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best practices

5 Costly Legal Mistakes School District HR Offices Often Make

Every business and organization needs to follow specific protocol to avoid facing any kind of legal issues. This is particularly true for schools. The following legal mistakes can prove costly for a school district.

1. Asking the Wrong Questions During an Interview

Business Management points out that it's imperative not to ask questions regarding race, age, gender, pregnancy or any type of disability the applicant may have. If applicants were asked one of these questions and didn't receive a job offer, they may bring a lawsuit against the district claiming this was the reason they weren't hired. It's also important to ask the right questions, such as how a teacher would respond to difficult disciplinary situations or how they plan to interact with parents.

2. Conducting Inefficient Background Checks

Many people share the same name or similar social security numbers. According to PBS mistakes are often made when conducting background checks. These mistakes can cost applicants the job. They may also allow people who shouldn't be working with children to slip through the cracks. Conducting weak or inefficient background checks could potentially result in costly lawsuits.

3. Keeping Incomplete Employee Files

Keeping organized and accurate employee files is important for many reasons, including preventing lawsuits. Everything from evaluations to disciplinary actions must be written down and recorded. This often includes having witnesses sign and date documents at the time evaluations or incidents occur. Anything that is not officially documented and filed may be hard to prove later.

4. Inadequate Training

It's up to each school district to make sure employees receive adequate training for everything from diversity training to how to handle classroom discipline. If a lawsuit is brought against an employee for inappropriate behavior the district may also be found liable if proper training wasn't provided. Campus Clarity reported in 2015 that a school's inadequate training violated equal protection laws. Make sure employees sign logs when they receive any type of training to prove they were actually in attendance.

5. Messy Terminations

Emotions often run high when terminations are taking place. This is also one of the biggest causes of lawsuits. It's important to always have another administrator present as a witness during the termination. Other important steps to take include not discussing the termination with other employees and not letting the termination come as a complete surprise.


In order to avoid costly legal issues, human resources must take a proactive approach in each of these specific areas. Making sure those responsible for hiring in a school district are properly trained is imperative to avoiding potential legal problems.

Additional Resources:

Business Management - http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/37489/the-5-most-dangerous-legal-mistakes-hr-makes#_

PBS - http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/background-checks-make-mistakes-applicants-left-little-recourse/

Campus Clarity - https://home.campusclarity.com/court-finds-schools-failure-to-train-employees-violates-equal-protection/