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Teachers in the United States enjoy a number of rights pertaining to their employment, including recognition of certain freedoms, prohibition against certain forms of discrimination, and significant protections against dismissal from their position. These rights are derived from state and federal constitutional provisions, state and federal statutes, and state and federal regulations.

Constitutional provisions provide protection to teachers at public schools that are generally not available to teachers at private schools. Since public schools are state entities, constitutional restrictions on state action limit some actions that public schools may take with respect to teachers or other employees. Rights that are constitutional in nature include the following:

  • Substantive and procedural due process rights, including the right of a teacher to receive notice of termination and a right to a hearing in certain circumstances
  • Freedom of expression and association provided by the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights
  • Academic freedom, a limited concept recognized by courts based on principles of the First Amendment
  • Protection against unreasonable searches and seizures by school officials of a teacher’s personal property provided by the Fourth Amendment

Though private school teachers do not generally enjoy as much of the constitutional protection as public school teachers, statutes may provide protection against discrimination. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, protects teachers at both public and private schools from racial, sexual, or religious discrimination. Private school teachers may also enjoy rights in their contracts that are similar to due process rights, including the inability of a private school to dismiss the teacher without cause, notice, or a hearing.

Inside Teachers