A school district proposed the termination of a teacher's contract for excessive use of force with students. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the proposed termination.
Following the hearing, an independent hearing examiner found that the teacher engaged in multiple instances of excessive force with students, including pushing, grabbing and pressing his thumbs into a student's shoulders hard enough to cause pain. The teacher had been reprimanded for use of excessive force with students in prior years. The independent hearing examiner recommended that the teacher's contract be terminated after concluding that the teacher adversely affected the learning, physical health, mental health or safety of students, failed to comply with directives and did not have an objectively reasonable belief that his use of force was necessary to discipline students. The district's board of trustees accepted the recommendation and terminated the teacher's contract.
The teacher appealed the termination of his contract to the commissioner of education, arguing that the termination was improper because he was immune from disciplinary action. The Texas Education Code states that a teacher may use force against a student when and to the degree that such force is reasonably necessary to maintain discipline or to compel obedience to a proper command. The commissioner agreed that the teacher was immune and ordered that the teacher be reinstated.
The school district appealed the commissioner's decision to district court and then to the court of appeals. The court of appeals examined the findings of the independent hearing examiner and concluded that the school district had appropriately terminated the teacher's contract. In reaching that conclusion, the court noted that a teacher is only entitled to immunity for use of force when that force is objectively reasonable. In this case, the independent hearing examiner specifically found that the teacher was not reasonable in his use of force. That finding could not be disregarded on appeal. Therefore, the court of appeals reversed the commissioner's decision and found that the teacher's contract could be terminated.