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Benefit of CEA Membership: Valuable Legal Expertise

CEA Attorney Chris Hankins

CEA Attorneys Chris Hankins and Adrienne DeLucca gave a “Teachers and the Law” presentation to Fairfield Education Association members yesterday. CEA employs three lawyers who provide valuable legal assistance to members.

“Helpful” and “eye-opening” is the way teachers around the state have referred to the CEA Legal Department’s “Teachers and the Law” presentation. Fairfield teachers were the latest group to hear from CEA lawyers, and they said the presentation helped them feel better prepared for the school year ahead.

“This is critical information for all teachers,” one educator wrote in an evaluation of the session.

CEA legal counsels Christopher Hankins and Adrienne DeLucca spoke to the almost 1,000 members of the Fairfield Education Association who were gathered yesterday at Fairfield Warde High School for the opening day of their school year. The lawyers focused on the services CEA’s Legal Department provides to members, teachers’ responsibilities as mandated reporters, teachers as the subject of a Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigation, and social media.

Hankins said that, as mandated reporters, teachers must report observations, allegations, facts, or statements by a child, victim, or third party related to physical, emotional, and sexual abuse or neglect. Click here for a DCF chart on recognizing child abuse and neglect.

“Members were grateful to have the information,” said Fairfield Education Association President Bob Smoler. “The CEA  lawyers shared do’s and don’ts on a variety of subjects including social media use and offered tips for even simple things such as remembering to always keep the classroom door open when meeting with a student.”

Hankins and DeLucca cautioned teachers to protect themselves against unfounded allegations by maintaining a professional distance and demeanor with their students. They told the educators they should:

  • Avoid being alone with a student in and/or out of school.
  • Have no physical contact with students.
  • Avoid spending time with students from previous years.
  • Be wary of “troubled” students and those who obsess over a teacher.
  • Do not discuss their personal life.
  • Do not make excessive compliments about a student’s physical appearance.
  • Do not engage in excessive texting, emailing, or other online communications with students.
  • Do not friend students on social media sites.
  • Preview all materials to be shown or shared during class or that students are assigned to read or watch.

Teachers appreciated learning about areas where issues can arise and said the presentation was a good reminder about topics that could set off a controversy.

“I appreciated the honesty in discussing these topics,” one teacher wrote.

Another said she hadn’t truly appreciated the devastating effect an unfounded allegation can have on a teacher’s reputation and career. “It was important to hear about actual cases that I wouldn’t have thought could happen.”

Smoler said, “Though it was scary for members to learn how restrictive things are for teachers these days, it was important that they understand we have to be more cautious now.”

Your CEA Membership Provides You with Experienced Legal Representation

Unfortunately, even the best educator can be blindsided by an unfounded allegation. All active CEA members are entitled to free, quality legal assistance in certain employment-related matters including statutory terminations, DCF, unemployment, certification, workers’ compensation, and unfair labor complaints.

Through their NEA membership, CEA members are also eligible to receive reimbursement for up to $35,000 in legal fees for representation in employment-related criminal matters for which they are successfully defended.

If you would like CEA lawyers to present to you and your colleagues, please contact your local Association president. If you are ever in need of legal assistance, contact your local president or CEA UniServ Representative.

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