Clinical Studies for Education Programs

Legal Issues

Procedures for Obtaining Teacher Certification - All Programs

Notice for School Employees (teachers, aides, substitute teachers, support staff)

Placement Files

Legal Status and Responsibilities

Substitute Teaching - CAUTION


Procedures for Obtaining Teacher Certification - All Programs

All Wilmington University teacher-preparation programs carry unconditional State of Delaware and NASDTEC (the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification) approvals. This means that Delaware certification is guaranteed upon program completion. Applications for certification in other states require that you obtain and submit the correct application forms from those states. Most states also require an "institutional recommendation form" that must be signed by the Wilmington University College of Education's Chair or the Wilmington University Coordinator of Clinical Studies. Although your Delaware certificate will be recognized and valid in the majority of other states, you still need to apply to any state in which you plan to teach, and you may need to meet additional testing requirements in effect in those states.

The Candidate Handbook contains a list of all state certification agencies in the nation, with addresses and telephone numbers. You can also check the handbook for advice on preparing your résumé, interviewing, testing requirements and other issues related to getting a teaching position.

Notice for School Employees (teachers, aides, substitute teachers, support staff)

Most school districts (and private, independent and parochial schools) and some states have policies that address employee involvement in clinical experiences such as practicum and student teaching. Some policies are quite restrictive and some prohibit such involvement altogether, requiring that employees apply for an unpaid leave of absence. The University is bound to adhere to the conditions outlined in those policies. Candidates who are school employees must check with personnel administrators in their school or district to discuss this issue well in advance of the clinical semester. Employers must then provide written, prior approval for an employee to engage in clinical experiences such as practicum and student teaching. The University provides an approval form for that purpose (the Concurrent Placement Form, available at the website). This policy applies to all school employees, including support personnel and substitute teachers. Candidates must not assume that their employers will approve such requests.

Candidates also need to realize that attempting to complete clinical requirements in the context of a full-time teaching position can be difficult and risky, because there is no "safety net!" Teacher candidates benefit enormously from the support, modeling, experience, analysis, encouragement, criticism, and the personal/professional interactions that occur in good mentor/protégé relationships. Trying to do it alone, without a mentor "in your corner," can be both overwhelming and professionally detrimental.

Placement Files

Observation reports, mid-term evaluations, final-evaluations, and narrative reports are completed by mentor teachers and clinical advisors, in collaboration with candidates. Original copies of these documents are retained by the University and become part of each candidate's permanent placement file. The placement files are maintained in the College of Education office in New Castle and are confidential. They are released only with the written permission of the student (typically to potential employers seeking references and recommendations). Rating scales are based directly on Delaware's Professional Teaching Standards. Copies of evaluation forms are contained in the Student Teaching Handbook and can be found at the website.

Legal Status and Responsibilities

Candidates may not begin working in schools until officially registered for the appropriate clinical course(s). This is a legal/liability issue affecting the University, the school, and all participants. Registered teacher candidates working in approved placement settings under the supervision of the University and a certified teacher have, in some cases, been accorded the same legal protections as regular classroom teachers, although protections can vary and are highly dependent on specific circumstances. Since the legal status of student teachers in Delaware has never been precisely defined, candidates can be treated legally as "unlicensed school visitors," without any of the rights or protections granted to licensed teachers or school employees. Candidates are urged to seek guidance and advice from school officials, mentor teachers, and advisors regarding any issue or event about which they have questions or which may have possible legal ramifications.

Regardless of legal status, candidates must remember that they are assuming responsibility for the health and safety of children under their care. Candidates who are negligent in accepting or exercising this responsibility may face a tort action. A tort action is a civil wrongdoing where a person suffers loss or harm as the result of improper conduct of another. In such cases the injured person is entitled to compensatory monetary damages from the person(s) found to be negligent, and such awards can be significant. Negligence charges can include misfeasance, nonfeasance, and/or malfeasance. These charges result from unwise or unsafe actions (misfeasance), a lack of action when there was a duty to do so (nonfeasance), or acts undertaken to deliberately and knowingly harm a student (malfeasance).

Candidates have a responsibility to exercise what is known as "duty of care." A court can decide if the probability of injury in a given situation could have been foreseen, and can decide how a reasonable person with similar training would have acted. The "beyond a reasonable doubt" rule does not apply in these cases, and teachers are held to a higher standard than are non-teachers. Standards are even higher where risks of injury are greater (playgrounds, gyms, bathrooms, corridors, school buses, stairs, cafeterias, on school-sponsored field trips, at athletic events, in science classes, etc.).

Candidates also need to be aware of malpractice issues (although such cases are rare). Malpractice refers to an action that is either unprofessional or inappropriate, resulting in negative consequences for a student. This can involve failure to bring a student up to satisfactory achievement levels; improper testing, evaluation, and placement; and/or failure to act to protect a learner in situations where personal harm might result.

Candidates need to become aware of laws governing a number of other issues. These include personal appearance, property rights of students, search and seizure, saluting the flag, sexual harassment, dress codes, lifestyle issues, immoral conduct, censorship, slander and libel, freedom of association, family rights and privacy (FERPA), learner privacy (especially related to grading), freedom of expression, copyright protection, religious content of the curriculum, civil rights, rights of learners with disabilities, reporting of suspected child abuse, and discrimination (race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, etc.).

The program chair may, for a variety of reasons, reassign a candidate to a different placement setting. School principals also have the absolute authority to terminate a candidate's placement at any time, and are not required to provide advance notification or reasons. If told to do so by either the duly authorized building administrator or the program chair, a candidate must leave the school premises immediately, or be subject to charges of criminal trespass.

Candidate behavior that violates any school, school district, or university regulation, or a mid-term rating of unsatisfactory on any teaching standard can result in termination of the clinical placement. Notice of termination will be issued by the program chair. No refund of fees or tuition will be made, and Wilmington University is under no further obligation to the candidate in terms of program continuation or other clinical placements.

Violation of applicable laws or school district policies regarding controlled substances (including drugs, tobacco, and alcohol), FERPA, child welfare/safety, weapons, use of profane or offensive language, or any other criminal offenses (including but not limited to threats, offensive touching, assault, misdemeanor or felony theft, and trespass) will result in immediate termination of the clinical placement. Candidates must be aware that even an indictment on a criminal charge can be the basis for dismissal from the program and denial or revocation of a teaching certificate.

Failure to satisfactorily complete any fieldwork requirement (including but not limited to seminar requirements/attendance, units, lesson plans, portfolio, research paper, etc.) will result in the grade of INCOMPLETE or UNSATISFACTORY. A rating of "Basic" or better is required on all teaching standards, on the portfolio, and on the MAT/MEE research paper in order to earn the grade of "S" for the clinical semester. Incomplete grades automatically change to "F" in 60 days. University Supervisors have the final authority for determining grades.

Candidates may assist with any duties and responsibilities normally expected of teachers under Delaware law. However, candidates should not be asked or required by the school or School-based cooperating teacher to assume sole supervisory responsibility for students in settings outside the classroom (cafeteria, playground, trips, etc.) except in cases of emergency.

Candidates are expected to participate in-service sessions, staff meetings, parent-teacher meetings, evening conferences, special school programs, extra-curricular activities, field trips, etc.
Candidates should never put themselves in the position of being alone with an individual student, especially when dealing with a student experiencing some emotional distress. It is always better to have a third party present or to work with an individual student in a location that is visible to another adult.

Under no circumstances are teacher candidates authorized to administer or participate in any form of corporal (physical) punishment, even if permitted by local or state school authorities. Candidates are not permitted to take part in any "strip" or "partial strip" searches of students, under any circumstances, regardless of the age of the students involved or the conditions surrounding such action.

Candidates are not authorized to use personal vehicles for transporting any student, even if parents have submitted signed permission forms. Permission slips do not exempt candidates from liability.
Candidates must conform, as a condition of placement, to ALL state and local requirements for health and safety standards, including testing for communicable diseases (TB, etc.).

Substitute Teaching - CAUTION

Schools are facing a critical shortage of substitute teachers. Student teachers are sometimes asked to serve as substitute teachers during the clinical semester. The university policy regarding this issue is described in detail in the Candidate Handbook. Basically, a student teacher may serve as a substitute teacher, without pay, for short periods of time (up to three days), with school or district approval. Longer-term, paid assignments are possible, but they present some complicated legal and professional issues and must be approved in advance by the school district and the Wilmington University Coordinator for Clinical Studies. Such requests are decided on a case-by-case basis.

This information applies to students who enter this degree program during the 2014-2015 Academic Year. If you entered this degree program before the Fall 2014 semester, please refer to the academic catalog for the year you began your degree program.