Robert Willis

Robert Willis

With the reality of school bullying, violence and verbal harassment, are teachers and educational administrators “cops?”

Are they subject to the same legal and liability standards as law enforcement officers?

These days it seems that the maintaining of order supersedes the educational function in classrooms.

I am an educator who also happens to be a police officer and thus I am resigned to the issue of constitutional liability. But if you are an educator and unaccustomed to being scrutinized constitutionally, welcome to my world.
Police officers are considered to be public officials, and police administrators as well as street police officers can end up in federal court. Well guess what… as a public school educator you are a “public official” as well! You can be sued in federal court for violating the constitutional guarantees of one of your students.
The “principal” is figuratively the “police chief” and you the teacher are the “police officer” and both of you could be liable. A recent 7th Circuit Appeals Court case reaffirmed this notion. The case focused on the actions of a principal, but could it be that the actions of a teacher or instructor could also fall under the constitutional liability umbrella?
Well, only time and legal creativity will tell but I think the smart thing to do is to prepare for this eventuality.

I’ve written a full article on this topic; to read it, click here.

Robert C. Willis
Law enforcement officer, trainer and consultant
Criminal Justice Instructor, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay, Wis.