I am a high school
teacher. Recently I found out that a student's grade from last year
has been changed without my consent. He failed the class because of
lack of effort. The mom had him tested and found that he has an IQ of
89. She said the district was not meeting her son's needs. He does not
qualify for special education. Does a district have the legal right to
change my grade without my consent?
This question presents
a mix of employment law, issues related to academic freedom, a
student’s right to receive the grade he, or she earned (as adjusted by
any valid district policies such as an attendance policy), and
possibly issues relating to IDEA and §504.
First, it a parent claims that a student “is not meeting her child’s
needs”, this is a statement where it may be prudent for the school
staff to at least review the child’s academic and behavior records to
determine if a formal evaluation for eligibility for special education
services under IDEA or §504 is warranted. If the school decides that
an evaluation is not warranted, to protect themselves from future
claims it may wish to provide the parent with a copy of their finding
and inform the parents of their procedural rights under IDEA and §504
to appeal this decision.
Next, the State delegates to the local Boards of Education the
authority to make many curriculum decisions, including course
objectives. The Board also is given the authority to create grading
standards. As the issuing of student's grades is an ongoing matter,
the authority over grades is generally passed to each building
administrator. In turn, they pass it to the classroom teacher, while
maintaining supervisory authority over the process, including the
authority to amend a grade. While it is good practice to create a
written “grade appeal” process to prevent these types of issues from
arising, I know this just does not always happen.
Interestingly, the School Code before it was amended in 1996 (see MCL
380.1249) detailed a process that all schools were required to follow
if an administrator wished to change the grade a teacher had assigned
to a student. The process included a review panel and an appeal
process. In 1996, the Legislature repealed this law, and it does not
appear that they ever replaced it.
As this issue also indirectly relates to the academic integrity of the
teaching staff, it is an issue that may well be subject to the
bargaining process the teachers and the school board use to create the
agreement that covers the employee-employer relationship. In fact,
when I was on the school board of a large suburban district, I was
involved in the negotiation of two such agreements. Both addressed the
grading issue with negotiated language that stated: “Whenever a grade
or decision to pass or retain a student is changed against the advice
of a teacher, the building administrator shall inform the teacher of
the change. The administrator shall initial the document.” If any
procedure, including the requirement that an administrator inform a
teacher of a grade change is not followed, then the teacher’s remedy
(and depending on the agreement language - the only remedy) is to use
the grievance process defined in the agreement to seek a remedy.
Therefore, a review of your agreement or a call to your local
bargaining representative is in order.
If this subject is not
addressed in the agreement or in school policy (check with your school
board office) then this is a matter to ask be addressed in the next
contract. As there does not appear to be a legal right of action, the
other alternative is to work with other teachers, your building
administrator, and central office staff to draft a policy.
Hope this helps.
John F. Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC
Law Center, PLLC · 810-227-9850 ·
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