Stating a Claim Upon Which Relief Can Be Granted: Examining How the Development of Standards of Care and Changes in Public Policy Surrounding Public Education Potentially Validate Conditions for Educational Malpractice
Fries-Britt, Ph.D., Sharon
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What if a student spent his or her entire primary and secondary education in the same public school system and that school system failed to assess the student's reading, writing and mathematic capabilities, allowed the student to pass from grade to grade and advance course levels with the knowledge that the student had not achieved either its completion or the necessary skills; assigned the student to classes in which the teachers were unqualified; and allowed the student to graduate from high school although the student could not read above the eighth grade level. These are the facts of Peter W. v. San Francisco Unified School District, 60 Cal. App. 3d 817 (1976), the case that sets the context for instructional educational malpractice as explained in this study. For over 30 years, public policy factors have hindered the courts from acknowledging an educator's legal duty towards students to provide an adequate education. Utilizing legal negligence as the theoretical framework, the purpose of this study is to use pre-existing document data to address the question of how the development of standards of care and changes in public policy surrounding public education have evolved since the 1976 Peter W. case potentially validating a negligence cause of action claiming instructional educational malpractice. An analytical research style of qualitative inquiry was used to identity and analyze key court cases to determine the extent to which educational malpractice has been pleaded before and rejected by the courts. From this process, public policy factors and arguments used by the courts to deny recognition of instructional educational malpractice were extracted. Literature and research in the field of education as it related to the public policy considerations identified by the courts and legal scholars was then examined to review the changes in education and the practice of teaching in public primary and secondary educational institutions. In addition to potentially identifying the legal duty of the classroom teacher, the study's findings places a spotlight on the K-20 partnership, access to higher education and the role of higher education in producing classroom teachers and ensuring the existence of an educated society.