Educators! Lend me your ear…

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September 11, 2012 by williamsjustliving

Let’s set the record straight: Georgia does not have a teacher’s union. I don’t care what they told you. If you didn’t sign a collective bargaining agreement; if you didn’t vote on a collective bargaining agreement, then you are not a member of a union. That fact will elicit various emotions from various people, but it is a fact.

That does not mean, teachers, that you are unprotected. What it does mean is that you are not protected by a collective bargaining agreement. You are the captain of your professional soul, the master of your professional fate.

1. You sign a contract every year. Read the contract. Thoroughly. Ask to see any addenda that are mentioned in the contract.

2. Does your school have a posted panel of physicians? If you get hurt on the job, that fact will be very important. Speaking of getting hurt on the job: just because you are a teacher doesn’t mean that you won’t get hurt on the job. If you do get hurt on the job, you need to let your principal know.

3. Harassment is serious, and it can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. It’s not a laughing matter, and it should not be overlooked. If you feel uncomfortable on the job because of comments, touching, or any other kind of innuendo you need to let your principal know. If you do not feel comfortable reporting harassment to your principal, you should report it to whatever entity your school board has designated for that purpose. Trust me, your school board has designated an entity for that purpose.

4. Harassment is serious, and it can happen to anyone for a variety of reasons. Yes. It needs repeating because this applies to the students in your classes. You can’t let it slide or chalk it up to kids being kids. If you feel that one of your students is being harassed or bullied by other students (or even another educator), you need to deal with the situation. Remedies include (but are not limited to): having a parent-student conference; reporting the situation to a school counselor or administrator; having a talk with the students. Be sure to document the ways in which you have dealt with any situation in which a student is being harassed. If possible, have an administrator, counselor, or colleague sit in on any conferences with you. During a conference, complete a “solution sheet” (you can find examples of these all over the internet) and have all the parties present to sign it.

5. Read it before you sign it. Thoroughly. Anything. Everything. Including that IEP, BIP, FBA, or Section 504 agreement.

6. Speaking of IEPs, BIPs, FBAs, and Section 504 agreements: once you sign it, you are required to implement the applicable strategies in your classroom for that child. If there is something that you don’t understand, you need to ask about it. If there is something required by the document that you don’t have the resources to implement, you need to ask about it. If you are in a planning meeting and you honestly believe that the strategies being discussed are going to be unworkable or overwhelming for you, you need to say that before you sign.

You are an educator. You are a professional, and you deserve a professional environment. Will your supervisors and colleagues always appreciate you for asking questions and reading every document? No. Just because you annoy a few people does not mean that you CAN’T protect yourself legally. You are the only person who always has your legal interests in mind.

What other legal issues face teachers every day?

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