Teaching Profession

Memo Urges Expedited Teacher Due Process

By Stephen Sawchuk — January 25, 2011 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The process for removing tenured teachers accused of crimes or malfeasance should be expedited, taking no longer than 100 days from start to finish, concludes a memorandum commissioned by the American Federation of Teachers.

Prepared by Kenneth R. Feinberg, a lawyer well known for overseeing aspects of damage payments for the 2010 BP oil spill, the proposal calls for a better screening mechanism at the district level to weed out allegations without merit. Impartial hearing examiners would hear legitimate cases and issue a binding ruling.

Though much of the proposal would rely on better documentation of evidence by districts and unions, it has implications for state legislatures, too: Many of its recommendations would probably require changes to current laws governing due process hearings.

The proposal does not address dismissal for other reasons, such as poor classroom performance.

AFT President Randi Weingarten indicated that she supports the proposal, but it won’t become a formal part of AFT policy before the union’s executive board takes it up for a vote in February. In an interview, Ms. Weingarten acknowledged that her endorsement might make some members uncomfortable.

“Some people will tell me I’m doing the wrong thing,” she said. “But the fact that there’s been an inability to have the right structures to deal with people who shouldn’t be teaching doesn’t mean we shouldn’t correct that.”

The AFT asked Mr. Feinberg to revise procedures for disciplining teachers as one piece of a larger plan to examine teacher due process. (“AFT Chief Vows to Revise Teacher-Dismissal Process,” Jan. 12, 2010.) Critics of due process rights, typically granted to teachers after three years of service, contend that the protections make teacher dismissals too costly and time-consuming.

Mr. Feinberg’s proposal says, first of all, that the criteria for dismissing teachers for malfeasance should be much more specifically defined than such terms now enshrined in state codes as “immorality,” “unprofessional conduct,” or “neglect of duty.”

The memo gives examples including, among other acts, conviction or allegation of a felony; improper use of force against students; sexual abuse or harassment; excessive absenteeism; or alcohol and drug abuse.

The new criteria would be at the heart of a two-stage process for adjudicating claims. Teachers would not lose pay during that time unless formal charges of a felony or other such crime were also filed.

At the first stage, parties alleging misconduct would bring the matter to the teacher’s principal. If the principal chose to pursue action, he would compile a detailed complaint listing the relevant facts and evidence that support the allegation. The principal then forwards the information to the superintendent, who would determine whether to dismiss the claim; resolve it with the local teachers’ union; or, if not resolved within 30 days, advance it to a formal hearing.

At the hearing stage, an examiner chosen jointly by the administration and the union would preside over the disciplinary proceedings. The examiner would render a final decision in writing within 100 days and could recommend termination as well as lesser punishments, or dismiss the charges. Delays could cost both parties fines.

As it stands now, the plan runs counter to some states’ statutes. Not all states use hearing officers in due process proceedings; several use administrative-law judges or the state board of education.

And according to Mr. Feinberg’s proposal, teachers could still appeal the hearing officer’s decisions under laws already on the books in most states.

The proposal doesn’t address other reasons for firing teachers, such as in the case of those deemed underperforming or “ineffective” on evaluations.

“The much more politically difficult question, and ultimately the most important, is what to do with teachers who are ineffective,” said Patrick J. McGuinn, an associate professor of political science and education at Drew University, in Madison, N.J.

Ms. Weingarten has said publicly that evaluation systems jointly shaped by unions and management could supply evidence for due process hearings in those instances. Her union will continue to refine the idea, she said.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 26, 2011 edition of Education Week as Memo Urges Expedited Teacher Due Process


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read
Teaching Profession With Vaccine Mandates on the Rise, Some Teachers May Face Discipline
With a vaccine now fully FDA-approved, more states and districts will likely require school staff get vaccinated. The logistics are tricky.
9 min read
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state in Hayward, Calif., on Feb. 19, 2021. California will become the first state in the nation to require all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing. The statewide vaccine mandate for K-12 educators comes as schools return from summer break amid growing concerns of the highly contagious delta variant.
Grace John, who works at a school in San Lorenzo, gets a COVID-19 shot at a mobile vaccination clinic in Hayward, Calif. California is among those states requiring all teachers and school staff to get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing.
Terry Chea/AP
Teaching Profession In Their Own Words Why This Science Teacher Doesn't Want the COVID Vaccine
Contrary to public health guidance, Davis Eidahl, an Iowa high school teacher, has no plans to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
4 min read
Davis Eidahl, a science teacher at Pekin High School in Packwood, Iowa, says he doesn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He thinks social distancing and occasional masking will be sufficient to keep himself and others safe.
Davis Eidahl, a science teacher at Pekin High School in Packwood, Iowa, says he doesn't want to get the COVID-19 vaccine. He thinks social distancing and occasional masking will be sufficient to keep himself and others safe.
Rachel Mummey for Education Week