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Education Law: Home

Scope of the Field

Education law encompasses a wide variety of topics:

  • tort liability and discipline issues relating to supervision of students’ physical and educational needs by the school district, administrators, teachers, principals, staff, and other students;
  • special education issues relating to appropriate treatment, discipline and individualized education program (IEP) for students with various learning disabilities;
  • first amendment issues relating to the separation of church and state, establishment clause, private schools, their obligations and funding, use of vouchers, free speech, school prayer, school dress codes;
  • fourth amendment issues relating to searches of student lockers and other areas, seizure of evidence found during those searches, criminal activity of students while at school or school functions, weapons and student or outsider violence at school, illegal drug activity; bullying, school safety;
  • discrimination issues, including affirmative action, sexual harassment between teachers and students or peer-to-peer, gender equity, especially relating to sports programs;
  • educational equity, relating to funding adequate and equal education for all students, regardless of the economic condition of the neighborhood and school;
  • educational policy and reform, which concerns the way our government values, funds, and tests students’ education achievement and teacher preparedness, trends to improve the system, and the school choices available to parents and students;
  • individualized school policy relating to many issues which helps direct teacher and administrative procedure and behavior in certain defined situations;
  • intellectual freedom, copyright issues relating to print or online materials, distance learning issues, privacy issues, especially in the digital environment;
  • teacher and staff employment, labor, academic freedom and tenure issues; and
  • higher education issues unique to colleges, universities and graduate schools.

The Nature of an Education Law Collection

The general law library materials, such as the statutes, regulations, court reporters, legal encyclopedias, American Law Reports, non- education law treatises and legal periodicals provide coverage of these education issues within their specific scope and context. This guide, however, does not focus on these general tools, but rather on the specialized tools which exists and deal primarily with education law issues.

Compared to many other areas in a law library collection, and especially considering the broad scope of the field as discussed in the first paragraph, there are surprisingly few materials which focus on education law topics. Although there are a few specialized treatise materials for the attorney interested in education law issues, many of the materials are written for the layperson...the teacher or principal who is trying to figure out what the law is so that he or she can comply with it. West Group offers a few basic titles, and LRP Publishers offers some materials for the practitioner and many for teachers, especially strong in special education law. Matthew Bender offers the only comprehensive treatise in the field. Individual associations publish more materials; the Education Law Association (formerly National Organization on Legal Problems in Education (NOLPE)) produces a variety of useful short works on a variety of practical topics. A few of the practitioner’s titles are loose-leaf and updated, but the lay person’s titles are not usually updated. They are inexpensive, though, and occasionally new editions do appear. There are other miscellaneous publishers which offer coverage of other education issues. The Department of Education produces relatively few documents through the U.S. Federal Depository Program. And, as mentioned below, searching the legal periodicals, both general journals and those focused on specifically on education, is a particularly productive research source since they provide a broad and rich coverage for many issues, and especially for current issues.