Legal and Ethical Issues of Students and Considerations of Performance In Education

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Students and Considerations of Performance In Education In Legal and Ethical Issues

Legal and Ethical Issues of Students and Considerations of Performance In Education

Legal Considerations of Student Performance in Nursing Education, Student Rights In Ethical and Legal Considerations In Nursing Education, Due Process In Legal and Ethical Issues of Students and Considerations.

Legal Considerations of Student Performance in Nursing Education

    An established responsibility of faculty in nursing education programs is the evaluation of student performance in the classroom (didactic) and clinical setting. This responsibility carries with its accountability because the outcomes of such evaluation have a major effect on the student's progress in the course and even status in the program. 

    In addition, faculty serve as the safeguard for society at large from practitioners who have not demonstrated the ability to practice safely. In a precedent-setting case, the court clearly set the standard that it will not interfere with academic decision-making regarding student progress and content (Board of Curators of the University of Missouri v. Horowitz 1978). 

    Other courts have followed the Horowitz court by repeatedly affirming faculty members' responsibility for evaluation as long as due process has been provided and there is no finding of arbitrary or capricious facts. 

    However, to ensure due process and avoid being viewed as arbitrary or capricious, the evaluation process must be based on principles that ensure that Students' rights are not violated.

Student Rights In Ethical and Legal Considerations In Nursing Education

    Faculty must be aware that students enter the educational experience with rights, just as faculty have rights. A few decades ago, it would have been rare to find litigation involving a nursing student and the nursing program, but litigation involving nursing programs has dramatically increased. 

    Many cases involving student litigation within nursing programs have their legal basis in the concepts of due process, fair treatment, and confidentiality and privacy.

Due Process In Legal and Ethical Issues of Students and Considerations

    Due process is a term that is frequently used in education and may be misunderstood. The general concept of due process is based in fairness and is intended to ensure that certain rights are respected within the particular situation. There are two types of due process. Substantive due process refers to the fairness of the “outcome” in relation to the “infraction.” 

    In other words, does the punishment fit the crime? It would most likely be a breach of substantive due process to dismiss a student from a course because he or she arrived to class a few minutes late. The second type of due process is procedural due process.

    Procedural due process ensures that the accused will receive notice and an opportunity to be heard. Providing the student with a clear notice of the potential issue and providing the student the opportunity to present his or her side of the situation is essential to meet the procedural due process requirements.

    Student rights in the broadest sense are protected by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the US Constitution, which limits the restrictions that can be imposed on an individual. 

    These amendments state that no citizen may be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law and require that the federal government provide due process for all citizens (US Const. amend. V & XIV).

  Although the Fourteenth Amendment includes language referring to state or government actions (which includes public institutions), the principles of due process are applied by the courts to all educational settings. 

    Within the educational setting, a 1961 case applied the principles of due process to a situation in which students were dismissed without notice and without a hearing (Dixon v. Alabama State Board of Education). 

    In Dixon, Alabama State College, which was a segregated black college, expelled six students without a hearing for unspecified reasons, although the presumptive cause was that they participated in civil rights demonstrations. The appeals court ruled that a public college could not expel them without a public hearing.

    The judicial system expanded the holding of the Dixon case with Goss v. Lopez (1975) when the court clearly noted that the due process protections of Dixon applied to all students facing expulsion from a public institution, regardless of whether the institution is a grade school, high school, or college or university. 

    The legal principle of due process has been extended to cases involving private college and university settings, upholding the student's due process rights regardless of attendance at a public or private institution (Kaplin & Lee, 2014).

    Student due process rights have their foundation in two types of due process: procedural due process and substantive due process. Procedural due process refers to a step-by-step process including notice and an opportunity to be heard at various levels and appeal options (Christensen, 2010). 

    Procedural due process affords the student an opportunity to be heard or present the case to parties involved in the decision-making process. Substantive due process involves the basis for the decision itself (or the substance of the decision) and is based on the principle that a decision should be fair, objective, and nondiscriminatory. 

    Students who might challenge on this principle would seek to prove that a faculty decision was arbitrary or capricious. Substantive due process has often been summarized as asking “Did the punishment fit the crime?”

    Other legal concepts that influence student rights come from principles of contract law. Students may also use these concepts in seeking action against an institution. Contract law is applied in this circumstance with the understanding that when students enter a university or college, they actually enter into a contract with the school. 

    If students complete the degree requirements and follow the required procedures, then a degree will be awarded. The implied contract between the student and the school forms the basis for many student rights oriented precedent law. 

    Courts may view institutional documents as contracts, regardless of whether there may be a written disclaimer on the particular document that the institution does not intend the document to be a contract between the institution and the student. A common example of a document that is often implied to be a contract is a course syllabus. 

    The course syllabus may contain a statement that it is not intended to be a contract between the institution and the student, but is often viewed by the court as being an implied contract. 

    Even in a situation where students agree to a proposed change in the syllabus, the original syllabi terms may govern in a dispute because the students who are voicing agreement may be viewed as unable to object without harassment from other students or teacher reprimand. 

    Additionally, students have successfully won cases against educational institutions based on contract theory when the educational institution was determined to be in breach of implied contract because they did not follow its own policies and procedures (Boehm v. U. of PA. School of Vet. Med, 1990; Schaer v. Brandeis University, 2000). 

    There is a difference between student concerns or grievances based on academic performance and those based on disciplinary circumstances. Academic concerns are based solely on grades or clinical performance, whereas disciplinary misconduct is based on violation of rules or policies within the school or department.

    Academic due process includes the requirement that the student be informed of the academic issue, the requirements necessary to meet academic standards, a time frame for meeting the academic requirements, and notice of the consequences if the academic standards are not met. 

    When disciplinary action is considered, the concept of due process is applied with a higher degree of scrutiny. In this circumstance the individual must receive notice of the specific charge that is being made and the policy and code that has been violated. The student must have an opportunity to present a defense against the charges, usually at a formal hearing, but at least in writing. 

    Because disciplinary dismissals may have more long-lasting effects on the individual, more complicated due to process rules apply. Consider the due process rights of the student illustrated in the following scenario:

    Jane Short is a sophomore nursing student who has completed the first nursing course with a barely passing grade. She had difficulty performing the basic nursing skills, stating that having someone watch her made her nervous. She did not come to college with a strong academic background and has struggled in making the adjustment to the required higher-level thinking and need for decision making. 

    However, she was able to complete the course requirements in the basic nursing course, although at a minimal level. As she progresses to the next course, she is having more difficulty. Her study skills need development and she has missed several classes. She is not doing well on tests and has been late for clinical on two occasions in the first 3 weeks of class. 

    Her instructor has asked to meet with her to discuss these concerns. She informs Jane of the issues of concern and relates what needs to be done to address these concerns. She suggests some new study strategies and asks that Jane practice in the lab to become more comfortable with the procedures and skills. 

    She also relates that continued absences and tardiness will negatively affect Jane's classroom performance and her clinical evaluation. She reminds Jane of the School of Nursing Policy that states that students who miss one third of the clinical experiences will be automatically dismissed from the program. The faculty member tells Jane that she needs to demonstrate improvement in these areas within the next 3 weeks. 

    The faculty member asks Jane to add her comments to the documents containing all this information and gives Jane a copy of the document explaining the concerns and including the suggestions for improvement as well as the consequences if no change occurs. The faculty member schedules times to provide regular feedback to Jane about her progress.

    What has the faculty done to uphold Jane's due process rights in this circumstance? The faculty member has made Jane aware of the situation and what needs to be done to improve it. 

    She has made suggestions for improvement and provided Jane with a written copy of those suggestions and the consequences if no change occurs. Jane has been informed and duly notified, and her due process rights have been addressed within the student instructor interactions.

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