The Wilkinson County School District in Mississippi offered Mr. Ward a fulltime teaching contract on June 10, 2020. State law and district policy required that offered contracts be signed and returned within 10 days. If that’s not done, the board can withdraw the offer. Here’s the timeline in our case:
June 22, 2020: The district informed Mr. Ward that his contract was ready to be signed.
June 29, 2020: The district reminded Mr. Ward, and told him it needed to be signed no later than July 1. Mr. Ward was out of town at the time, but informed the district that he would come in to sign the contract as soon as he could.
July 6, 2020: Mr. Ward went to the office and reviewed the contract. He was told that he needed to sign it immediately because the 10-days had already passed. He didn’t sign. He said he wanted more time to think about it.
July 8, 2020: The Board voided the contract.
Almost three years later, March 7, 2023: The 5th Circuit affirmed the ruling of the lower court, holding that the district did not deprive Mr. Ward of due process.
This is not surprising. Teachers are entitled to “due process” when the school proposes to take away a “property right.” Those property rights are framed by state law, local policy, and the contract language. This situation could hardly be more clear. Mr. Ward argued that the constitution required that he be given “a reasonable time to consider” the proposed contract. The court did not delve into the issue of whether 10 days is a reasonable time. It simply noted that Mr. Ward had no property right at all because he never signed the contract, and thus, was not employed by the district.
Texas does not have a similar law but this 10-day window is a common practice in many districts. It makes sense that there be some timeline for teachers to respond to an employment offer, so that the district can make other plans if the teacher decides not to sign.
It’s Ward v. Wilkinson County School District, decided by the 5th Circuit with an “unpublished” opinion on March 7, 2023. However, it is published on Westlaw at 2023 WL 2418212.
DAWG BONE: BE SURE TO COMMUNICATE ANY SUCH TIMELINE CLEARLY.
Got a question or comment for the Dawg? Let me hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tomorrow: mythology about ARDs?