Our society has become increasingly litigious, and nowhere is that more apparent than in the schools. Teachers today must be aware of the legal foundations and implications of their day-to-day routines.
Dr. Mavis Brown, associate professor of education, was looking for a way to help students in her Foundations of Education courses learn more about legal issues they would face as teachers.
She found her answer at the University's School of Law. Adrienne Volenik, director of the school's Disability Law Clinic, had a group of students ready to research education issues that reached beyond their primary focus of representing children with disabilities in disputes with school systems.
The two faculty members decided to work together on a project that would inform the education students and give the law students more experience in research and public speaking.
Last year, they brought their students together for the first time to discuss legal questions and scenarios the education students had developed and decided to focus on a wide variety of issues. Last fall, they agreed to narrow the focus and decided to look at two topics: freedom of speech and discipline.
"The students had questions about dress codes, use of the Internet, zero tolerance and other issues," Brown said.
After learning the education students' questions on visits to their class, the law students researched the topics and prepared presentations. Twice during the semester, the education students visited the law school outside of their regular class meeting time and listened to the results of the law students' work.
"The presentations brought up issues and situations that would apply to us in the real world that we can look out for and know how to respond to," said Veronica Seguin, '10, an education student.
Volenik says the collaboration helped her students as well. "It encouraged them to learn more about issues that could impact their clients, making them more likely to spot relevant issues when they are interviewing potential clients."