Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Principal Legal Duties and Liabilities

I am just wrapping up module 1 of the Principal's Development Course offered through OPC and would like to highlight my learning.

Module 1 covered Principal Legal Duties and Liabilities

When you hear "liable" and "lawsuit" as a principal your heart sinks to your stomach or mine did before gaining the information in this module. I have gained confidence in my role as an administrator and the importance of acting as an agent of the board.

As a principal you have a duty to act as defined by the acts and regulations established by the Provincial Government. It is of utmost importance that you make decisions rooted in your school board's policies and procedures. Any person of the public can hold you accountable to uphold your professional duties.

What does that mean to me? 

Very few decisions need to be made in the snap of a finger which means you have time to ensure that you have checked board policy, called a friend and/or your SuperIntendent. When you document consultation with an appointed official ie. SO it provides evidence of due diligence if there was a lawsuit in the future. 

Document Document and Document some more!! 

I'm still working on the most effective way to keep notes on student behaviour and parent phone calls. I have come to realize through this module that it is something that can not be overlooked. Moving forward, I am going to be even more diligent at recording conversations with parents, staff, students and board personnel. 

My next step is to find a better tool to keep records of the conversations. You never know when a statement of claim will be filed. Anyone can file a lawsuit if there is a loss and they feel they are due compensation. 

What I have also learned is that even though a lawsuit can be filed at anytime by anyone the claim needs to have merit and be reasonable. As long as you make decisions rooted in board policy you are protected by indemification.

Indemification- a clause that provides legal support to a principal at the board's cost whenever a complaint arises that pertains to the principal's duties. 

As a principal we are not protected from a complaint or an investigation. But this is not something to be afraid of it is bound to happen in our career because the decisions we make are not always favourable by all parties involved. However, a complaint is not the same as a finding. If you act in accordance with board policy and the education act you do not have to live in fear. 

Are you going to make a mistake? of course. But a mistake is just that! It is only when you breach a duty that you are liable of misconduct. 

It is important to be able to distinguish between legal obligation and political management.

Legal obligations are non-negotiables and include:
  • Legal imperatives (reporting to F&CS)
  • Confidentiality of student information
  • Board policy and procedure
  • Health and safety of students
Political Management involves making choices and decisions, delivering key messages, conflict management and resolution approaches. 

The tools that are important for political management include: 
  • active listening
  •  accurate documentation
  •  consultation with peer/mentor
  • the development of mediation, negotiation, and political management skills, 
  • intervene and respond in a timely fashion
  • learn the cultural proficiencies appropriate to your community. 
Going forward I am going to look at every situation with the following three questions in mind:
  1. What are my next steps?
  2. What are my legal obligations
  3. What political management tools should I implement?

The resource that I discovered throughout this course was the Handbook for administrators on the OPC website. What I wish is that the format for the handbook was easier to access. For example, if there was a separate website to bookmark and the document was interactive.