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Q & A

CEAI Members ask . . . The answers or opinions expressed in this article are not intended to render legal advice. The factual and legal issues in each circumstance must be considered and may require the advice of an attorney.

My district is sending me to professional development workshops that will deal with gender identity and some racial biases that I believe will conflict with my personal beliefs. Can I refuse to participate? 
Any time you are asked to do something that violates your religious beliefs, you can ask for a religious accommodation. If possible, the district should honor your request. However, I suggest you consider attending these workshops to learn what stance your district is taking on these issues. If you are directed at a later time to behave in a manner that violates your religious convictions, you can then request a religious accommodation.
As a Christian, you have been placed in a foreign culture that does not adhere to biblical principles. To best function as a missionary in a foreign mission field, you may benefit from understanding the culture in which you minister. Consider these workshops as opportunities to better understand the thinking of this culture while still holding on to God’s truth. 

Do coaches have a right to ask for verbally negotiated terms and conditions to be added to their coaching contract to ensure the district holds up to their end of the bargain?
Individual teachers and coaches cannot legally negotiate terms and conditions outside of negotiated agreements, employee handbooks, or board policy. However, if promises are made, best practice suggests that the administration record the terms in writing to avoid disputes at a later date. A simple memorandum of understanding could come in handy in the future even though it may not carry the same authority as a contract.

In an interview for a district newsletter article, I was asked, “What do you stand front and center for?” I answered, “For the glory of Jesus.” I then explained how I glorify God through excellence in my work. I am concerned that my answer will become an issue. Does my statement violate the neutrality law for teachers?
Living by biblical principles is not a problem. Doing your job well to give glory to God does not violate the constitution. Since our current culture does not embrace the name of Jesus as we do, they may decide not to publish your complete answer. You could ask to review the article before it is published if you are concerned about how your answer will be reported.

I am currently teaching remotely. I would like to schedule one-on-one teaching time with each of my students to help them better progress during this difficult time. Will my CEAI liability insurance cover me if I teach students individually or in a small group (about five students) online?
Your liability coverage through CEAI applies at all times when you are working in your role as an educator, including online teaching, individual instruction, and small group sessions. However, it is always good practice to check your district’s policies first to ensure that a specific activity falls within the scope of your teaching role. 
When working online, you may want to consider recording all online sessions to document your instruction. This could protect you against accusations of inappropriateness that could threaten your job. If such accusations were to occur, CEAI coverage would certainly be there to defend you. Having said that, providing a recording would easily counteract any false allegations. Again, I suggest you contact your school district to ensure that you are following district online recording procedures before recording your sessions. 

Our union president sent out a letter encouraging us to join the union because the union may not always share important information with non-union members. Please advise.
Unfortunately, unions are using tactics like this across the nation to pressure teachers into joining them. Administrators (not the teachers’ union) manage your employment, so you can assuredly stand firm against this threat of withholding information. If you are worried that you will miss important information, I suggest you share what the union is telling you with your principal and ask him/her to share any important district and building information with you.

To submit questions regarding school law issues relating to religious freedoms to experienced attorneys, visit Ask an Attorney on our website.  For all other legal inquiries To submit questions regarding educational issues to our experienced educators, visit Ask an Educator on our website.


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