Teachers should always listen to students
Take your cell phone away, search your school bag, throw it out of class: Can a teacher do that? Do students always have to do what teachers say? School lawyer Thomas Böhm explains the most important teacher's rights using specific examples.
Hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren are going to school for the first time this fall. Sometimes you and your parents wonder what teachers are allowed to do and what is not allowed. Thomas Böhm knows that pretty well. He is an expert on school law and the author of the book “No, you're not going to the toilet now”.
"The teachers' rights result from the central tasks that they have according to the educational mandate," says Böhm. Of course, the rights apply equally to teachers. The following overview shows what this means in everyday school life.
Let's clarify the question of the book title in advance:
You're not going to the bathroom now. Can the teacher forbid that?
“The teacher can forbid that,” explains Thomas Böhm. Because it disrupts the class. First of all, there is no reason to go to the toilet during the lesson, but there is a break. Depending on the situation, the teacher will weigh up whether it is a student who asks exceptionally or someone who always wants to go out.
Basically: "The pupil has to ask, the teacher makes the decision - pupils cannot decide how long they want to attend the lesson, but they have an obligation to do so."
1. Right to give instructions
The most fundamental right of teachers is the right to give instructions. That means, “Pupils have to do what teachers tell them to do,” explains Thomas Böhm. This is the basic requirement for teachers to be able to fulfill their duties and their educational mandate and to ensure the safety of the students.
Of course, this right has limits: the teacher is not allowed to give instructions that are in his personal interest, such as sending students to the supermarket to go shopping during the break.
In addition, the following applies: The teacher is always in the situation that he has to justify his actions. That means whether, for example, educational measures are pedagogically meaningful and legally permissible.
Students have a right to grades. In this respect, teachers not only have the right but also the duty to give grades.
Specific case: the teacher comments on each student's grade when she returns the school assignment. Is this allowed?
“This is fundamentally controversial,” says Thomas Böhm. Some say that this is not possible for data protection reasons, because the grade is announced in front of the class. On the other hand, grading is a completely normal process in terms of performance assessment. And that happens not only in secret, but also when students give direct answers to questions in class. In doing so, teachers also expose themselves to criticism from students.
It is very clear when it comes to derogatory comments: poor performance is rated as such. But making fun of a wrong answer or the student is not allowed.
Special case in the context of grading: A task cannot be solved with what has been learned in class. Then it is illegal and parents can take action against it.
In the school context, teachers also have the right to bring up an education and are allowed to act in an educational manner.
Specific case: Shortly after the lesson had started, a teacher caught a student watching a cell phone video. Can he collect the phone and only give it back to him at the end of the school day?
“This is basically possible because the smartphone is a disruptive object in this case,” explains the school lawyer. These could be taken away in class and it is not a disproportionate measure. Nevertheless, the teacher should - within the rules of the school - weigh up whether a warning is sufficient.
Another case: During the break, the teacher takes a closer look at the withdrawn cell phone, such as the video or WhatsApp. Is that permissible?
“No, the teacher mustn't just rummage in it, he has no reason to do so,” explains Thomas Böhm. Incidentally, this also applies to school bags.
If the teacher suspects that he has recorded him or her or a student, or if there are videos glorifying violence on it, he can demand: "Show me what you've got!" how cooperative the parents are, also call in the police.
In practice it is often like this: If the content on the phone does not have such a criminal dimension, Lehrer explains the three possibilities:
- You show me
- Your parents show me.
- The police show me.
"The pupil will then usually show himself to be cooperative," knows Thomas Böhm.
"No, you don't go to the toilet now" by Thomas Böhm
Specific case: a boy and a girl slide love letters or other pieces of paper to each other in the English lesson (if someone is still doing that today). The teacher reads them to the class. Is this allowed?
No, the teacher is not allowed to read private texts. "To ensure that the lesson is not disturbed further, it is enough for him to collect the slip of paper," explains the school law expert, making it clear: "Reading aloud, on the other hand, is not an educational measure. Especially not to embarrass the student in front of the class. "
Can a teacher exclude students from class? And send them to the door?
“The teacher can do that,” says Thomas Böhm. Teacher rights are not individual, personal rights of the teacher, but describe teacher duties. At the same time, they have the right to freedom of action in order to implement the obligation to teach.
“The teacher cannot simply ignore a disruption in the classroom,” explains the school rights activist. "This interferes with the right to instruction of the other students."
As a reaction, the teacher is free to decide which measure from exhorting to sending out the door he deems to be educationally sensible. It always depends on the situation, including the grade level.
Isn't the teacher violating his duty of supervision?
"Here you always have to assess the circumstances of the specific case," explains Böhm. In upper school you have to worry less about it than in elementary school. The teacher decides how to implement the exclusion from class. He can leave the door open, send the interferer to a neighboring room, etc.
5. Design of the lesson
The teacher has the right to decide in terms of content and method how to organize the lessons. Of course, this can lead to conflicts with parents and students, for example if they would have preferred to explain the material with other materials or if they do not like the reading.
In this case, it helps to just talk to each other about it. Within the framework of the curriculum, the teacher has certain leeway. Still, he has the last word.
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