Craig Henry PLC is pleased to announce that it won a Kentucky teacher reinstatement to her position with backpay. Ms. K, a nationally board certified teacher was terminated after 19 years of outstanding service to her District based on an unfounded allegation that she dragged a child by the arm so hard that she lifted the child off her feet. The allegation was made by a bus driver and a bus monitor but was contradicted by two teachers who were also present during the alleged incident. There was video near where the incident allegedly occurred, but it did not show the interaction between Ms. K and student.
Despite Ms. K’s long history of service, the District chose to credit the reports of the bus driver and monitor over their teaching staff and fire her. Ms. K exercised her statutory right under KRS 161.790 to have a tribunal review the decision.
Kentucky teachers have the right to a tribunal hearing to challenge terminations, unpaid suspensions and public reprimands
In Kentucky, teachers with more than 4 years of service are entitled to review of decisions to terminate, suspend or reprimand them. Once the teacher makes the request for a review, the State appoints a “tribunal” or group of three people to conduct the review. The tribunal is comprised of a teacher, a school administrator and a lay person. All members of the tribunal must live in a county other than that in which the teacher works. The tribunal members received significant training in their duties and the tribunal process. A hearing officer is also appointed to act as a judge during the hearing, but the hearing officer does not participate in making the final decision.
The hearing is much like a trial where the hearing officer presides and the tribunal members are the jury. Witnesses are called to testify for both parties and documents, audio and videotape may be offered as evidence. The tribunal has the authority to dismiss the charges against the teacher completely or impose a different level of discipline. For example, they might convert a termination to a suspension or they might reinstate a teacher but require her to attend additional training on a particular skill.
The teacher must request a tribunal within 10 days of being informed of the charges. The hearing must then be scheduled within 45 days of the teacher’s request. This ensures that these cases are not dragged on for years as they might be in court setting.
Ms. K’s case
In this case, Ms. K was accused of engaging in aggressive physical contact with a student by grabbing her by the arm and dragging her through the school parking lot to her bus. The tribunal heard testimony from Ms. K, all the witnesses in the parking lot during the time of the incident, the parents of the child who was allegedly involved and the District Superintendent. They also reviewed video from the bus immediately after the alleged incident that showed Ms. K, several of the witnesses and the child involved.
Ultimately, the tribunal determined that Ms. K and the witnesses she called were more credible than the bus driver and monitor. In addition, they carefully reviewed the video and determined that it supported Ms. K’s version of the incident. The tribunal dismissed all charged against the teacher and ordered her immediately reinstated with backpay from the date of termination.
If you are a Kentucky teacher who has been notified of the intent to terminate your contract, suspend you without pay or publicly reprimand you, please contact our office to discuss your right to a tribunal hearing on the charges.