Education Law Notes – Term 3 2021
Published on September 6, 2021 by David Ford
Last term, I wrote of the delight it had been to speak at a couple of “everyone there in person” conferences. Well, for many of us, that respite from restrictions was brief. Many schools have since dusted off their remote learning resources from 2020. Teachers, who are at home, often in less than ideal circumstances, are again teaching students, who are also at home and often in less than ideal circumstances. In the midst of this, we are all wrestling with how to fulfil our duty of care and work, health and safety obligations to staff and students.
So much is now happening “beyond the school gate” that it’s worth reflecting upon how we can discipline students for behaviour occurring away from the school campus and after school hours. This issue’s first article takes us into this area by examining a recent US case that reached the Supreme Court there.
It’s very hard to get a haircut in locked down parts of the country these days which makes one think that a lot of long haired young people will return to school when the restrictions end. Will your school’s uniform and grooming policy be fit for purpose? A Queensland school’s policy and practice was found wanting in a case the subject of our second article.
Finally, we look at how schools can protect their reputation by registering their trade marks.
Enjoy the read and keep safe!
Can schools discipline students for misconduct occurring “beyond the school gate” or outside normal school hours?
The US Supreme Court has recently had to decide whether schools can discipline students for off-campus speech. In this case, Brandi Levy was upset when she discovered that she did not make the senior cheerleading team for the next school year and would remain in the junior squad. One weekend, while at a local convenience store, she posted on Snapchat a photo of her and a friend with middle fingers raised, captioned: “F*** school f*** softball f*** cheer f*** everything”.
Read more to see how Brandi’s school district responded, what the US Supreme Court Justices had to say, and what we can do in Australia.
School Uniform Policies and Racial Discrimination
Cyrus’ father was of Cook Islands and Niuean origin and his parents wanted to practise that culture. In the Cook Islands/Niuean culture, the eldest son in a family does not have his hair cut until around seven or eight years of age, when it is cut in a ceremony that symbolises the boy’s transition to manhood. Accordingly, Cyrus’ hair had not been cut since birth.
So Cyrus attended his first day at school with his long hair tied in a bun. Two days later, the Principal informed his mother that Cyrus’ hair was in breach of the School Uniform Guide. Before long, Cyrus’ parents had filed a complaint with the Queensland Human Rights Commission, alleging unlawful discrimination.
The outcome suggests that now is a good time for schools to consider their uniform policies. Read more to see why that is the case.
What should my school trade mark?
Like any business, schools are judged on their reputation. Parents and the broader community recognise a school’s reputation through the name, logo, symbols and other tools it uses to communicate its identity.
The crest on a school uniform communicates both brand and reputation – it informs the observer about which school a student attends, the quality of its education, its academic, cultural and sporting achievements, and much, much more.
As such, the tools a school uses to communicate its identity – its trade marks or ‘badges of origin’ – must be protected from unauthorised use. The reputation of a school can be harmed significantly where there is unauthorised use of a school’s trade mark by a third party, particularly where that third party provides poor services.
This is why schools should take steps to protect the trade mark they use – or plan to develop and use in the future – to promote the services they offer.