Can Tenured Teachers be Fired?
Yes. Many individuals, teachers included, mistakenly believe that having tenure makes a teacher “untouchable.” This simply is not true. The difference between a tenured teacher and a teacher without tenure is that the tenured teacher has the right to due process when he or she faces an accusation of misconduct or dismissal for another reason. This due process is known as a 3020a hearing. In comparison, a non-tenured teacher does not have this right and can be terminated like a private sector at will employee.
Tenure exists to protect academic freedom, the right to express ideas and pursue research without fear of professional discipline for doing so. It does not exist to protect teachers who behave inappropriately or those who are not competent at their jobs.
How to Fire a Teacher with Tenure
When a tenured teacher is accused of misconduct or poor performance, the district initiates the discipline process outlined in section 3020a of the New York Education Law.
Once the teacher is notified of the charge against him or her in writing, he or she can choose to go before a panel of school board members in a 3020a hearing or waive the right to this hearing, in which case disciplinary measures may be levied without the opportunity for the teacher to show that they are inappropriate. The teacher must make this decision within 10 days of being notified of the charge.
An important step in the process of terminating a tenured teacher is the 3020a hearing. This hearing is not a legal proceeding, but an evaluation of the charges against the teacher to determine the appropriate action to take. Termination is not the only action that can follow a 3020a hearing. In some cases, districts determine that suspending the teacher, requiring him or her to undergo counseling, or taking another action like requiring the teacher to take a continuing education course is the correct action.
At a 3020a hearing, the district must prove that the teacher’s defective performance falls into one of the following categories:
- Conduct unbecoming of a teacher;
- Immoral character;
- Corporal punishment;
- Excessive absenteeism;
- An inappropriate relationship or sexual contact;
- Neglect of duty;
- Failure to maintain certification;
- Physical or mental disability;
- Verbal abuse; and
- Pedagogical incompetence.
Pedagogical incompetence is the most common issue cited with teachers facing termination. It includes a variety of failures on the teacher’s part, such as failing to maintain an orderly classroom, failure to prepare appropriate lesson plans are necessary, and neglecting one’s duties as a teacher.
Work with an Experienced New York Employment Lawyer
If you are a teacher facing dismissal for any reason, know that you can and should defend your case with help from an experienced employment lawyer. Contact our team at Ricotta & Marks, P.C. to schedule your initial legal consultation in our office to have your questions answered and gain a new perspective on your case. You have rights in the workplace and the legal system, and it is our job to protect those rights for you.