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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Reassigning a teacher to non-teaching duties

Reassigning a teacher to non-teaching duties
Taylor v Hammondsport CSD, 267 AD2d 987

May a school district assign a teacher to perform non-teaching duties against his or her will? This was the issue raised by David C. Taylor, a tenured high school science teacher.

The Hammondsport Central School District had assigned Taylor to perform nonteaching duties after he was found guilty of a number of specifications set out in disciplinary charges filed against him pursuant to Section 3020-a of the Education Law.

The hearing officer found Taylor guilty of portions of two charges filed against him. The penalty imposed: a $1,000 fine. However, the hearing officer in setting the penalty to be imposed did not provide for any remedial action.*

Taylor objected to his reassignment to non-teaching duties, contending that the assignment to such duties constitutes the imposition of an additional penalty or remedial action in violation of Education Law Section 3020-a. He challenged his reassignment, demanding that he be reinstated to his former teaching assignment and compensated for emotional distress he has endured as the result of district’s assigning him to nonteaching duties.

A State Supreme Court judge dismissed Taylor’s petition on the ground that he did not have any “clear legal right to the relief sought against [district], and therefore [an order in the nature of] mandamus* was not available to him as a remedy.”

The Appellate Division agreed with the lower court, pointing out that Section 3020-a “neither limits the authority of [the district] to assign [Taylor] to nonteaching duties nor requires [the district] to restore [Taylor] to his teaching duties following the completion of disciplinary procedures conducted pursuant to the statute.”

Addressing a procedural issue, the Appellate Division ruled that Taylor was required to give the district a notice of claim as required by Section 3813(1) of the Education Law prior to his commencing litigation.

The court said that in this instance complying with Section 3813 (1) was a statutory condition precedent to bringing an action or proceeding against the district because Taylor was attempting to vindicate his private rights. Accordingly, he was not exempt from the notice of claim requirement set out in the Education Law as might be the case were he attempting to vindicate a public interest in contrast to a personal one.

* Education Law Section 3020-a.4, in pertinent part, provides: …. In addition to or in lieu of the aforementioned penalties, the hearing officer, where he or she deems appropriate, may impose upon the employee remedial action including but not limited to leaves of absence with or without pay, continuing education and/or study, a requirement that the employee seek counseling or medical treatment or that the employee engage in any other remedial or combination of remedial actions.

** Latin for "we order." Mandamus is one of a number of ancient “writs.” In modern legal practice it describes a court order directing a governmental entity [or official] to perform an act required by law when it has neglected or refused to do.
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