Yes. Petitioner, a special education teacher from 2011 through June 2016 was reassigned to a “rubber room” pending an investigation in March 2015. She claims that although some of the allegations against her were substantiated, she was placed back in a teaching position on March 7, 2016 and went on leave until the end of the school year in April 2016. She was terminated from employment, without a hearing, on June 15, 2016.
The DOE argued that although her extension of probation had lapsed she was still on probation since she was not preforming teaching duties in the rubber room.
The Court rejected the DOE’s argument holding that tenure by estoppel applied and the petitioner could not be dismissed without a 3020-a hearing. While the Court ordered that the petitioner be restored to her position with back pay it noted that there were serious allegations against the petitioner and her ruling should not be misinterpreted to be seen as protecting an allegedly incompetent teacher.
No. The Houston Federation of Teachers brought an action against the Houston Independent School District based on the claim that a teacher evaluation system based, at least partly on student exam scores, violated disciplined teachers’ procedural due process rights under the 14th Amendment.
Student exam scores were subjected to a “secret” algorithm to determine whether students’ performance was increased. This algorithm was the proprietary property of a private computer firm. Affected teachers had no right to view or test the computer code making review of their scores nearly impossible.
While the plaintiff challenged the evaluation system on both procedural and substantive due process claims the Federal District Court in the Southern District of Texas held that the refusal to permit teachers to fully review their scores might deprive them of a property right in violation of their procedural due process rights and denied the District’s motion for summary judgment.
The Court held, “On this summary judgment record, HISD teachers have no meaningful way to ensure correct calculation of their EV AAS scores, and as a result are unfairly subject to mistaken deprivation of constitutionally protected property interests in their jobs. HISD is not entitled to summary judgment on this procedural due process claim.”
Houston Federation of Teachers, Local 2415, et al., Plaintiffs v. Houston Independent School District, Defendant, United States District Court, Southern District of Texas, Civil Action H-14-1189 (May 4, 2017)
Yes. Editor’s note: While federal cases are generally reported here many teacher discrimination cases brought in Federal Court are not since most are very fact dependent and provide little precedential value. This is not to diminish the importance of these cases. The following case is reported due the statement by the Judge, a respected Judge on senior status, Jack Weinstein in the Eastern District, in his introduction in dismissing the teacher’s discrimination case. The full case is linked at the bottom of this post.
…Essentially this case — as do many of our teacher discrimination cases — reveals fundamental stresses in our public education system: a good faith attempt by an incoming principal to improve the quality of teaching in a poorly performing school, clashing with experienced, devoted teachers resenting criticism of their teaching methods and the increased discipline and changes sought to be imposed on them. Here, if there was any discrimination — and there appears to be none — it was not age-based, as alleged. The matter is resolved in favor of defendant on the basis of the relevant statute of limitations and the failure to take advantage of appropriate administrative remedies.
Plaintiff sues her former employer, the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York (“DOE”) for discrimination against her on the basis of her age, in violation of federal, state, and city law. She also asserts claims of negligent hiring and improper supervision by her principal.
Defendant moves for summary judgment on all claims. The motion is granted….
Yes. Petitioner, a middle school tenured teacher in the Bronx, received a U-rating after an interim principal was appointed in his school. While he was able to transfer to another school he sought to reverse the U-rating and appealed the matter. At the U-rating appeal neither petitioner nor his UFT representative raised the issue that he was observed only once during the rating period.
On appeal to the Supreme Court Justice Doris Ling-Cohan annulled the U-rating and ordered that it be replace with an “S” rating. The City appealed and the Appellate Division, First Department reversed.
The Appellate Division wrote, “Petitioner failed to preserve the issue of whether the U-rating should have been annulled based on an alleged procedural deficiency or deviation from the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by his union regarding observation practices, since he never raised the issue at the administrative level.”
IN RE JEROME RAZOR, Petitioner-Respondent, v. CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., Respondents-Appellants. 3013, 101079/13.2017 NY Slip Op 00932 Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department. Decided February 7, 2017.
Yes. Petitioner, a probationary teacher, was dismissed based upon an investigation finding that she had neglected her duties and falsified records. She brought an Article 78 proceeding and Justice Alice Schlesinger of the Supreme Court, New York County reinstated her.
The City appealed and argued that petitioner had failed to exhaust the grievance procedure and that there was a sufficient basis to dismiss the petitioner since probationers can be dismissed for “almost any reason, or for no reason at all,” as long as it is not “in bad faith or for an improper or impermissible reason.”
The Appellate Division, First Department agreed finding that “[T]he burden falls squarely on the petitioner to demonstrate, by competent proof, that a substantial issue of bad faith exists, or that the termination was for an improper or impermissible reason, and mere speculation, or bald, conclusory allegations are insufficient to shoulder this burden.”
While there was a delay in the issuance of the investigator’s report, the Court held that petitioner had been given timely notice of the allegations.
IN RE ANNA FINKELSTEIN, Petitioner-Respondent, v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, ET AL., Respondents-Appellants. 3959, 101540/14. 2017 NY Slip Op 03850 Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of New York, First Department. Decided May 11, 2017.
Yes. Petitioner, a 28 year special education teacher, was terminated after charges were brought against him for gross insubordination by yelling at, menacing and threatening his superiors, leaving students without supervision by a licensed teacher and other charges. Petitioner argued that the principal brought the charges solely in retaliation for petitioner’s reporting special education violations to the State and that there was no official policy against leaving students with a paraprofessional. He also claimed that the Hearing Officer’s decision was based entirely on hearsay and cannot support a determination that the charges against were sustained.
In dismissing the petition the Court found that, indeed, a 3020-a hearing founded upon hearsay can be the basis of its determination. Petitioner’s claim that there was no policy against leaving students with a paraprofessional was unavailing since he was “well aware of the rule that it is against Department and school policy to leave children without supervision of a licensed teacher as he had been disciplined before for the same infraction.”
Finally the Court sustained the Hearing Officer’s determination of termination since, as the Hearing Officer concluded, petitioner “does not think he did anything wrong. Additional training or remediation is a waste of time.”
Yes. Petitioners, school photography vendors, sought reinstatement as a DOE vendor in FAMIS after they claimed that the DOE arbitrarily declared them to be a “non-responsible vendor.”
The president of the photography vendor admitted that, “he had continued to send a certain photographer to work in DOE schools after becoming aware that the photographer had been accused of touching a student’s breast five years earlier and had pleaded guilty to the charge of endangering the welfare of a child.”
The petitioners argued that the DOE did not provide them with a hearing or notice of its designation as a non-responsible vendor in violation of their due process rights.
The Court held that the DOE was not required to provide a full evidentiary hearing since the vendor had no property interest in any public contract. It also recognized the DOE’s obligations to provide a safe place for students when evaluating the responsibility of its vendors.
EDWARD M. THORNTON and THORNTON’S CLASSIC STUDIO, Petitioners/Plaintiffs, v. NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, DAVID N. ROSS, and JAMILLA SIMMS, Respondents/Defendants.Docket No. 156571/2016, Motion Seq. No. 001. 2017 NY Slip Op 30971(U)Supreme Court, New York County.Motion May 9, 2017.Filed May 10, 2017.