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Greg Gass and Jon Dykstra

Procedural Due Process


Teacher is entitled to due process if termination of employment impairs a property or liberty interest. -Tenured Teachers -Contract

Dismissal
Refers to termination for cause of any tenured teacher or probationary teacher within contract period Both of the above establish a property right entitling teachers to full procedural protection

Nonrenewal
Protections not given to probationary teacher when the contract is not renewed At the end of the contract period, employment may be terminated for any reason Most school boards require a notification of nonrenewal by a specified date Some states require a written notice of reasons for nonrenewal Does Alaska?

Property Interest
Individual must have more than an abstract need or desire for a job, there must be a legitimate claim of entitlement. Supreme Court confirmed that lack of tenure does not void a claim that nonrenewal was based on the exercise of constitutionally protected conduct In general, a nontenured employee does not have a property claim to reappointment unless state or local government action has clearly established such a right

Liberty Interest
Deals with nonrenewal of employment damaging an individuals reputation Charges must be serious implications against character

Procedural Requirements in Discharge Proceedings

When liberty or property interest is implicated, 14th amendment requires that a teacher be notified of charges and provided with an opportunity for a hearing

Procedural Due Process Elements in Teacher Termination Proceedings

Notification of charges Opportunity for a hearing Adequate time to prepare a rebuttal Access to evidence and names of witnesses Hearing before an impartial tribunal Representation by legal counsel Opportunity to present evidence and witnesses Opportunity to cross examine adverse witnesses Decision based on evidence and findings Transcript or record of the hearing Opportunity to appeal an adverse decision

Dismissal for Cause


Vary by state, but usually include incompetency, immorality, insubordination, unprofessional conduct, neglect of duty, and other good and just cause With tenure, a teacher can be discharged only for cause and only in accordance with procedures specified by law

Incompetency
Generally based on several factors or a pattern of behavior rather than isolated incidents Usually requires school officials systematically to document a teachers performance

Immorality
Teacher is viewed as an exemplar influential to students, held to a higher level of discretion then required for the general public
Sexual conduct with students Sexual orientation

Insubordination
Willful disregard of or refusal to obey school regulations and official orders Teachers cannot ignore reasonable directives and policies of administrators or school boards Key determination is whether the teacher has persisted in disobeying a reasonable school policy or directive

Unprofessional Conduct
Teachers activities both inside and outside of school can be used to substantiate charge if it interferes with teacher effectiveness
Sexual harassment Wrapping student in electrical cord Humiliation in front of other students Losing complete control of classroom Showing sexually explicit film Stealing Ritalin

Courts often require prior warning that the behavior may result in dismissal

Neglect of Duty
Teachers can be discharged when their performance does meet expected professional standards in the school system Arises when an educator fails to carry out assigned duties
Failing to discipline in accordance with school policy Repeatedly sending unescorted students to office Failure to maintain harmonious relations Failing to comply with continuing education requirement

Other Good and Just Cause


Has often been challenged as vague and overbroad
Misdemeanors Altering student answers on state assessments Shoplifting Allowing drinking on ones property

Reduction in Force
Release of teachers for declining enrollment, financial reasons, and school district consolidation Employee challenging RIF decisions shoulders burden of proof Usually based on seniority Tenured vs. nontenured Merit rating systems may be used in addition

Remedies for Violations


Wrongfully terminated employees may be entitled to compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement with back pay, and attorneys fees for violations of their constitutional rights

Liability of School Officials


Public school employees acting under state law can be held personally liable for actions affecting teachers or students federal rights Supreme Court has recognized that sometimes school officials can claim immunity when they have acted in good faith

Liability of School Districts


Districts can be assessed damages when action taken pursuant to official policy violates federally protected rights Imposed only when execution of official policy by an individual with final authority impairs a federally protected right

Remedies
Depend on employment status, federal and state statutory provisions, and discretion of the courts Damages assessed to compensate claimant for injury Actual injury must be shown to recover damages Without evidence of monetary or mental injury, plaintiff is entitled to nominal damages (not to exceed $1), even though an impairment of protected rights is established. (precedence) Punitive damages my be incurred if concluded that individuals conduct is willful or in disregard of federally protected rights No punitive damages can be awarded against municipalities Reinstatement may be rewarded To receive attorneys fees, teacher must be the prevailing party

Conclusion
Through state laws and the federal Constitution, extensive safeguards protect educators employment security Most states have tenure laws that dictate employment rights in termination 14th Amendment ensures teachers are given due process for property or liberty interests If educators constitutional rights are impaired in connection with termination, school officials and districts can be held liable