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World Teachers' Day: Teachers' Rights in Public Schools

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

October 5 is World Teachers' Day, and we're celebrating our favorite educators by taking a look at the rights of teachers in public schools.

From discrimination and academic freedom to union membership and collective bargaining, teachers occupy a unique place, both professionally and legally.

Teachers' Civil Rights

Just like any other profession, teachers are free from discrimination based on race, sex, and national origin. Teachers also enjoy similar freedom of association, freedom of religion, and privacy rights. Although, they may be restricted somewhat in the school environment. For example, while a teacher is permitted to practice Christianity in his or her personal life, the teacher may not preach Christianity in a publicly-funded school.

Teachers also enjoy a limited amount of academic freedom in the classroom. While the First Amendment generally protects a teacher's right to teach without undue restrictions on the subjects of classroom discussion, the content must be educational in nature and a teacher can't promote a personal or political agenda in the classroom.

Teachers' Labor Rights

Although state and local can vary, most teachers are free to join a union. In some states, teachers are free to refuse to join a union, even though they are receiving the benefit of the union's collective bargaining efforts. Teachers' strikes, while rare, do occur, and are legal under the National Labor Relations Act.

One of the rights bargained for by teachers' unions is teacher tenure, whereby teachers cannot be arbitrarily fired without cause. The Supreme Court has ruled that a tenured teacher cannot be fired without first receiving oral or written notice of the dismissal and any charges, an explanation of the evidence, and an opportunity for a fair and impartial hearing.

In celebration of World Teachers' Day, be kind to your teachers and support the rights of all good teachers out there. The laws governing teachers' rights can vary by state. If you've got a question about teachers' rights, you can consult an experienced education attorney where you live.

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