Most states protect tenured public school teachers from arbitrary discharge through tenure statutes. Once a teacher has attained tenure, his or her contract is automatically renewed each year. If a school district decides to dismiss a tenured teacher, it must be by a showing of cause, and through proper procedural requirements.
Some causes for dismissal of a tenured public school teacher include the following:
- Immoral conduct;
- Criminal conviction;
- Neglect of duty;
- Fraud or misrepresentation; and/or
- Serious noncompliance with school laws.
If you have been discharged for reasons other than any of the above, an employment attorney can provide further guidance on your options.
When Can a Teacher Sue a School for Their Improper Discharge?
If a teacher has been improperly discharged from his or her job, most states require him or her to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing a civil lawsuit. If you have been improperly discharged, an experienced employment attorney can assist you with the administrative process.
Once the proper administrative channels have been exhausted, the following must apply in order to sue the school district:
- The teacher must have the right to continue employment as a public school teacher through tenure or a contract;
- The teacher must have been discharged from their position or reassigned to a different position that is not equal to their former position; and
- The teacher must show that the grounds for dismissal were inadequate.
Showing wrongful discharge of the teacher may also be possible if he or she was not afforded the procedural rights to which he or she is entitled. Additionally, if the teacher was terminated for something related to protected speech or on grounds that violated due process or equal protections of the law, a wrongful discharge lawsuit may be successful.
Are There Any Defenses to Such a Lawsuit?
Below are a few defenses that a school may use when facing a charge of improper discharge of a teacher:
- The teacher’s behavior was immoral, criminal, or he or she was incompetent.
- The teacher’s criminal conduct, immorality, or incompetency is not amendable.
- The teacher had been given proper warning to correct the misconduct, immorality, or incompetency, but failed to fix the problem.
Do I Need an Attorney If I Was Wrongly Terminated as a Public School Teacher?
If you have been improperly discharged from your career as a public school teacher, you should speak with an employment attorney as soon as possible. An experienced lawyer will be able to advise you of your rights and assist you in the administrative remedies process. Upon review of your case and after all administrative remedies have been exhausted, your lawyer will assist you in filing a lawsuit.