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.

Beale, E.W. (2001). Analysis of state standards for paraprofessionals. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 28(4), 244-248.

Paraeducators constitute an important and significant portion of instructional delivery to all students. Legislative requirements and expanding paraeducator responsibilities increase the need to identity standards that are linked to specific training practices. Nationally, very little has been done to develop credentialing systems for paraeducators and few standards exist for either credentialing or administrative guidelines. However, states have begun to recognize the importance of developing state standards, credentials, and guidelines. This paper presents a review of state standards for paraeducators and training requirements based on defined competencies.

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.

Garwood J.D., Van Loan, C.L. & Werts. M.G. (2018). Mindset of paraprofessionals serving students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Intervention in School and Clinic, 53(4), 206-211.

As schools across the United States move toward more inclusive models and as caseloads for special education teachers increase, special education paraprofessionals are being hired to fill service delivery gaps. Most often, paraprofessionals are asked to provide social and behavioral support to students with disabilities, and much of their time is spent in direct support of students with emotional and behavioral disorders. Special education teachers have reported that students with emotional and behavioral disorders are some of the hardest to serve, and those working in this field have the highest rate of burnout. Although there has been increased recognition of the importance of mental health and wellbeing for special education teachers, little attention has been paid to paraprofessionals’ needs. Based on recommendations for special education teachers in the extant literature, 12 survival mindsets to be adopted by paraprofessionals are proposed that may prevent burnout by promoting greater resiliency, emotional wellbeing, and self-awareness.

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).

Lifshitz H., Nissim, S. & Cohen, S. (2008). Attitudes of Israeli teachers and paraprofessionals towards the new definition of id and their Willingness to cope with special education law changes. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 43(4), 514-528.

Attitudes of teachers (N=96) and paraprofessionals (N=48) working with students with intellectual disability (ID) towards the new definition of ID (Luckasson et al., 1992, 2002), was examined. The main innovation of the new definition of ID is the cancellation of the four ID levels, suggesting an optimistic view, especially towards individuals with severe/profound ID. Participants’ attitudes towards modifiability and the acquisition of new skills by students with severe/profound ID were investigated. Their willingness to cope with the changes stemming from the implementation of the Special Education Law (1988) was also examined as well as their general educational attitudes (conservatism vs. progressiveness) according to role and type of population. Findings yielded low attitudes towards modifiability of students with severe/profound ID (2-4 out of 6). The Denial Culture and the Integrated Threat Theory of prejudice explain these findings. The “control theory” and the top-down approach explain the low scores in willingness to cope with changes stemming from the Special Education Law. The research hypothesis was supported. Paraprofessionals express a higher level of conservatism and lower scores in the attitudes towards the new definition of ID than teachers, especially those working with students with severe and profound ID. These findings suggest that it is not only the education level, but also the type of occupation that determine the worker’s orientation.

Morrison A.D. Luttenegger, K.C. (2015). Measuring pedagogical content knowledge using multiple points of data. The Qualitative Report, 20(6) 804-816.

Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is the intersection of a teacher’s knowledge of content, pedagogy, and of the context of the learning situation, including her students. Many different methods have been used by researchers to study PCK. We propose that PCK cannot be measured through one approach. Rather, it is more accurately measured by triangulating data gathered through observation of instructional events, teacher interviews, and assessments of content knowledge. This is illustrated through a case study of Maria, a paraeducator leading small group reading intervention lessons in a kindergarten classroom over a period of 10 weeks

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.

Will, M. (2018). During strikes, stakes high for teachers’ aides. Education Week, 37(33), 14-15.

The article discusses the effects of teacher strikes on school support staff such as paraprofessionals. Topics include the lack of pay for school support staff, pay raises won by teachers in states such as Arizona and West Virginia, and the lack of school district funds to pay support staff during strikes in Oklahoma and Arizona.

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?