Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Leadership, Foundations, and Human Resource Education

Committee Chair

Strope, John L.

Author's Keywords

P-12; School law; Disciplining; Public school; Off-duty conduct; Judicial


School employees--discipline; Labor laws and legislation--United States; Privacy, Right of--United States; Labor discipline--United States


The right to discipline a P-12 public school employee for off-duty conduct remains unclear. Historically, society has held teachers up to a higher standard of conduct than persons in most other professions. The researcher traced the teacher-as-role-model theory back to antiquity. The literature further indicated that courts often rely on the role model theory when deciding judicial challenges based on adverse employment decisions. Courts also refer to the nexus theory, demanding that a relationship exist between off-duty conduct and the job. The following research question guided this study: When is it legal for P-12 public school employers to discipline employees for off-duty conduct? The researcher examined a broad spectrum of off-duty conduct and incorporated every case in the national reporting system related to off-duty conduct. By using legal methodology, the researcher identified 161 cases related to the research question. Critical examination of each case provided a full understanding of the judicial response to employee challenges based on discipline for off-duty conduct. Furthermore, the researcher created a data analysis form used to capture identical information from each case to assess relationships among the cases. While the study did not use any form of statistical analysis, the researcher gathered quantifiable data for describing the cases collectively. Employers prevailed in the 57% of the identified cases. While courts granted wide latitude to employers to discipline employees for off-duty conduct, employees enjoyed some constitutional protections under the right to privacy, association, speech, religion, reputation, due process and equal protection. Employees faced discipline twice as many times for off-duty conduct involving criminal activity, as compared to non-criminal activity. Courts referred to the teacher-as-role-model and nexus theories in 90% of the cases.