While tenured teachers have to follow the policies their schools have in place, they also have the right to academic freedom. Academic freedom allows teachers to teach students without interference from school officials. This means that while teachers must focus on specific subjects, they can teach them in a way that suits them while ensuring students adequately learn the subject matter. This means they can exercise their First Amendment rights and voice their opinions as well. They can also pursue research and publish their findings.
The definition of academic freedom varies from one country to another. In the United States, academic freedom is based on the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, which states that “teachers are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject.” In terms of colleges and universities, academic freedom allows schools to determine who can teach, which subjects are to be taught, how they should be taught and who can become a student.
Limitations to Academic Freedom
While tenured teachers have the right to teach in a way they choose, they have some restrictions. Academic freedom is not synonymous with “anything goes.” Many teachers have engaged in unprofessional behavior in the name of academic freedom, and that’s wrong. For example, fighting with colleagues, berating students and using profanity in the classroom for no useful purpose are not covered under academic freedom. Neither are slander and lack of performance.
Many colleges have seen teachers use academic freedom as an excuse. Teachers and professors still have contractual obligations even though they have academic freedom,. They must still teach their classes in a manner that meets these obligations. For example, professors must still attend their classes and teach them. They cannot be absent for the majority of them or ask someone else to teach their classes for them.
Are You Being Denied Academic Freedom?
Because of these types of situation, many schools are cutting back on academic freedom. They have received complaints from students and are therefore under pressure to provide an academic environment. This means that updated school policies may prevent teachers from saying and doing certain things, particularly if the opinions are not neutral and are related to race, religion and politics.
As a result, teachers may feel as though they are denied academic freedom. They may feel restricted and powerless. While it’s important to abide by the policies of the school, teachers have the right to sue if they feel they are being singled out. They should first discuss their concerns with administrators, though, to see if the situation can be resolved.
Contact New York Lawyers for Teachers
Teaching can be difficult when you want to take advantage of academic freedom and your First Amendment rights but fear losing your job. If you want to express ideas and encourage learning in a non-traditional way, the school may look down upon it, even if you are tenured.
If you are being denied academic freedom and even facing discipline because you are expressing your rights and freedoms as a teacher, the education lawyers at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. can help. We understand the laws and rights regarding teachers and can make sure your right to academic freedom is protected. Contact our firm today at (347) 464-8694 to schedule a consultation.