Recourse for Targeted Teachers

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Certain members of the School Board have repeatedly alleged that there are numerous layers of protection for aggrieved teachers up to and including a lawsuit. After Jeff Laney, an attorney on the School Board, emphasized this claim at the School Board Town Hall in October 2022, an instructor who had been targeted and driven from his position within the school confronted the board member afterwards to invite him to identify ANY SINGLE ONE of the numerous layers of protection he had so staunchly insisted exist. He adamantly refused to do so. Here is a summary of the protections that SHOULD exist for targeted school district employees.

Due Process

The 5th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution both assert that no person may be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”  This applies to all levels of government, from Federal down to local government.  The courts have interpreted employment in government (e.g., school district employee) as property for this purpose.  Due process requires that government agencies adopt procedures designed to promote integrity, justice, and fairness.  Unfortunately, the only way to enforce this is through lawsuit.  And Ozark School District makes every effort to harass teachers and staff into resigning so that the District’s conduct isn’t subject to legal review.

 

The District is content to issue warnings that say, effectively, “step out of line again and we will fire you,” without any prior opportunity for the targeted teacher to answer (or sometimes to even KNOW) the charges against him or her.  The District seems to suppose that due process is something that is owed AFTER one is terminated, but not before then. This is either utter confusion or contempt for justice.

 

Missouri State Teachers Association (or other teachers’ unions)

The Missouri State Teachers Association can offer legal advice.  They can offer a representative to sit in (as silent audience) during meetings with district administrators.  They can even offer legal representation in a termination hearing.  This is all entirely ineffective when a district chooses to behave dishonestly, especially when the school district has an attorney on permanent retainer guiding their steps to ensure they can get away with whatever malfeasance they desire.  The MSTA has no leverage against a school, especially one that shows contempt for truth, due process, and law.

Missouri Teacher Tenure Act

The MTTA provides only procedural protection, not substantive protection.  A teacher can appeal a firing only if the district did not follow the prescribed procedure.  A teacher cannot appeal on the grounds that the allegations of misconduct were all deliberate fabrications and demonstrably false.  So in Missouri, tenure only protects teachers if the district behaves honestly.  When the district is willing to fabricate allegations and falsify evidence, there is no protection.  See https://www.mnea.org/sites/default/files/publications/Legal_Advocacy/dueprocesstenure.pdf for more information.

Administrative hearing (including appeal hearing after termination)

In an administrative hearing, the School Board is the judiciary that reviews the case.  The Board has already demonstrated its complete unwillingness to hold a hearing, even when obligated by both state law and District policy.  They have also convincingly demonstrated their absolute indifference to truth and unmitigated support for an abusive administration.  If a terminated employee managed to compel the District to hold a hearing, there is no longer any grounds for thinking the hearing would have any genuine interest in an honest outcome.

Lawsuit

Lawsuits of this nature cost far more than teachers can afford.  While attorneys will sometimes accept lawsuits on a contingency basis, there are several obstacles to their doing so.  First, stand-alone law firms cannot incur this kind of financial risk.  Large law firms seldom have interest in small cases unlikely to generate a large payout.  Second, winning a case like this is complicated by the fact that since the school district enjoys unlimited access to an attorney, they are careful to ensure each dishonest maneuver is difficult to prove by the standards of court.  They document their false allegations and fabricate evidence to make the truth harder to establish.  Finally, while it still seems quite likely that an attorney who took the time to get acquainted with the particulars of our cases would find a winnable cause here, it would take such an attorney many hours of time to reach that level of awareness.  Attorneys aren’t willing to invest in cases on a contingency basis until AFTER they have reached this degree of confidence.

Want to make a change in Ozark Schools?

Want to see how to make a change in Ozark, MO schools?  Here are a few ways you can help.

SIGN THE PETITION

Help make a change in Ozark, MO Schools. Sign the petition today. 

WE NEED A LAWYER

Perhaps the best way to hold a school district accountable is through the legal system. If you happen to know of an attorney that could help us, click below.

ADD YOUR STORY

Have a similar story to share? If you are a current or previous teacher, staff, administrator, or volunteer in Ozark, MO schools, you can add your story here.  

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