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School Law Guide: Research Problem #2

Research Problem #2

The Missouri School Board has recently acquired a new member, Mr. Williams. Williams is a successful local business owner with a large amount of assets, both in terms of property and cash reserves. Your job is to inform him of the liability he will have during his time on the school board, both professionally and personally. This should include whether or not he should set aside assets or take out insurance to protect himself. In addition to informing him of his own liability as a member, you should give information about school board liability generally.

Research Strategy

This is a tricky question. When thinking about liability you should likely ask yourself, liability for what? That is the starting point. School boards could be sued for a tort claim, a constitutional law issue, or could be liable for a variety of other reasons. Most secondary sources won’t be as helpful for a question like this because it doesn’t directly pertain to a student or teacher right within the classroom. As you work more within the education law field you will quickly recognize unique issues like this that won’t be covered in your typical go-to sources. After realizing that most secondary sources don’t discuss this issue, you will have to go outside your normal sources to see what else you can find. Once you have done this you will need to conduct research on Lexis or Westlaw.

If you conduct some research on Google for school board liability you will find some useful information. (Jonathan Duncan & Stephanie Lovett-Bowman, School District Immunity, http://www.spencerfane.com/files/Uploads/Documents/SchoolDistrictImmunity.pdf (Oct. 2011).) One free online source that is mentioned in the guide that does have information on this topic is the National School Boards’ Association. (Legal Pointers on School Board Authority, National School Boards Association, http://www.nsba.org/SchoolLaw/Publications/School-Law-Seminar-2013/Legal-Pointers-on-School-Board-Authority.pdf.) Finding resources like this through Google word searches can go a long way to completing your research.

These secondary sources should answer most of your questions pertaining to school board liability. If not, the Bender Education law treatise has a section on general liability. If you cannot find what you are looking for using free online resources you will likely find your answer in the Bender treatise. This problem is another great example on how most questions can be fully or mostly answered using free research methods.