Teacher disabled by a stroke. Contract terminated. Is that a problem?

Mr. Rodriguez thought that the district chose not to renew his probationary contract because of his disability.  The first year teacher had a stroke on January 22, 2016.  He did not return to work that semester and on May 17th was told that his services would no longer be needed after the expiration of his one year contract.  As usual with the termination of probationary contracts, the district offered no explanation.

Mr. Rodriguez thought he knew why this happened: obviously, it was his disability.  Isn’t the district supposed to offer some sort of reasonable accommodation?  After all, nothing else happened between the date of the stroke and the notice of termination. 

Unfortunately for Mr. Rodriguez, soon to be known as “the Plaintiff,” something else did happen, but it happened before the stroke.  Some students had complained about Mr. Rodriguez on January 6th.  One girl alleged that he paid her “unwanted attention” and hugged her in a way that made her uncomfortable.  Other students confirmed seeing some inappropriate interactions.

The principal wrote all this up in a memo to the superintendent dated January 12th. In the memo, the principal recommended immediate termination of the teacher’s contract.  The memo further stated that the teacher had been put on suspension with pay.

Notice that all of this happened prior to the stroke.  So while Mr. Rodriguez may have been correct in saying that nothing significant happened after his stroke, he failed to mention some very important things that happened before the stroke. 

Here’s hoping that Mr. Rodriguez has made a full recovery. But his suit against the district was not successful. Because the district produced solid documentary evidence of a legitimate reason to terminate a probationary contract, and Mr. R did not effectively rebut it, the court held that the district was entitled to a judgment in its favor.

It’s Santa Rosa ISD v. Rodriguez, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi-Edinburg on December 6, 2018. 


Tomorrow: Toolbox Tuesday!!