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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A probationer has the burden of establishing that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law

A probationer has the burden of establishing that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law
Appeal of Lindsey Stephenson, Decisions of the Commissioner Education, Decision No. 16,329

Lindsey Stephenson, a probationary educator, was notified that her position was being abolished, effective June 30, 2010, and that she would be placed on a preferred eligible list. 

Subsequently, and as the result of an investigation following a report concerning an alleged incident involving students, the principal submitted a letter to the superintendent recommending that Stephenson be terminated. 

On the basis of the principal’s recommendation, superintendent notified Lindsey that he would recommend that the board terminate her from her position. 

Lindsey requested, and received a written statement of the reasons for the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate her services as a probationary teacher pursuant to Education Law §3031. Ultimately the school board voted to terminate Lindsey’s employment and to remove her from the preferred eligible list. 

Although the Commissioner dismissed Lindsey’s appeal for a number of other technical reasons, his decision notes that “it is well settled that a school employee who elects to submit an issue for resolution through a contractual grievance procedure may not bring an appeal to the Commissioner of Education for review of the same matter.”

Here the record indicated that Lindsey brought a grievance in which she alleged that the district violated the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and as relief “sought rescission of her termination and placement on the preferred eligibility list.” Her grievance was denied. Lindsey than filed a second grievance, alleging that the district violated certain provisions of the parties’ collective bargaining agreement. This grievance was also denied.

The Commissioner then said the “Even if the petition was not dismissed on procedural grounds, it would be dismissed on the merits.  Generally, a board of education has the unfettered right to terminate a probationary teacher or administrator’s employment for any reason unless the employee establishes that he or she was terminated for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statute or decisional law.”

Noting that Lindsey disagreed with School Board’s decision to terminate her services, the Commissioner found that she had not establish that Board had terminated her employment for a constitutionally impermissible reason or in violation of a statutory proscription or decisional law.  Nor, said the Commissioner, the record did not support Lindsey’s assertions that Board had acted in bad faith

Finding that “On the record before me, there is no basis for overturning [the Board’s] decision to terminate [Lindsey’s] probationary appointment,” the Commissioner dismissed Lindsey’s appeal.

The decision is posted on the Internet at:

Handbooks focusing on State and Municipal Public Personnel Law continue to be available for purchase via the links provided below:

The Discipline Book at http://thedisciplinebook.blogspot.com/

A Reasonable Penalty Under The Circumstances at http://nypplarchives.blogspot.com

The Disability Benefits E-book: at http://section207.blogspot.com/

Layoff, Preferred Lists at http://nylayoff.blogspot.com/

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