing it for the money," said no teacher, ever. Teachers don't get paid very much, so it can be hard to pay off student loans. Well teachers, you're in luck. There are several loan forgiveness programs to lend you a helping hand with your student loans.

The Teacher Loan Forgiveness program forgives up to $17,500 of Direct Subsidized and Unsubsidized Loans and Subsidized and Unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loans. To be eligible, you must teach full-time for five years in elementary or secondary schools that serve low income families.

The Federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will forgive your loans after you made 10 years worth of student loan payments while working in public service.

The Federal Perkins loan cancellation program will forgive up to 100 percent of your Federal Perkins loans as long as you teach in a school that services low-income families or special needs students, or where there is a shortage of teachers.

2. Teacher Tenure laws

Teacher tenure laws are on the defensive. Last year, a California judge ruled, in Vergara v. California, that California's teacher tenure laws are unconstitutional. The plaintiffs claimed that the tenure laws protected incompetent teachers, adversely affecting the quality of their education. The Judge ruled that the laws violated the students' rights to equality in education under the California Constitution. This case is currently on appeal.

Following the Vergara ruling, a group of parents and advocates filed a similar suit in New York challenging tenure laws there as well. If the Vergara ruling is upheld on appeal, we can expect to see many more similar suits in other states.

3. Students and Facebook

Teachers: Students are not your friends, at least not on Facebook. In New York City, Missouri, and at least 40 school districts nationwide, teachers are not allowed to friend students on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

You can still use social media in your personal life, you just can't do it with your students.

4. Beware of Gifts

In the good old days, students would give their teachers an apple as a gift (why an apple?). Today, gifts are not so simple anymore, and accepting them may be against the law.

In Massachusetts, teachers, and other public employees, cannot accept gifts worth more than $50. A teacher can receive a gift worth less than $50. However, the teacher must report the gift if a reasonable person would think the teacher may favor the giver because of the gift. For example, a student gives you a $40 bottle of wine so that you would write him a favorable letter of recommendation. You can accept the gift, but you must also disclose the gift in writing to a superior.

Happy Teacher's Day from all your former students who are now lawyers. Please don't throw that eraser ...

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