Law and Education Institute Informs School Administrators and Educators on Legal Issues
by Joe Savrock (July 2008)
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The recent Law and Education Institute at Penn State met with great success, and plans are already under way for next year’s event.
The Institute, held June 24–27, served an important need for school administrators and other educators, noted Preston Green, associate professor of educational leadership and law at Penn State.
“Administrators and teachers often are paralyzed by a fear of retribution,” explained Green. “We organized the Law and Education Institute to give these professionals a better understanding of legal issues that surround education so they can feel more confident in their actions.”
The Institute was a collaboration between Penn State’s College of Education and the Dickinson School of Law. It drew 70 participants, including school superintendents, principals, assistant principals, directors of special education, attorneys, university faculty, and central administrators from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Education.
The hallmark of the Institute was the high quality of its workshops, which were delivered by prominent lawyers and professors. “The organizers did a great job bringing in experts on various education law topics,” said participant Dave Geanette.
Green noted that, “The workshops addressed the immediate needs of the participants, who found the Institute to be the only available professional development opportunity that addressed their pending issues.”
The workshops covered a wide variety of legal topics, including religion, student rights, charter schools, technology, special education, and employee rights.
Two College of Education faculty members—Green and Associate Dean Jacqueline Stefkovich—presented two of the workshops. Gerald Zahorchak, secretary of education for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, was the keynote speaker.
Another attendee, Jeff Clark, said, “All of the presentations provided information that broadened my understanding of many legal aspects related to education.”
The Institute met continuing professional education requirements for Pennsylvania professionals—Act 45 for school and system leaders and Act 48 for professional educators—as well as continuing legal education (CLE) credits for attorneys.
Many of the participants issued a call for a repeat of the Institute, and Green already is looking forward to next year. Whereas the attendees for this year’s Institute were largely from Pennsylvania, Green hopes to expand the scope of next year’s event by reaching out to professionals in surrounding states.