Schools occasionally need to lay off or fire a teacher. It could be a teacher who acted inappropriately with students or parents or in other ways, or who simply wasn’t fit for the position. It could also be for financial reasons that have little to do with the teacher’s abilities or actions.
Whatever the reason, teacher terminations often result in a lawsuit. The teacher may feel singled out or targeted or may dispute whatever alleged actions sparked the termination. He or she may think the termination decision was handled unfairly and thus he or she deserves to keep the job.
School districts and administrators can reduce the odds of a lawsuit by adhering to strict processes and standards whenever deciding to terminate a teacher. But they should also carry the right insurance coverage that will help safeguard their finances and their reputation in case a teacher or other school employee sues.
Here’s a look at some of the most common types of lawsuits levied at schools and some real-life examples:
Race and Age Discrimination
Lawsuits often stem from allegations of discrimination and harassment based on age or race. A 2016 class action lawsuit filed by more than 100 teachers in Atlanta argues Atlanta Public Schools penalized, terminated or forced retirement of about 128 teachers over the age of 40, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The lawsuit states the school district moved older teachers to lower-performing schools, didn’t provide them with the necessary tools to do their jobs, reprimanded them for minor things and reassigned them to “meaningless work,” according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
A former school employee in New Jersey received a $50,000 settlement in 2016. The employee filed a lawsuit in 2016 for wrongful termination. The plaintiff said she began receiving critical emails from her bosses and was moved to a different school after she told her superiors she was going to have a baby, according to NJ.com.
A former teacher in Colorado sued Hanson Elementary School and Adams County School District 14 in 2017 for religious discrimination. The teacher, who is half Apache and half Caucasian, said the elementary school principal criticized her American Indian religious beliefs on numerous occasions, according to the Denver Post. The teacher resigned in March 2017, citing an intolerable work environment.
A former school nurse in New Jersey was awarded $2 million in a settlement in 2016 after suing her former school district for disability discrimination. The nurse has a visual disability, making it difficult for her to work on the computer and put in students’ medical information. She requested clerical assistance to give her more time to file the information, but the school district didn’t respond. She continued to ask for accommodations over the next two years. The nurse resigned after realizing her disability was worsening and she wasn’t going to receive the requested accommodations, despite an increased workload.
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