The School Law Handbook
reviewed by J. Patrick Mahon - 2004
Title: The School Law Handbook
Author(s): William C. Bosher, Jr., Kate R. Kaminski, & Richard C. Vacca
Publisher: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, Alexandria, VA
ISBN: 0871208415, Pages: 215, Year: 2004
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The School Law Handbook: What Every Leader Needs to Know is an excellent desktop resource for school administrators. The authors are William C. Bosher, Jr., former school administrator and current professor, Kate R. Kamienski, an attorney, and Richard S. Vacca, Professor Emeritus. All the authors are affiliated with the Commonwealth Education Policy Institute at
The book is divided into five major sections: The School Environment, Constitutional Issues, Students, Personnel, and Accountability. The structure of each chapter engages the reader. The chapters usually address more than one legal issue. The discussion of each issue begins with a scenario that raises legal considerations about that particular issue. The scenario focuses the reader’s attention on the essential legal elements of the issue. The next section, Legal Considerations, outlines applicable federal and state statutes and case law. The survey of state statutes helps administrators know more about the statutory law in their own states. Next, the authors address Policy Considerations. The Practical Considerations section provides general information about the issue and a list of questions useful to practicing administrators. In the final Postscript section, the authors address the specific issues raised in the opening scenario.
Having taught School Law, I appreciate the fact that the book addresses issues that are sometimes not covered in school law books. The issues are Crisis Management and Planning (pp. 10-16), Commercialism in Schools (pp. 40-46), Sick Building Syndrome (pp. 56-61) and Holidays (pp. 87-94).
The Handbook gives practicing administrators important information about the issues it covers and provides sound guidance for administrators in the following areas:
Given recent events related to school safety, administrators must be thoroughly informed on crisis management issues and policies. I know from personal experience that having a crisis management plan in place can facilitate the handling of a major crisis in a school.
The issue of commercialism in schools continues to vex school administrators as they balance health issues with activities that traditionally have provided local revenues for schools. The authors provide sound practical advice, “Health issues, the role of commercialism in schools, and the financial and pedagogical effects of such commercialism must all be considered” (p. 45). The caution to administrators about checking into state procurement laws before executing contracts is much needed. When are administrators free to negotiate contracts without using competitive bidding procedures?
The section on Sick Building Syndrome offers valuable advice to practicing administrators. It puts them on alert that they should document and take all such complaints seriously.
As our society becomes even more diverse, the celebration of holidays becomes a larger issue. This is a delicate political issue which administrators must address and the Handbook addresses these sensitive issues.
While no single book can cover all school law issues thoroughly, and there is always a lag time between manuscript preparation and publication, I am concerned that the Handbook omits what I consider to be some important topics. Coverage of these topics would make the Handbook even more useful.
The Handbook does not cover:
The section on the Internet (p. 125) provides useful information for school administrators. I would have liked for the authors to have provided a list of questions which should be addressed in an Acceptable Use Policy. This is very important since student use of the internet is becoming more of an issue. Should students be advised that home pages generated on their personal home computers cannot threaten others nor defame others?
I have also found some inaccuracies in the text. The case cited as Brown v. Gwinnett County School District (p. 74) should be Bown v.
In another section, the authors state, “Although some states have crafted laws that permit certain types of discipline records to be transferred. . .” (p. 161). It is my understanding that federal law provides for the release of student disciplinary records to schools where a student intends to enroll. “FERPA currently permits schools to transfer any and all education records, including disciplinary records, on a student who is transferring to another school. (Retrieved July 5, 2004. http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/hottopics/ht10-28-02.html).
I could not find a reference to Pickering v. Bd. of Educationof Township High School (391 U.S. 563, 1968). This case discusses the conditions under which public school employees can speak out on matters of public concern and is essential to any discussion of teacher First Amendment rights.
With the limitations noted, I recommend the Handbook. I commend the authors for providing valuable information in a readable format for practicing administrators. I believe administrators will find the review of the statutory and case law informative. As administrators try to cope proactively with various legal issues, I know that they will find questions posed in each “Policy Considerations” section to be provocative and useful.