A teacher, who was employed by a school district under a probationary contract, was placed on administrative leave with pay after a student recorded her making inappropriate comments about other students. The student also published the teacher's statements on social media.
On Jan. 18, shortly after she was placed on
administrative leave with pay, the teacher resigned effective at
the end of the school year. The district notified the teacher on Feb. 8 that it was suspending her without pay until the end of the school year. It
stopped paying her as of Feb. 8. The teacher requested a hearing regarding
the proposal to suspend her without pay and a hearing was held on May
18. The hearing examiner issued a recommendation in June that the teacher be
suspended without pay. That recommendation was accepted by the district on July 27.
The teacher filed an appeal to the commissioner of education, arguing that the district was required to pay her until the board accepted the recommendation of the hearing examiner. The commissioner observed that a teacher who is notified that the district proposes to suspend her without pay has the opportunity to request a hearing before an independent hearing examiner. This is part of the statutory due process that the law provides to protect a teacher's contractual rights. The district's action of Feb. 8 was merely notification to the teacher that it had proposed to suspend her, and the suspension itself could not become effective until the teacher was given the opportunity to present her defense at a hearing.
In reaching this conclusion, the commissioner noted that the school
district is "in the undesirable position of paying a teacher whose suspension
without pay is all but guaranteed" but that it cannot "jump the
proverbial gun" while the hearing is pending.
In this case, the board of
trustees accepted the recommendation of the hearing examiner after the
teacher's resignation had become effective. Therefore, the commissioner ordered
the district to pay the teacher from Feb. 8 until the effective date of her
resignation, which was May 26.
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