LEGAL CORNER: As a teacher, what I am legally allowed to tell my - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

LEGAL CORNER: As a teacher, what I am legally allowed to tell my class about Christmas?

(Source: Raycom) (Source: Raycom)

Submit your question to news@kplctv.com. Civil matters only, please.

QUESTION: My 8-year-old daughter suffered a stroke and is partially paralyzed on her left side in her arm and leg. She walks with a limp and her left hand is turned backward. The children make fun of her and mock the way she walks. She cries and does not want to go to school. Is this a form of bullying? What can I do?

ANSWER: According to the LA Statutes (RS 17:416.13) "Bullying" is defined as a pattern of (a) Gestures, including but not limited to obscene gestures and making faces. (b) Written, electronic, or verbal communications, including but not limited to calling names, threatening harm, taunting, malicious teasing, or spreading untrue rumors. Electronic communication includes but is not limited to a communication or image transmitted by email, instant message, text message, blog, or social networking website through the use of a telephone, mobile phone, pager, computer, or other electronic device. (c) Physical acts, including but not limited to hitting, kicking, pushing, tripping, choking, damaging personal property, or unauthorized use of personal property (d) Repeatedly and purposefully shunning or excluding from activities. 

The governing authority of each public elementary and secondary school shall inform each student, orally and in writing at the orientation required under R.S. 17:416.20, of the prohibition against bullying of a student by another student, the nature and consequences of such actions, including the potential criminal consequences and loss of driver's license as provided in R.S. 17:416.1, and the proper process and procedure for reporting any incidents involving such prohibited actions. A copy of the written notice shall also be delivered to each student's parent or legal guardian. (2) Reporting. (a) The governing authority of each public elementary and secondary school shall develop a procedure for the reporting of incidents of bullying. This shall include a form for the purposes of bullying reports. The form shall include an affirmation of truth of statement. Any bullying report submitted regardless of recipient shall use this form, but additional information may be provided. The form shall be available on the Department of Education's website.(b) Students and parents. Any student who believes that he has been, or is currently, the victim of bullying, or any student, or any parent or guardian,

who witnesses bullying or has good reason to believe bullying is taking place, may report the situation to a school official. A student, or parent or guardian, may also report concerns regarding bullying to a teacher, counselor, other school employee, or to any parent chaperoning or supervising a school function or activity. Any report of bullying shall remain confidential. (c) School personnel. Any teacher, counselor, bus operator, or other school employee, whether full- or part-time, and any parent chaperoning or supervising a school function or activity, who witnesses bullying or who learns of bullying from a student pursuant to Subparagraph (b) of this Paragraph, shall report the incident to a school official. A verbal report shall be submitted by the school employee or the parent on the same day as the employee or parent witnessed or otherwise learned of the bullying incident, and a written report shall be filed no later than two days thereafter. (d) Retaliation. Retaliation against any person who reports bullying in good faith, who is thought to have reported bullying, who files a complaint, or who otherwise participates in an investigation or inquiry concerning allegations of bullying is prohibited conduct and subject to discipline. School and district resources shall not be used to prohibit or dissuade any person who meets the specifications of this Subparagraph.(e) False Reports. Intentionally making false reports about bullying to school officials is prohibited conduct and will result in the appropriate disciplinary measures as determined by the governing authority of the school in accordance with the rules and regulations of the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. (3) Investigation Procedure. The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education shall develop and adopt a procedure for the investigation of reports of bullying of a student by another student. The procedure shall include the following: (a) Scope of investigation. An investigation shall include an interview of the reporter, the victim, the alleged bully, and any witnesses, and shall include obtaining copies or photographs of any audio-visual evidence. (b) Timing. The school shall begin an investigation of any complaint that is properly reported and that alleges conduct prohibited in this Section the next business day during which school is in session after the report is received by the school official. The investigation shall be completed not later than ten school days after the date the written report of the incident is submitted to the appropriate school official. If additional information is received after the end of the ten-day period, the school principal or his designee shall amend all documents and reports required by this Section to reflect such information.

QUESTION: My children were placed in foster care. Upon a visitation, my child's face was bruised and his little eye was damaged and leaking water. When I asked what happened, no one, not the department of child and family services or the foster parents could give me an answer. I was not allowed to take pictures of them. Instead, I was told he has these bruises when he was placed in the foster care system. I know this is not true. How can I get help for my children and remove them from the foster home?

ANSWER: Child Protection Investigation. Child protection investigation is the investigation of child abuse and neglect, as well as the provision of short-term, concrete services to children and families. These services are legally mandated, specialized investigations and social services for children who are alleged to be neglected, abused, exploited or without proper custody or guardianship. To report suspected child abuse, call 1-855-4LA-KIDS (1-855-452-5437) toll-free 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

QUESTION: During this time of year, as a teacher, I am very careful what I say about Christmas because I am not sure when I cross the line between "separation of church and state". What is the law concerning this topic?

ANSWER: A school board may educate students about the history of traditional celebrations in winter and allow students and district staff to offer traditional greetings regarding the celebrations, including but not limited to:

(1) Merry Christmas. (2) Happy Hanukkah. (3) Happy holidays. (4) Happy Kwanzaa. B. Except as provided by Subsection C of this Section, a school board may display on school property scenes or symbols associated with traditional celebrations in winter, including a menorah or a Christmas image such as a nativity scene or Christmas tree, if the display includes a scene or symbol of at least one of the following: (1) More than one religion. (2) One religion and at least one secular scene or symbol. C. A display relating to a traditional celebration may not include a message that encourages adherence to a particular religious belief. (LA R.S. 17§2118. Celebrations in winter)

Disclaimer: The information furnished in this answer is general and may not apply to some situations. All legal situations are unique. No one should rely to their detriment on these answers. Anyone with a potential legal problem should seek the advice of a licensed attorney before taking any action or inaction. The answers provided are not intended to be specific legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is created between the SWLA Law Center and the viewers of KPLC-TV.

Copyright 2017 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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