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Got a question? We have answers


VEA Attorney Dena Rosenkrantz has spent years answering tough legal and job-rights questions posed by members. Read her responses to frequently-asked questions and thorny dilemmas below. If you are a VEA member and have a question on school law or policy, contact Rosenkrantz at drosenkrantz@veanea.org. Selected questions may later be used here in the legal questions file.


Under what circumstances could I lose my job?
Everyone, even President Obama, talks about firing bad teachers. I am working hard and love teaching. Could I lose my job? Why? Who decides?
Why can't I use Worker's Comp instead of sick leave if I'm injured at work?
I fell at work and badly hurt my knee. Why do I have to use sick time to get paid?
Who has the final authority over grades?
Recently I have been asked to give alternative assignments to students who did poorly, or did not even complete the original assignment. As a teacher shouldn't I have final authority over assignments and grades?
Will My Pay Be Cut Permanently if Furloughed?
I am pleased to be returning to my teaching job but confused about being furloughed. When will I be out of work? Will my pay be cut? How much? Will the cut be permanent?
Can a representative attend my meeting with the principal?
My principal is not happy with my work. I was forced to sit through a meeting with the principal and another school administrator. Don't I have the right to bring someone with me to be on my side?
Should I drive students home after school practices?
As a teacher and coach I sometimes wait with students who need a ride home after practice. My principal suggested I drive kids in my car. Do you think I should give kids a ride?
What do I need to do before I go out on sick leave before the winter holidays?
I am expecting a baby at Christmas and plan to go on leave with pay using accumulated sick leave. Will I be charged sick days for the winter holidays when school is closed?
How can I get paid?
The school board does not want to issue paychecks but I do not want direct deposit. What can I do?
Can I decorate my classroom for Christmas?
Christmas is coming and I have lots of questions. Can I decorate my classroom, have my students read or write about the holiday, invite parents to a holiday assembly?
Can I say no to direct deposit of my paycheck?
The School Board does not want to issue paychecks but I do not want direct deposit. What can I do?
Can my teacher placement be changed?
I was hired by the principal at my neighborhood school and spent time preparing and planning during the summer. Just before start of school, I was moved to a different school. I feel vulnerable because the new principal doesn't know me.
How do I protect my personal property in the classroom?
I decorate my classroom with my own posters and keep my own books on the shelves. I often use my own electronic equipment during lessons. Any advice on protecting these valuable personal items?
If I'm Laid Off, Can I Get Unemployment Benefits?
I've been notified that my teaching contract will not be renewed for next school year. I know other teachers are being laid off because of state and local budget cuts. If I don't find another teaching job, can I get unemployment benefits?
Can I Use My Own Curriculum Materials?
I teach literature and like to show students performances of plays or movie versions of novels we read. Why should I use the school's limited library instead of my own?
Can the General Assembly change my retirement benefits?
I hear the legislature is considering making changes to my pension in the Virginia Retirement System. Who would be affected by any changes?
I've been subpoenaed. What do I do?
I have been served with a subpoena to testify in a custody dispute over a student in my class. The subpoena also orders me to bring this student's records to court. What should I do?
Is my teaching job safe in this recession?
The downturn in the economy has me worried. How safe is my job?
Politics in class: what you should know
The November elections are important for my classroom and students. Are public school employees able to participate in political activities?
Who is allowed to look at my personnel file?
Who is allowed to look at my personnel file? Must I be told who looked at my file, when, or why?
When and how much do I get paid?
I just moved to Virginia for my first teaching job. I'm very excited and looking forward to starting class. As I try to plan my lessons, I'm also working on my personal budget. I need to know when I get paid, how much, and how often.
Am I entitled to overtime pay?
This year, I will be teaching five different preparations and maybe handling an overload of students or an extra class. Am I entitled to overtime pay?
What are the 'other duties' not specified in my contract?
I just signed my first teaching contract. I am concerned about one paragraph that refers to "other duties" I may be asked to perform. Other than teaching my students, what duties may I have to do?
Who is allowed 'free' time during lunch?
I am a teachers aide. My principal said that I have to leave the cafeteria while the teacher and students I work with eat lunch. I feel badly getting free time while the teacher has to eat with our students. Why do I get free time and the teacher does not
Don't cuts in our insurance plan violate our continuing contract rights?
Teachers in my county are paying increased premiums for group health insurance that offers less coverage. Don't these cuts violate our "continuing contract" rights?
Why doesn't my paycheck reflect the hours I spend at school?
I am a Teaching Assistant who spends 7 1/2 hours at school every weekday. But my paycheck shows I get paid for 35 hours a week. Is that legal?
I feel I'm being harassed by my principal. Can I sue?
I believe that I am being harassed and work in a hostile environment. My principal singles me out. The stress is getting to me, and I want to sue.
Can I keep my Facebook account?
I've had a Facebook account since I was in college and it is not racy in any way. But I hear warnings that teachers shouldn't even have a personal online presence. Is there any legal reason why I couldn't keep my account?
How many students am I supposed to be teaching?
How many students am I supposed to be teaching? And is that number different for elementary and secondary teachers, or for music teachers?
Why are less experienced teachers getting bigger raises?
Why are less experienced teachers getting bigger raises?
Is my job protected when I'm volunteering out-of-state?
Is my job protected when I'm volunteering out-of-state?
How can I protect myself from student threats?
How can I protect myself from student threats?
Do I have the right to know who can look at my files?
Do I have the right to know who can look at my files?
Can I get fired because of a break in service?
Can I get fired because of a break in service?
Are insurance coverage changes allowed during the school year?
Are insurance coverage changes allowed during the school year?
If I was put on bed rest, why can't I use leave from the sick leave bank?
If I was put on bed rest, why can't I use leave from the sick leave bank?
How do I handle medical procedures in my classroom?
How do I handle medical procedures in my classroom?
Is it legal to impose a dress code on teachers?
Is it legal to impose a dress code on teachers?
What is the standard for personal use of a school computer?
What is the standard for personal use of a school computer?
How can I be protected physically from a dangerous special education student?
How can I be protected physically from a dangerous special education student?
Do I have to attend Parent Organization meetings?
Do I have to attend Parent Organization meetings?
How do leave and insurance work when adopting a baby?
How do leave and insurance work when adopting a baby?
Do students have to make up snow days lost? Will teacher pay be cut if they don't?
Do students have to make up snow days lost? Will teacher pay be cut if they don't?
Do I have a right to know if one of my students is charged with a violent offense?
Do I have a right to know if one of my students is charged with a violent offense?
Can I deduct rental fees for storage units for educational materials from my taxes?
Can I deduct rental fees for storage units for educational materials from my taxes?
Who owns my lessons plans?
Who owns my lessons plans?
Is my job protected if I go on active duty?
Is my job protected if I go on active duty?
May I write my political opinion to a newspaper?
May I write my political opinion to a newspaper?
Is religious music permissible?
Is religious music permissible?
Can we conduct a raffle for a scholarship?
Can we conduct a raffle to raise funds for a scholarship?
Can the tax collector garnish my paycheck?
Can the tax collector garnish my paycheck?
How do I handle competing divorced parents?
What are ways I can deal with a student's parents who are divorced?
Can I Confiscate a Student’s Cell Phone?
I heard that Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli offered an opinion that teachers can confiscate and search student cell phones. Cell phones are a big distraction in my school. Can I take the phones away from students?

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