Why are teachers so difficult to fire?

7:00 PM, Aug 8, 2012   |    comments
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Bradenton, Florida -- When an employee working for a private company makes a mistake, they can often be fired on the spot. But when a teacher does the same, firing them doesn't seem as easy to do.

A Pasco County teacher--who disciplined students by having them wear a dog collar--was fired, then reinstated and reassigned to a new school.

A Manatee County teacher who posted a derogatory remark about a student on her Facebook page received a verbal reprimand and got transferred.  

Assistant Superintendent of Manatee County Schools Scott Martin says teacher discipline is based on two things when they are hired. 

Teachers hired after the enactment of Senate Bill 736 in 2011 have no tenure.

"New teachers coming in realize 'I have a full year of probation. I can be terminated anytime in that first year. Beyond that I'm on a year-to-year contract forever under the new law,'" says Martin.

Teachers hired before the new law continue to have tenure and firing them is more complicated. 

"In absence of showing 'just cause' they'd be employed forever," Martin says.   

He says there are two types of teacher infractions and state law governs how each is handled.

The first type of infraction is based on performance. In that case, the teacher is placed on 90 days probation.

If a teacher does show improvement after the 90 days, Martin says the principal makes a recommendation to the superintendent and they make their recommendation to the school board who makes the final decision. 

The second type of infraction is based on discipline. 

If the school's principal recommends the teacher be suspended or terminated, the Office of Professional Standards investigates. Martin says the teacher has a right to a hearing. 

"We have an administrative law judge in Tallahassee hear the matter. The employee has the opportunity to present their case and the judge makes a recommended decision that ultimately goes to the school board."

School district officials say parents have options too. Parents unhappy with their child's teacher, or want to file a complaint, should always go to the principal first.  If they can't resolve the problem, then parents should turn to the school district for help. 

Martin says most principals will work with parents to move the student to another class if necessary.

Isabel Mascarenas

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