Teachers can rest easy as they pull out the red ink this upcoming school year — a new Arizona law says they can’t be sued over bad grades.
While it’s not common for an uproar over a D-minus to make it to the justice system, it happens. Three years ago a Peoria family, outraged that their daughter was flunking and would not graduate, filed a lawsuit that made national headlines and put all teachers on alert.
The teacher had to retest the student, and the girl graduated using a standard separate from other students.
Tom Pickrell, attorney for the Mesa Unified School District, said the new law could make it less stressful for teachers to grade in some situations. "A teacher would like to know they are not subject to a lawsuit," he said.
Errors in grading could still be appealed under the new law because of federal protections, Pickrell said. As a result, he said, teachers should not be able to get away with giving unwarranted bad grades based on the new law, which takes effect in August.
Other legal cases involving grading, elsewhere in the country, have included a high school athlete who sued his teacher over not being harsh enough in grading, which he claimed caused his education to suffer, and a lawsuit by a college student accusing his professor of grading based on political affiliation.
Janet Bass, spokeswoman for the American Federation of Teachers, said there’s a lot of pressure on teachers when it comes to grading students.
"There’s pressure from all sides to make sure kids are at least meeting standards and meeting the threshold they have to meet for No Child Left Behind," she said. "So the district, principals, parents — they all want the good grades."