This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Legal Issues in Music Education: An Analysis of Court Cases Involving Music Educators




Gallahan, Carla

Type of Degree



Curriculum and Teaching


Although all educators are susceptible to legal challenges, music educators, as a result of their professional responsibilities, have an increased risk of becoming involved in litigation. Reasons for this increased risk include individual and student performances, attendance requirements, additional time with students outside of the traditional school day, and off-campus activities including overnight trips. The purpose of this study was to identify the legal concerns that occurred most often in the United States federal court system involving music educators from January 1, 1995-December 31, 2009, and to provide music educators with an awareness of the law as it pertains to the field of music education through court case analysis. The LexisNexis Academic Database was used to identify the court cases involving music educators and selected areas of law including Constitutional Law (First, Fourth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth amendments) and other areas of law (tort law, copyright law, disability law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and sexual harassment). The search revealed 220 cases that occurred in the federal court system from January 1, 1995–December 31, 2009, that involved music educators in their professional roles. The hierarchy of the court system was used in selecting cases for inclusion in the study, and I sought diversity in the selection of district court cases through consideration of the factual background of each case, the case holding, the subject (band, choir, orchestra, and general music), and grade level (elementary school, middle school, high school, and higher education). A summary of each case selected for the study included the facts of the case, the case holding, and the rationale for the court’s decision. Music educators were most often involved in federal court cases concerning the Fourteenth Amendment – 26%, Tort Law – 19%, the First Amendment – 17%, Sexual Harassment – 15%, Disability Law – 15%, and the Fourth Amendment – 5%. The information from the court case summaries, the legal considerations used by the court in determining the case holding, and practical application suggestions were provided for each area of law. Through increased knowledge of the laws impacting the field of music education, music educators will be better equipped to provide a safe and comprehensive musical experience for their students.