Something for the legislature to address?

The Commissioner’s decision in the case we review today includes five statements that a teacher made to another teacher near the end of the school day. Kids were there. They heard it. One of them recorded it and then it went on social media. Of course it did. I think I will just quote verbatim the statements made by the teacher:

  1. “If I have to keep dealing with kids that are complete and utter morons I’m done. I’m literally done.”
  2. “I don’t even care if I lose my job. I want to be fired at this point. I literally am going to hurt myself if I have to keep coming here. It’s so ridiculous. I told my kids, I was like, I have never in my life dealt with kids that are so awful that if they fell into a river I would let them float away. Literally. See ya.”
  3. Asked by a colleague “You wouldn’t throw a log?” Petitioner responded “Nope. I might throw a log on them, so they sink. My god.”
  4. “I actually want to volunteer to go to work at the [Juvenile Detention Center] campus because I want to carry a gun on my hip and intimidate people. You get to be like a police officer there. And then you can hit them when they’re smartasses.” “You heard me tell my advisory. Can’t even flip a burger. Nobody’s gonna hire you at all. Nobody’s gonna hire you. And they’re like “what?” Start making a little change and sign so you can stay on the street corner cause nobody’s gonna hire your ass.”
  5. “I called my husband today and I said I haven’t decided yet if I want to quit or do something so they fire me. And I definitely can’t come back to education. I’m done. I told them, I’m a billionire. I don’t even know why I’m here. I don’t want to keep looking at you. I own two businesses. I’m rich. I have a Rolex. I have a $60,000 diamond in my wedding ring. OK? You guys, suck it. I don’t know. I’m done. I literally can’t decide if I’m coming tomorrow.”

The fallout was predictable. Parents were outraged. The media jumped on it. Some of the students (6th graders) said that they were afraid of the teacher.

The school suspended the teacher with pay and confronted her with the recording. She owned up to it, while also citing the extreme stress she had been experiencing, including one student spitting in her face. Thus her vent to her colleague which happened after classes, but while some students were within earshot. The teacher tendered her resignation effective as of the end of the school year. But this all happened in January and the district did not want to keep her on paid leave until the end of the year. So in early February the board voted to suspend the teacher ‘without pay” effective immediately.

That’s when the teacher requested a hearing. The hearing was not about her continued employment—she had resigned as of the end of the year. The hearing was about payments to her from February to the end of the year.

The hearing examiner ruled that the board had the right to suspend her without pay due to her numerous violations of state law, board policy and the Educator Code of Ethics. The hearing examiner cited some federal court cases for the proposition that suspension without pay, prior to a hearing, is constitutional under the right circumstances. These were the right circumstances.

So why would the Commissioner reverse that decision? Here’s why:

States can provide more process than the constitutional minimum, and the Texas legislature has done so for teachers by providing evidentiary hearing procedures, if requested, for proposed suspensions without pay. Whether [the school district’s] suspension of [the teacher] would pass 14th Amendment muster does not determine the issue of the board’s compliance with subchapter F.

Subchapter F of Chapter 21 of the T.E.C. is where teachers are given the right to obtain an independent hearing after being notified of the district’s intent to terminate the contract or “suspend the teacher without pay.” T.E.C. 21.251(a)(3). Pay cannot be cutoff prior to that hearing. Are there exceptions for cases in which teachers have acted not just bad, but real bad bad? No. Key Quotes:

Although [the district] is…in the unenviable position of paying a teacher whose suspension without pay is all but guaranteed, while also replacing the teacher it suspended, it cannot jump the gun while subchapter F proceedings are still pending.

…the alleged egregiousness or justifiability of [the teacher’s] conduct does not alter [the district’s] need to comply with subchapter F, which makes no exceptions for egregious conduct.

Bottom line: the teacher with the Rolex, the two businesses, and the expensive diamond ring will also get her teacher pay for the rest of the year.

It’s Kennedy v. Lamar CISD, Docket No. 054-R2-08-2022, decided by the Commissioner on September 30, 2022.


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Tomorrow: my journeys as a teacher aide continue….