Legal Concerns for Student Teachers
The student teaching experience can lay an important foundation on how the prospective teacher will view themselves as a potentially confident professional educator. Without a doubt, at this beginning stage of their profession, specific legal guidelines for their conduct would be very advantageous. Unfortunately, to this date, Ohio law does not definitively outline the limitations and individual responsibilities of the student teacher. This material should serve as a guideline during the student teaching experience. It in no way should be considered an interpretation of Ohio law, and each student teacher is advised to review Ohio School Law, 2009-2010 edition, Baldwin’s Ohio Handbook Series in order to obtain a complete interpretation of the law as it relates to Ohio teachers.
The Student Teacher’s Position
The student teacher in Ohio is considered to be a guest in a cooperating school. As a guest they are expected to follow the rules and regulations of the school district. It must be remembered that the school district has the right to request a student teacher’s dismissal from its school at anytime. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the student teacher to find out what the individual responsibilities of the student teacher are. This information can best be learned from the cooperating teacher and/or the building principal.
The Mentor Teacher’s Position
The mentor teacher has the responsibility for the student teacher. This includes the student teacher’s teaching of particular subject material, as well as the rapport with the students. It is to the student teacher’s advantage to work closely with the mentor teacher in all matters and to remember that the same school rules and regulations followed by the mentor teacher apply to the student teacher. Again, since Ohio law does not define a student teacher’s liability and responsibilities in the classroom, this adherence to the professional teacher’s rules and regulations is necessary.
Specific Areas of Concern
1. Student Injury
An Ohio teacher can be held liable for injury to a pupil if negligence can be proven. Therefore, a student teacher should always provide supervision which is reasonably necessary for the safety of the pupils. The mentor teacher can be a source of information in this. There are various conditions which must be considered during pupil supervision, some of which require a greater awareness and caution on the part of the student teacher. Such factors to be considered are:
- Age of students
- Type of class (i.e., industrial arts, chemistry or home economics vs. history or English)
- Conditions for field trips
- Playground supervision
- Pupil errands OR chores for the teacher
- Transportation of pupils in private cars for any reason.
- Leaving the classroom unattended.
- Administration of any medical treatment except in an emergency situation (i.e., treatment for seizures, choking, severe bleeding or burns). At the time of the emergency, a student or teacher should be sent immediately to notify the school nurse and/or the school principal.
2. Student Medication
A student teacher should never administer drugs, including aspirin or aspirin based products, to pupils. If a pupil indicates that they need medication, the student teacher should follow school policy with regard to that pupil going either to the main office or the school nurse. Before the student teacher begins classroom teaching, the school’s policy on prescription drugs should be understood.
3. Student Referrals
A student teacher may not directly recommend any pupil to an outside agency such as Family Services, a drug abuse center, mental health agencies, psychological testing centers, Child Welfare, or the police. The student teacher can make recommendations for outside referral through the mentor teacher.
4. Severe Disciplinary Issues
If a student teacher can foresee a discipline problem developing which may require serious disciplinary measure, the mentor teacher should be immediately informed. If a discipline problem should arise suddenly which, in the student teacher’s opinion, places the student, student teacher or others at risk of harm, the student teacher should seek immediate assistance from a teacher, administrator or other appropriate school employee.
- A student teacher should never intervene physically in altercations or other severe disruptions involving students or staff.
- A student teacher should never administer corporal punishment.
- The student teacher should become knowledgeable regarding the school district policy for handling severe disruptions at the beginning of his or her student teaching experience.