Skip to main content

5 Ways to Support a Legally Defensible K-12 Teacher Hiring Process

Recruiting & Hiring

We all want the best candidates filling vacancies in our school systems. Regardless of the position we are looking to fill, be it a classroom teacher, a superintendent or a bus driver, we want the person who will outperform our expectations and make our school community a better place.

Although we will move mountains in search of the best candidate, we must be mindful that we do so in a manner that is legally defensible. Meaning, our desire to have the “best” person cannot be more important than our obligation to adhere to a fair hiring process in the eyes of the law.

Here are some important practices to keep in mind for maintaining and defending a fair hiring process.

1. Advertise vacancies to a wide range of candidates

Part of supporting a fair hiring process is offering jobs to a diverse range of candidates – and being able to prove that you did so.

Many districts are uncovering new ways to attract more candidates, including using popular K-12 job boards and social media tools. is a popular job board for educational positions, with more than 12 million visits to the website last year. Other popular job boards include EdWeek’s,, and

Districts are also expanding the reach of their open positions by posting them on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

While these efforts can be time-consuming, some web-based recruiting tools integrate with these outlets, allowing you to easily reach a broad audience and prove that you’ve done so.

2. Develop objective and compliant hiring criteria

To support a legally defensible hiring process, you need to remove as much subjectivity as possible. For example, do you know if all your principals are using the same interview questions? Discrepancies like this could cause questionable inconsistencies in your hiring process.

First of all, establish a library of uniform and compliant job descriptions. In building these descriptions, make sure that each description adheres to FLSA, FMLA, and ADA regulations. As descriptions are updated, you will want to share these with your entire hiring team, so everyone has the same version. Some applicant tracking systems come with a pre-built library of compliant K-12 job descriptions to make this process easier.

Second, you will want to use a consistent set of objective criteria for filtering through applicants. You can compile your own criteria or use an existing applicant screening tool. An electronic applicant recruiting system will then allow you to filter through large volumes of applications based on objective criteria (i.e. academic credentials, years of experience) versus race, gender or order of application.

Third, ensure all your hiring team members are using consistent interview questions. Providing a list of approved and compliant questions that all members use will help eliminate bias in the interview process and prevent claims of discrimination.

3. Maintain a communication audit trail

Keeping a record of all communication that took place during the interview process will help your district defend your hiring process if an applicant files a complaint against your district.

While you probably have record of all your email communication, consider also documenting interactions over the phone and in person. Finding an applicant tracking system that includes an electronic communication log makes this documentation much simpler.

4. Protect sensitive information

Including a large number of people in the interview process aids in unbiased evaluation of candidates. However, it can also increase the risk of sensitive data getting in front of the wrong people and even leaking outside your district. Documenting sensitive information on paper poses a higher risk than using online systems, where you can control individual permissions and encrypt data.

5. Report on employee diversity

You know how challenging it is to comply with EEOC and the variety of other requirements to ensure fair hiring. However, documenting your due diligence in these areas is crucial to avoiding potential compliance violations.

Web-based reporting tools, whether canned reports or an ad-hoc reporting tool, will make it easier to see the story behind your recruiting and hiring efforts.

Hiring great candidates for your district should always be your first priority. But protecting against legal infringements — or even the appearance of them — makes that task far more difficult. Proactively taking these steps to ensure that your hiring process is fair and defensible will give you the time and peace of mind necessary to freely recruit the very best for your district and the students for whom you are responsible.

Dr. Keith Westman

Dr. Keith Westman formerly served as the VP of Sales and Marketing for Aspex Solutions, now a part of Frontline Technologies. In this position, Keith was responsible for the marketing and positioning of Aspex Solutions and AppliTrack. He also served as a sales manager to thirteen regional sales representatives located throughout the United States. Prior to working at Aspex Solutions, Keith spent over ten years working in public and private schools in the Chicago area, most recently as a public middle school principal. Keith has a doctorate degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University Chicago, a master's degree in Education from DePaul University and a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education from National-Louis University. In addition to his new role at Frontline Technologies, Keith also serves as an Adjunct Professor in the Graduate College of Education at DePaul University in Chicago.