TEA Legal has two new wins under their belt after recent rulings in favor of Tennessee teachers.
Educators statewide stand to benefit from a summary judgment issued by the Chancery Court of Maury County reinforcing teachers’ rights under the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act.
TEA filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Maury County Education Association after a series of unlawful acts by district leadership, including interfering with professional employees in the exercise of their right to choose representatives for collaborative conferencing, failing to engage in good faith collaborative conferencing, refusing to vote on an MOU that had been agreed to by the collaborative conferencing teams, and unilaterally implementing changes to the terms and conditions of professional employees’ employment.
“The actions detailed in this lawsuit demonstrate a clear violation of the Professional Educators Collaborative Conferencing Act,” said Steve McCloud, TEA assistant executive director of legal advocacy. “The judge’s ruling reinforces the strength of the PECCA law and acknowledges that there is a requirement of good faith implicit in the law.”
TEA’s legal team also won a teacher two years of back-pay after Shelby County Schools violated the state tenure law in “excessing” her from her position at East High School.
Curlean Jones-Tate was a tenured teacher in Shelby County when she received a letter in June 2015 from Superintendent Dorsey Hopson telling her that due to budget cuts and/or programmatic cuts at her school, her current position would no longer exist following the conclusion of the 2014-15 school year. This was a notification to Ms. Jones-Tate that she was being “excessed,” a process that is unknown in Tennessee law but has been used for many years in the Memphis City Schools and now in the Shelby County Schools. If a teacher has not secured another position by July 1, then she is considered to be laid off.
Jones-Tate tried for two years, without success, to secure another position in the Shelby County Schools. On May 3, 2017, TEA filed suit on her behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. The District Court held that the excessing of Jones-Tate did not give rise to a due process claim, but it did violate her rights under the Tenure Law.
As a result of TEA Legal’s work, the District Court ordered that Jones-Tate be paid full back pay, without offset, for the period from the date of her unlawful excessing in 2015 until she retired two years later, and that her service credit for those two years be restored. The restoration of her service credit was necessary in order for her to qualify for the school system’s retiree health insurance program. The school system promptly satisfied that judgment. Ms. Jones-Tate has received her full back pay, and her retiree health insurance is in place.
These are just two examples of the effectiveness of TEA’s expert legal team and the importance of having them watching your back.