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Preventing Harm and Educational Malpractice

March 3, 2013 by Tunya

Parents have an inbuilt biological instinct to protect their children from harm. When foreseeable physical harm presents itself, it is rather easy to step in — quickly.

But when the harm may be psychological or academic or some other hidden type it is not easy to foresee ahead of time. Nor is it easy to intervene.

It is in the education realm that parents need to develop more sophistication and alertness. Harms happen from acts of commission (things done) and from acts of omission (things left undone).

It’s the things left undone in the education of children that is very troubling. Failure to teach fundamental skills of learning is one serious concern of parents whose children are not achieving according to expectations. Failure to diagnose learning problems that could be remedied is another concern.

Legal actions are sometimes the last resort of parents who feel a child has been neglected by the school system. The high expectation of parents and taxpaying public alike is that these systems of public schooling have been set up with clearly understood expectations — education of the young in life skills to help prepare them for functional lives.

When response to presenting educational needs are ignored or inappropriate a legal action may be used to seek remedy. These efforts have been largely unsuccessful because “the system” has been able to argue that some remedies are costly and would inflict financial burdens and would open the “floodgates” of litigation.

The first such notorious case was the “Peter Doe” effort (1976) in San Fransisco. These were some of the claims:

– general negligence to provide adequate instruction, guidance, supervision in basic academic skills

– misrepresentation – falsely representing to Doe’s parents that he was performing at or near grade level

– breach of statutory duty – not keeping parents accurately informed of educational progress

– breach of statutory duty – revision of curriculum to meet the needs of individual pupils

– breach of statutory duty – no pupil should receive a diploma of graduation without meeting minimum standards of proficiency in basic academic skills

The $1million claim for damages and compensation was denied after many years before the courts.

Ever since, parents’ rights advocates have been waiting for better results.

More later about the successful Moore case (2012), the Matthew Effect in learning, bullying prevention mandates, and other legal overtures to move public education systems to greater responsiveness to demonstrated needs.

Fiat justitia, ruat coelom. Let justice be done, though the heavens fall.

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