Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Puckett, Tiffany

Degree Name

Ed.D. (Doctor of Education)

Legacy Department

Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations (LEPF)


This dissertation is a component of a larger group project that examines the concept of legal literacy within the educational system. Research over the last fifty years has demonstrated concern that educators have gaps in their legal knowledge in many areas, including church-state relations, student record-keeping practices, discipline, rights of children with disabilities, and their own employment concerns related to law. Most of the current literature on legal literacy in education focuses on the lack of legal knowledge among educators in all roles (Militello,, 2009) and indicates that gaps that have been identified are not narrowing over time (McCarthy, 2008). This dissertation examines the inadequacies in the legal literacy of educators and is organized in three bodies of work. Paper 1 is a review of the research literature to examine legal literacy of teachers and administrators. This was done by looking into the research about the areas of law that most impact students and teachers' legal rights, the legal problems most frequently encountered by educators, why legal knowledge is important for educators to have, their overall knowledge of the law, and finally a broadened definition of legal literacy for educators. Paper 2 examines the coursework in educator preparation programs across the country specifically looking at required coursework that contains the terms law or legal to obtain licensure through a degree at a higher education institution for both teachers and administrators. States were grouped by U.S. Federal Circuits and then an in depth analysis of preparation program data was explored in more detail. I specifically looked at all of the educator preparation programs for the states in 3rd and 4th Circuits along with comparing special education teacher preparation programs to administrator preparation programs required coursework. The findings from the study that formed Paper 2 demonstrated the lack or legal knowledge provided to educators which due to the overall lack of required legal coursework that is present in teacher and administrator/principal preparation programs. Paper 3 utilizes the information gathered in papers 1 and 2 as a way to develop high quality professional learning to develop meaningful, rigorous legal literacy for both teachers and administrators. The professional learning series was a project completed by all six researchers who provided different components. Two researchers developed the SEAL framework that integrated self-efficacy and adult learning theory, one researcher created the “Building Blocks for Legal Literacy” manual to identify the areas of law that impact educators’ daily work and the design for the legal modules based on the SEAL framework to be used with staff, one researcher created a logic model and added content for a legal module, one created an evaluation plan and added content for a legal module this researcher created a presentation containing information about the complete professional learning series and added content for a legal module focused on special education law. The presentation was designed with flexible content that can be tailored to the district staff who can then use it to determine an implementation plan to share with the board of education at the local level. This comprehensive professional learning series allows staff at the local level to use all of the components in the series to provide school districts with knowledge and the components to improve legal literacy throughout the district. Ultimately, the development of this professional learning series will serve to inform and prepare all educational stakeholders with the information needed to take action to ensure they improve legal literacy to protect all stakeholders’ rights.


125 pages




Northern Illinois University

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