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Articles Tagged with New Jersey tenure charge lawyers

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Under New Jersey employment law, a school board must bring tenure charges when it wants to discipline a tenured teacher.  The teacher can then appeal the tenure charges to the New Jersey Commissioner of Education.  The Department of Education then refers the case to an arbitrator for determination of whether or not the charges should be sustained.  New Jersey’s Appellate Division recently examined the procedures for appealing such a tenure arbitration decision in the case of Ragland v. Board of Education of the City of Newark.

Background

Larhonda Ragland was a tenured teacher in the Newark Public School System.  She received consecutive summative evaluations of “ineffective” or “partially ineffective” based on poor student achievement and classroom observations.  The Board therefore served her with tenure charges of inefficiency.  She challenged the Board’s evaluation process, and the Department of Education the referred the charges to an arbitrator.

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The Appellate Division recently issued an important New Jersey employment law decision concerning the due process rights of tenured teachers.

Tenured teachers have significantly more protections than untenured teachers.

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An untenured teacher is essentially an “employee-at-will” who may be terminated without cause; however, an untenured teacher has the right to require that her board of education discuss her termination in public session.  Thus, the board cannot discuss an untenured teacher’s employment without first giving the untenured teacher formal notice of the intention to discuss her employment and the opportunity to require that it be held in public; this notice is referred to as a “Rice Notice” and derives from the Open Public Meetings Act.

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chalk-1551566__340-300x225The Appellate Division of New Jersey’s Superior Court recently addressed a procedural question with significant implications for New Jersey teachers and other teaching staff members fighting tenure charges under the TEACHNJ Act of 2012.

The TEACHNJ Act changed the system for fighting tenure charges.  Previously, a teacher or other teaching staff member would have the right to have their appeals heard before an administrative law judge, who would normally have a trial on the merits of the teacher’s objections and defenses.  The results would then be sent to the New Jersey Department of Education, which could accept or reject the administrative law judge’s findings.  Whatever the outcome, either party could appeal the Department of Education’s decision to the Appellate Division and then to New Jersey’s Supreme Court.  Under the TEACHNJ Act, however, the administrative law process was eliminated, and objections to tenure charges are now heard by a single arbitrator in binding arbitration.  There are only very limited grounds for appeal.

Recently, a teacher had a series of tenure charges filed against him.  He had two separate charges of “inefficiency.”  He then had a later tenure charge of “conduct unbecoming” for allegedly inflicting prohibited corporal punishment on a student.  He objected that the entire controversy doctrine barred the charges because they occurred before the inefficiency charges were decided and therefore they all should have been brought together.

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