Recent Decisions - LOWER FEDERAL COURTS AND STATE COURTS PRIMARY & SECONDARY EDUCATION

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Faculty and Administration

Principal appealed revocation of educator's certificate . A principal was made aware of a cell phone video that depicted several students engaged in oral sex. The principal failed to investigate the issue further and stated that she only talked to students about academics. The Professional Standards Commission (PSC) revoked her educator's certificate. Held: For the commission. The record supported the commission's decision that the principal's behavior demonstrated she was unable to function professionally. Professional Standards Commn. v. Adams, 702 S.E.2d 675(Ga.App.2dDiv.2010).

Teacher sued school for retaliation after being transferred to another school. The teacher reported student allegations of sexual harassment conduct by the principal. Teacher was reprimanded and transferred to another school. Held: For the teacher. Teacher satisfied the elements necessary for a retaliation claim. His report of sexual harassment was a protected activity; the transfer was an adverse action against the teacher because he had to teach a class he had never taught before; and evidence supported that his protected conduct caused his transfer. Reece v. Pocatello/Chubbuck Sch. Dist. No. 25, 713 F. Supp. 2d 1222 (D. Idaho 2010).

Assistant principal sued school district for discrimination. An AfricanAmerican assistant principal was demoted to a teacher by the principal. Held: For the school. The school was justified in demoting the assistant principal. He had not passed the Administrator's Examination, and there was evidence of inadequate job performance. The assistant principal was unable to show that these reasons for demotion were a pretext. Hobdy v. Los Angeles Unified Sch. Dist., 386 Fed. Appx. 722 (9th Cir. 2010)(unpublished).

Preschool teacher appealed denial of unemployment benefits. The teachers had experienced a pay cut, reduced hours, reduced time off, and a requirement to attend training without pay. The Department of Labor found that the teacher left employment voluntarily and denied her unemployment benefits. Held: For the Department of Labor. The teacher refused to meet with her supervisor to discuss the unpaid training, and the employee handbook was ambiguous concerning whether the training would be paid or not. Demar v. Dept. of Labor, 6 A.3d 695 (Vt. 2010).

Teacher sued school board alleging retaliation. A teacher resigned from her teaching position after she was not allowed to participate as a volunteer in the mentoring program within the school district. Held: For the teacher. The court stated that as a volunteer she would not have a retaliation claim; however, as a former employee she could bring such a claim. Therefore, her claim was valid. Gates v. Gadsden Co. Sch. Bd., 45 So. 3d 39 (Fla. App. 1st Dist. App. 2010).

Teacher sued board of education for violation of her First Amendment rights. A teacher taught a class about sex and sexually transmitted diseases. She encouraged students to use terms they understood, which included vulgar words. Subsequently, school officials removed the teacher from the classroom and, after some investigation, determined that she had violated school regulations. Held: For the teacher in part and the board of education in part. Since the teacher acted within the scope of her official duties and not as a private citizen, her speech was not protected. However, the school's regulation that prohibited teachers from using verbally abusive language was impermissibly vague and lacked sufficient notice. Kramer v. N.Y.C. Bd. ofEduc, 715 F. Supp. 2d 335 (E.D.N.Y. 2010).

Principal sued school district for breach of employment contract. A principal alleged she was constructively discharged when she was placed on administrative leave. The school district claimed that the principal affirmatively terminated her employment by accepting a position with a new employer. Held: For the school district. The principal did not establish constructive discharge because she voluntarily resigned, had an alternative to quitting at the time she resigned, and was on the district's payroll until she notified it that she had accepted another position. …