Paraeducator Ethical and Legal Issues

Ashbaker B.Y., & Morgan, J.  (Spring 2004). Legal issues relating to school paraprofessionals. A Legal Memorandum: Quarterly Law Topics for School Leaders (pp. 1-7). Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals. (ISSN 0192-6152)

Complaints, hearings, legal opinions, and lawsuits on issues surrounding the training and supervision of paraprofessionals are increasing. Concern over the lack of preparation of paraprofessionals and the sporadic nature of the training that is available to them (Morgan, Hofmeister, & Ashbaker, 1995; Pickett, 1996) have led to the development of training programs in many states, although these paraprofessional training programs are often localized rather than statewide. Some training has also been developed for supervising teachers (e.g., Morgan & Ashbaker, 2001), and a few programs have been developed for teacher and paraprofessional teams (e.g., Ashbaker & Morgan, 2000; Morgan, 2000). However, the comprehensive system of personnel development needed to ensure proper supervision of paraprofessionals lacks specific guidance for administrators in leading and supporting teacher-paraprofessional instructional teams for maximum effectiveness (Hilton & Gerlach, 1997; Morgan, Ashbaker, & Roberts, 2000). The responsibility of school administrators to oversee the effectiveness of teacher-paraprofessional teams delivering instruction to students is crucial. Failure to carefully examine the profile of a school’s paraprofessionals, including the role they serve in relation to teachers and the part they play on the instructional team, could put the school and the school district at risk of legal proceedings.

Etscheidt, S. (2005). Paraprofessional services for students with disabilities: A legal analysis of issues. Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30(2), 60-80.

Concomitant with the increase in the number of paraprofessionals assisting students with disabilities is the emergence of legal issues pertaining to the need, selection, responsibilities, preparation, and supervision of those paraprofessionals. The purpose of this article is to provide a legal analysis of administrative and judicial decisions concerning these issues and to propose guidelines for ensuring appropriate paraprofessional involvement in the educational programs for students with disabilities.

Ferguson, M. (2014). Teacher aides: The fine art of balance. Kairaranga, 15(2), 56-63.

Teacher aides have been part of New Zealand classrooms for many decades. Initially, they were employed to perform clerical and supervisory duties that required no professional training, such as typing, duplicating and playground supervision. Over the years, however, their role has changed significantly. They now play a pivotal role as a ‘people resource’ in supporting the New Zealand Ministry of Education’s philosophy of inclusion.

Fluery M. L. (2000). Confidentiality issues with substitutes and paraeducators. Teaching Exceptional Children, 33(1), 44-45.

This article is geared primarily towards first-year teachers of special education. It serves as a reminder on how to handle confidentiality issues with substitute teachers and substitute paraeducators. The author offers advice and solutions in hopes of creating a smooth, consistent transition in the classroom at all times. The author offers point by point guidelines on what to do when the teacher is absent and what to do when the paraeducator is absent. These specific procedures and suggestions stress the importance of planning ahead of time, delegating specific tasks, being consistent and openly communicating the importance of confidentiality, no matter who is in the classroom.

Giangreco M. F. & Broer, S. M. (2005). Questionable utilization of paraprofessionals in inclusive schools: Are we addressing symptoms or causes? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 20(1), 10-26.

This article presents descriptive, quantitative data from 737 school personnel and parents who support the education of students with a full range of disabilities in general education classes. The study addresses (a) how special education teachers and paraprofessionals spend their time, (b) perspectives of paraprofessionals about certain paraprofessional practices, and © perspectives of professionals and parents about school wide practices associated with inclusive special education that may contribute to reducing inappropriate utilization of special education paraprofessionals. The findings highlight concerns and suggest that focusing change efforts on paraprofessional issues without corresponding attention to general and special education issues is akin to addressing the symptoms of a problem rather than its roots.

Katsiyannis A., Hodge, J., & Lanford, A. (2000). Paraeducators: legal and practice considerations. Remedial and Special Education, 21(5), 297-304.

This article explains the background of a case involving school health services. IDEA mandates that school health services must be provided by a qualified school nurse or other qualified person, but it does specify that courts ruled that a health aide can perform CIC (clean intermittent catheterization) and trach tube suctioning.

Kennedy J.H. (1995). Teachers, student teachers, paraprofessionals, and young adults’ judgments about the acceptable use of corporal punishment in the rural south. Education and Treatment of Children, 18(1), 53-64.

This quantitative, descriptive study included questionnaire data from 256 teachers (grades K-12), 60 paraprofessionals (classroom aides), 241 practicing student teachers, and 480 college students. The questionnaire was designed to measure their views toward corporal punishment based on six scenarios. “Overall, paraprofessionals were more likely to favor using corporal punishment than were other individuals. The most important predictor for the use of corporal punishment was a history of corporal punishment administered by parents, especially for paraprofessionals. This suggests that a more extensive support system (e.g., mentors, modeling, in-service training) be provided for the learning and maintenance of positive classroom management techniques for classroom educators.” (p. 53).

Rubin P. M. & Long, R.M. (1994, Spring). Who is teaching our children: Implications of the use of aides in Chapter 1. ERS Spectrum, 28-34.

This article presents paraeducators’ perceptions of the role they play in connecting the school to its community. Forty-nine paraeducators employed in various educational settings participated in focus-group interviews. Paraeducators reported close relationships with students and their parents that provided the basis for the paraprofessionals to act as connectors between parents and teachers, parents and community services, students and teachers, students and their parents, and students and their peers. The participants shared how they provided connections between the student and curriculum by using specific strategies aimed at helping students learn. The study uncovered the barriers that hamper the paraprofessional role as a connector.

Zirkel P.A. (2007). What does the law say? Teaching Exceptional Children, 39(3), 61-63.

The article by Macy & Hoyt Gonzales proposes using curriculumbased-assessment (CBA) in lieu of standardized, norm-referenced assessments for determining eligibility of students under IDEA. Is this approach legally defensible?