In Each Issue

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.

What are the rights of students and educators when it comes to wearing masks in school? Can my school district require my students and me to wear masks? 
Since we have never faced this issue before, we do not have definitive answers. However, after consulting with others, including experienced educators and attorneys, we believe school districts can require students and teachers to wear masks during this pandemic. Health departments can also require schools to take measures (like mask mandates) to protect students and staff as well as the greater community.
However, we have found the following potential exemptions to this mandate:
  • Medical Accommodations - If a doctor verifies that a medical situation cannot allow such a mandate, the district must accommodate in some manner if possible.
  • Religious Accommodations - If a person has a sincerely held religious belief that forbids them to follow such a mandate, the district must accommodate in some manner if possible. 
If one of our members refuses to submit to a district’s mandate outside of the above-mentioned exemptions, CEAI will certainly defend them against any job action; however, we are not confident of a positive outcome.

Can our principal require us to work at sporting events after school hours?
Expectations to work at events held after school hours are covered in your negotiated agreement or in a supplemental contract. Except for duties and responsibilities covered in these two documents, attending and supervising events should be done on a volunteer basis.  
If you are being forced to cover events not included in either your negotiated agreement or a supplemental contract, contact us, and we can discuss your options.

I coach girls volleyball at my high school. The athletic director recommended that I not be rehired next year. What are my options?
The district is required to honor the coaching contract that you have for the current year. Unfortunately, there are no rights or obligations to renew such a contract for the following year. The rights you have for your teaching contracts are not extended to supplemental contracts.

Do federal or state laws mandate that public school teachers have the right to a lunch break? I have been told teachers in my state are not entitled to a duty-free lunch. In the past, we have eaten in the cafeteria with our students. This year, we were told we must walk our students to and from lunch and stand with them as they go through the lunch line. Our 25-minute lunch is now reduced to less than 15 minutes.
Neither federal nor state laws mandate that your lunch periods must be a certain length of time or duty-free. However, this may be outlined in your negotiated agreement, employee handbook, or board policy. If your current assignment violates those guidelines, CEAI can help you file a grievance to bring the district back in line with those documents.

A parent asked me to remove the national motto poster from my classroom stating it is offensive because it mentions God. Is it illegal to display the national motto in my classroom? If not, is it possible to display the motto in an appropriate way? I would like clarification before responding to their request. 
An excerpt from the Liberty Counsel’s memo Constitutionality of National Motto “In God We Trust” states:
In short, the national motto “In God We Trust” and its display on government property, including public schools, remains constitutional, and contrary assertions should be discounted. Detractors are free to make inaccurate claims regarding our national history, or express their antipathy against our country’s faith in God, but they are not free to suppress the constitutional will of the majority. Liberty Counsel is prepared to defend our nation’s heritage and the constitutional display of the national motto, to assist in the education of our youth about the true source of individual liberties. Our rights come from God, not the State.
Liberty Counsel is available to provide pro bono assistance regarding the constitutionality of the national motto, the Ten Commandments, Nativity scene or other holiday displays, prayer, proclamations regarding Thanksgiving or the National Day of Prayer, and other issues touching the public expression of faith.
If you have additional questions about religious freedoms in public schools, you can submit them to a Liberty Counsel attorney on our website.

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, email To submit questions regarding educational issues to our experienced educators, visit Ask an Educator on our website.


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