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Landmark Cases That Changed Education

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Table of Contents
Spanierman v. Hughes …………………………………………………………………………………………….

New Jersey v. T.L.O. ……………………………………………………………………………………………….

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier ………………………………………………………………..

Christensen v. Royal School District No. 160 …………………………………………………………..

References and Works Cited ………………………………………………………………………………..

Spanierman v. Hughes, 576 F. Supp. 2d. 292. (D. Conn. 2008)

Jeffrey Spanierman, a teacher at Emmett O’Brien High School in Ansonia, Connecticut, created a MySpace page for the purpose of communicating with his students regarding homework, learn more about the student’s personal interest and to conduct casual, non-school related discussions. (Neuberger, 2008) A colleague visited the page and was concerned with some of the content---pictures of nude men captioned with inappropriate comments and personal conversations between Mr. Spanierman and the students. The colleague spoke to Spanierman and convinced him to remove the page arguing that it was disruptive to students. Spanierman complied, but went on to create a new profile page with similar content. The colleague learned of the new page and immediately reported her findings to the school administration. The administration went on to place Spanierman on administrative leave and ultimately declined his teaching contract for the upcoming school term. (Neuberger, 2008) In the case of Spanierman v. Hughes, 576 F. Supp. 2d, 292, the Plantiff, Jeffrey Spanierman was hired on January 2, 2003 as an English teacher at Emmett O’Brien High School, a school within the Connecticut Technical High School System, in Ansonia, Connecticut. In regards to the case: (1) Abagail Hughes was the Superintendent of the Connecticut Technical High School System; (2) Anne Druzolowski was the Assistant Superintendent and (3) Lisa Hylwa was principal of Emmett O’Brien High School. The Plaintiff was a member of the union that had a collective bargaining agreement which included tenure for teachers completing four years of full time service. (Casetext, 2008) The Plaintiff used MySpace.com, a website that allows its users to create an online community to network with acquaintances, meet new people, share photographs, journals and interest. People with MySpace accounts can create a “profile” and invite others to be their friends, block profiles from public view, and allow users to posts comments regarding the profile content. (Casetext, 2008) The Plantiff created his own MySpace account along with several different profiles including one called “Mr. Spiderman” which was active from the summer of 2005 to the fall of 2005. The Plantiff testified that his account was solely for the purpose of communicating with students about homework, learn more about his students outside of school, strengthen relationships with students and provide a platform for casual, non-school related discussions. (Casetext, 2008) Elizabeth Michaud was a guidance counselor at Emmett O’Brien High School. In the fall of 2005, Michaud spoke with Francesca Ford, a teacher at Emmett O’Brien, who informed the counselor of Spanierman’s MySpace profile. Michaud also stated she’d received student complaints about the page and viewed the page following her conversation with Ford. Michaud testified she was disturbed by the contents of the “Mr. Spiderman” profile page which included younger pictures of Spanierman, pictures of naked men captioned with inappropriate comments from both the students and Spanierman, and peer-to peer like conversations ranging from weekend activities to personal problems. Michaud deemed the page disruptive to students. (Casetext, 2008) After viewing the “Mr. Spiderman” profile, Michaud spoke with Spanierman regarding the page and advised him to utilize the school email system to communicate with students and limit his communication to education only. Mr. Spanierman deactivated the “Mr. Spiderman” profile and created a new profile “Apollo68” on October 14, 2005. (Casetext, 2008) Ford discovered the new profile page and informed Michaud, who alleged that she’d received student complaints on the “Apollo68” profile. Michaud and Ford viewed the “Apollo68” profile separately and both concluded that it was nearly identical to the “Mr. Spiderman” profile. (Casetext, 2008) Michaud reported the profile to her supervisor, Debbie Anderson, the Director of Guidance. Michaud then reported the situation to Hylwa. In November 2005, Hylwa met with Spanierman and explained that an investigation would take place and that he would be placed on administrative leave with pay. The plaintiff deactivated the “Apollo68” once he was placed on leave. (Casetext, 2008) Rita Ferraiolo, an Education Labor Relations Specialist with the Connecticut Department of Education was assigned to investigate Spanierman’s MySpace profiles. During the investigation, Ferraiolo matched several of the “friends” from the profiles with students from Emmett O’Brien High School students. She also obtained comments from the page made by the Spanierman and others and the profiles’ blog entries. (Casetext, 2008) On January 13, 2006, Ferriaolo met with the Plaintiff, his union representative and Hylwa to discuss the investigation findings. Spanierman was given the opportunity to explain the profiles and their content. On March 30, 2006, Hylwa sent a letter to Spanierman saying that he “exercised poor judgement” and Druzolowski sent correspondence that same day informing Spanierman that he had been non-renewed for the 2006-07 school term. Spanierman requested a hearing. On April 26, 2006, Spanierman and his attorney met with Hughes and Ferraiolo, and presented evidence at the hearing. The decision to non-renew stood and the Spanierman received pay and benefits until the end of summer 2006, when his contract expired. (Casetext, 2008) Spanierman took the decision to court alleging that his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights under the United States Constitution had been violated. The Court ruled in favor of the Defendants on all claims. The Court ruled that due process had not been violated and that Spanierman’s freedom of speech guaranteed under the Constitution was not protected on MySpace. The following is the ruling written by Dominic J. Squatrito, U.S. District Judge: “With regard to the Plaintiff’s procedural and due process claims, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgement is GRANTED; with regard to Plaintiff’s class-of-one equal protection claim, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgement is GRANTED; with regard to Plaintiff’s LeClair Selective prosecution claim, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment is GRANTED; with regard to Plaintiff’s First Amendment Freedom of Speech claim, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgement is granted and with regard to the Plaintiff’s First Amendment Freedom of Association claim, the Defendants’ motion for summary judgement is GRANTED.” (Casetext, 2008) As a result of the ruling in the Spanierman v. Hughes case it is understood in the state of Connecticut and other states with teacher unions, that a non-tenured teacher can be non-renewed for any reason. After researching the case, this was a recurring fact. It is much easier for a school to non-renew a non-tenured teacher, because the school does not have to give a reason why the employee was not renewed. This case also sheds light on how the First Amendment rights of teachers are restricted. Free speech was protected as long as it did not interfere with the teacher’s ability to maintain professionalism or did not disrupt the educational environment. The students complaining independently of the school conducted investigation made evident to the court that there was a disruption of the school environment. The teacher argued that he was not the only teacher employed at Emmett O’Brien High School with a MySpace account; however, he was the only teacher that interacted with students via his MySpace account.
Reflecting on the case Spanierman v. Hughes, it is best to not have a relationship with students outside of school via social media or otherwise. If a teacher must have a relationship with the students, they must ascertain that the relationship is professional at all times and not overstep the boundaries of teacher and students. The relationship should be limited to education and school affairs and never should become at all personal. This case was enlightening in that it emphasized that adhering to procedures, timelines, and contracts, etc. are extremely important when you are an employee in a school district.

New Jersey v. T.L.O. , 469 U.S. 325, 105 S. Ct. 733, 83 L. Ed. 2d. 720 (1985)

A fourteen year old freshman, Terry, was caught smoking marijuana in a bathroom at Piscataway High School in New Jersey by a teacher. She was questioned by the administration and was asked to show her purse and its contents to the principal. Cigarettes, rolling paper and a small amount of marijuana were discovered and the student admitted to selling drugs at school. The police were called. The case went to trial and Terry was found guilty of possession of marijuana and placed on probation. Terry appealed her conviction citing that her Fourth Amendment Rights against “unreasonable search and seizures.” (Jacobs, 2008) In the case of New Jersey v. T.L.O., 469 U.S. 325 330 (1985) the facts are as follows: A teacher at Piscataway High School in New Jersey discovered two students smoking in the bathroom, which was in violation of the school rules. The teacher escorted the students to the principal’s office where they met with the Assistant Vice Principal, Mr. Theodore Choplick. The student, T.L.O. denied to have been smoking and Mr. Choplick demanded to see her purse. After searching her purse, he found cigarettes, rolling papers, marijuana, a pipe, plastic bags, large sums of money, an index card with students who owed money and letters implicating T.L.O. in drug dealing. (Casetext, 2015) The Assistant Vice Principal notified the student’s mother and the police and turned over the evidence of drug dealing to the police. The police requested that T.L.O. come to the police station and the mother complied with the request. Once at the station, T.L.O. admitted to selling drugs at the school. Using the evidence retrieved from Mr. Choplick and the student’s confession, the State brought delinquency charges against the student in Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court. T.L.O. contended that the search of her purse violated her Fourth Amendment Rights. The Court concluded that Mr. Choplick’s search was reasonable and did not violate any rights and the student was sentenced to a year’s probation. (Casetext, 2015) The issue presented in this case is whether or not the student’s Fourth Amendment rights had been violated. In the decision, the Court reasoned that the student’s rights were not violated and that school officials act as agents of the state when the search was conducted. School officials maintain a right to search and seize if they suspect a school rule has been violated that may put the faculty, staff and or students in danger. Justice White, who wrote the Court’s decision explained that while school officials are subjected to uphold the rights of the Fourth Amendment, students do not have the same expectations of privacy as private citizens in the general public. The court also reasoned that searches conducted by school officials are justifiable if they are conducted solely to maintain the safety and security of the learning environment. (Casetext, 2015) In T.L.O. v. New Jersey, the student was observed smoking in the bathroom and the administrator’s decision to search her purse was reasonable. After discovering rolling papers, the administrator suspected that the student may have been concealing marijuana and this justified a more thorough search. (Casetext, 2015) Justice Powell had concurring opinions in regards to the ruling, citing that the student-teacher relationship offers the student a decreased level of privacy to maintain an environment conducive to learning. Justice Blackman agreed that the search was necessary to maintain an orderly school environment. Justice Brennan agreed that school officials must follow the Fourth Amendment, but reasoned that probable cause is necessary when conducting searches. Justice Stevens also supported the Court’s decision, citing that administrators and teachers are required to maintain the safety of all students. (Casetext, 2015) After researching the case, it is evident that school officials are obligated to upholding the Constitution. Although students maintain certain rights, some of those rights are relinquished to maintain the safety of the school and school environment. Unlike law enforcement, school administrators do not need warrants to conduct searches. School officials only need reasonable suspicion to conduct searches. While many students and parents may feel that they have certain rights within the school, the safety of the school and school environment takes precedence over those rights. I believe the teacher and principal acted lawfully. The student was not subjected to any type of cruel and unusual punishment and the parents of the students were informed of everything that took place. The student was handled professionally and lawfully and was only subjected to search after being observed violating school rules.

Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier ,484 U.S. 260, 108 S. Ct. 562, 98 Ed. 2d. 592, 1988 U.S. Robert Eugene Reynolds, principal of Hazelwood East High School; and Howard Emerson, a teacher in the district were accused by three former Hazelwood East students who served as members of the Spectrum, school newspaper. The students accused school officials of violating their Amendment rights by completely deleting articles that were published in the Spectrum. (Casetext, 2015) The Spectrum was a product of the Journalism II class at Hazelwood East and over 4,000 copies were regularly distributed throughout the school and community annually. (Casetext, 2015) The Board of Education allocated funds for publishing and distributing the paper. The costs were also offset by the revenue generate from the sales of the newspaper. (Casetext, 2015) The original advisor for the paper was Robert Stergos, but Stergos was later replaced by Emerson after taking a job in private industry. The established and common practice was for the advisor to submit articles to Principal Reynolds prior to printing for approval. Mr. Emerson followed this practice and submitted the articles to Mr. Reynolds three days before going to print. Mr. Reynolds objected to two articles: one describing students’ personal experiences with pregnancy and another on a student’s experiences with divorce. (Casetext, 2015) Mr. Reynolds was concerned that the students could be identified and that the references to sexual activity and birth control were inappropriate for some of the students at the school. Because the articles were not approved in enough time to meet the printing deadline there were two options: delete the articles from the paper and print a four page paper instead of six or not to publish the paper at all. Mr. Reynolds chose the former. (Casetext, 2015) Upon learning of Mr. Reynold’s decision, the students argued that their First Amendment rights had been violated. The facts of the case had to be examined. The journalism class was charged with publishing the school newspaper. The school and community at large were avid supporters of the newspaper, which was evident in the 4,500 copies sold. The principal regularly reviewed the contents of the paper prior to printing and on this occasion exercised his authority in deleting two articles from the paper---one describing teen pregnancy and another describing the impact of divorce. The students’ parents did not consent to the articles. (Casetext, 2015) Justice White delivered the opinion of the Court. The court held that the administration maintains the authority to censor the content of student publications. The Court also dissented that the effort to maintain the school’s educational image was not a legitimate reason to censor the student publication. The publication did not cause any dysfunction within the school and did not disrupt the daily routine of the school day in any way. (Casetext, 2015) This case established a standard in limiting the freedom of expression in secondary schools. The Court concluded that school administrators can sensor student-sponsored expression if it interferes with discipline, students’ rights, academic propriety, generates health or welfare concerns, or if the publication is deemed obscene or vulgar. Although this case pertained to censorship of a student publication the ruling included any student produced product---theater productions, public speeches, publications, etc. The Court also reasoned that the school has no authority if the product is personally produced or if it is a non-school sponsored production. However, the school may exercise authority on personal or non-school sponsored productions if those productions interfere with discipline or the rights of others. The school is obligated to protecting its personal image while maintaining the educational activities of its students. While the school is obligated to educate and protect its students, the school is not required to promote or welcome student expressions simply because it is a school sponsored production. The school is also allowed to consider emotional maturity of the audience when electing to censor certain speech. (CaseText, 2015) Reflecting on this case, I agree that administrators should be allowed to censor student publications. Priority one for an administrator is to maintain a safe environment that is conducive to teaching and learning. Also, the administrator must work hard to make sure that student’s rights are protected at all times. No student should feel singled out because of personal experiences, which is what Mr. Reynolds attempted to do by removing the identifying articles. While I do agree that administrators reserve the right to censor student productions, the school should simultaneously encourage free thinking, by discussing their decisions openly with the student. Both parties should be granted the opportunity to present their opinions before a decision is made. Albeit this is probably time consuming, the administration will gain a deeper understanding of the desires and needs of the students and the students will better understand that the administration’s actions to censor certain things is simply to protect the welfare of every student enrolled at the school.

Hansen v. Board of Trustees ,551 F.3d 599 (7th Cir. 2008) Dimitri Alano a teacher and assistant band director at Hamilton Southeastern School engaged in a sexual relationship with a student. The parents of the students filed a lawsuit against Alano and the school district. The Court ruled in favor of the school district. Hamilton Southeast School Corporation serves K-12 throughout central Indiana. Hamilton Southeast School Corporation has an established application process for hiring new teachers: an application packet must be submitted along with a resume, references and transcripts. All documents are verified through the central office and a background check and sex offender check are completed as well. Applications of candidates that are qualified and pass screenings are entered into a pool of candidates and an interview is granted. The principal conducts the initial interview and recommends the candidate for employment by recommending the candidate to Assistant Superintendent, Dr. Richard Hogue, who conducts the final interview. The assistant superintendent makes a recommendation to the School Board who makes the final hiring decision. (Casetext, 2015) Hamilton Southeast School Cooperation provides training on hiring policies, procedures, sexual harassment and other pertinent information. After completing the screening and hiring process, Dimitri Alano was hired as a teacher and an assistant band director at Hamilton Southeast High School. After being hired, Alano began a sexual relationship with a student, C.H., shortly after. The relationship began as “sexual talk” and quickly became a “physical relationship” with encounters occurring in the band room, music practice room and band offices. Alano provided C.H. with passing grades in exchange for sex. In 2002, C.H. quit the band and had no further contact with Alano. (Casetext, 2015) After being hospitalized for substance abuse, C.H. revealed the relationship to her therapist and local law enforcement conducted an investigation. The investigation revealed that Alana engaged in a sexual relationship with the student and the school suspended Alano. The investigation revealed that there indeed was a sexual relationship between Alano and C.H. and relationships with other students previously, one of which he later married. Alano chose to plead guilty to sexual battery and resigned shortly after. (Casetext, 2015) The court sided with the Hamilton Southeast School Cooperation. Circuit Court Judge Kanne delivered the decision of the court. Although the Hansens, the daughter of the Plaintiffs, sued the school, there were unsuccessful in getting the courts to side with them. The court ruled that the school was not liable for the conduct of the teacher because the teacher had been subjected to the same rigorous hiring process as the other faculty and staff employed within the school. The parents failed to prove that the hiring process to was negligent or deficient in any way. Although the investigation determined that there were two prior relationships, the Court deemed that this reason alone was not negligence on the part of the school, because there was no supporting evidence of misconduct prior to Alano being hired. (Casetext, 2015) Unfortunately, student-teacher sexual relationships have become a growing problem. As a result of this case and others like it, there have been several changes that have taken place within American schools. School officials must work hard to implement and prevent such behavior in their school district. School districts must ascertain that their employees understand that inappropriate relationships with students will not be tolerated and any employee who chooses to engage in such a relationship will be dismissed. If the school district is aware of any inappropriate relationships, local law enforcement must be notified as soon as possible. School districts must be certain to subject all employees to criminal background checks and make sure that curricular and extracurricular activities are properly supervised. Finally school districts must be proactive in providing professional development in student relationships to prevent inappropriate relationships from happening. Reflecting on this case, has caused concern for me. Teachers are expected to have a higher moral standard in comparison to other professionals. Teachers are expected to have student welfare and education as a top priority. Parents don’t expect these type of instances to happen. As a result of increasing instances like this, many states including Mississippi have adopted a Code of Ethics (or similar document) to ascertain that teachers have guidelines in place to regulate their professional and in some cases private behavior. It is imperative that teachers understand what is expected and accepted.

Works Cited and References
1. Jacobs, T. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20080915monday.html
2. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://www.infoplease.com/us/supreme-court/cases/ar24.html
3. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2015, from http://casetext.com/case/newjerseyvtlo.
4. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://casetext.com/case/spanierman-v-hughes
5. Neuberger, J. (n.d.). MediaShift. Retrieved April 19, 2015, from http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2008/10/teacher-fired-for-inappropriate-behavior-on-myspace-page289/

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