Suspension of a tenured teacher requires the timely filing of written charges and specifications with the clerk or secretary of the board of education
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision No. 17,054
After disposing of a number of procedural issues, the Commissioner of Education addressed Petitioner's allegations that she was unlawfully placed on administrative leave with pay without any disciplinary charges having been preferred against her pursuant to Education Law §3020-a in violation of her rights to administrative due process. Holding that this aspect of the appeal submitted by Educator was timely, the Commissioner explained that the "Suspension of a tenured teacher requires a board of education to file written charges with the clerk or secretary of the board (see Education Law §3020-a). Suspension of a tenured teacher without the filing of such charges within a reasonable time is ultra vires and constitutes a continuing wrong.
Turning to the merits of Petitioner's appeal, the Commissioner found that although Petitioner was advised that she was being placed on “paid administrative leave,” there was nothing in the record indicating the reason for her placement on such leave beyond the initial two days. In any event, the Commissioner found that Petitioner had been suspended for more than a year without any charges being preferred against her and that during that time she has been prohibited from coming onto school property.
The only reason provided by the district for the continuation of Petitioner on such leave was her failure to submit a HIPAA-compliant release and submit to an independent medical examination as requested more than three months after she was placed on such "administrative leave." However, said the Commissioner, there is nothing in the record to show that the district preferred charges alleging insubordination against Petitioner based on her alleged failure to comply with the district’s directive "to submit to a medical examination, as it is clearly empowered to do."
The Commissioner agreed that a board of education has the right to place an employee on administrative leave pending an investigation and, or pending disciplinary charges being filed against the employee and has the right to require a teacher to submit to a medical examination. However, on this record, the Commissioner ruled that the district’s actions constitute an unlawful suspension in the absence of its timely filing of disciplinary charges against Petitioner. Further, said the Commissioner, the board of education did not introduce any evidence that it was conducting an active investigation during the period of such administrative leave and had not established that it took action to file charges within a reasonable time in compliance with Education Law §2566(6). Further, the Commissioner noted that there was no "viable explanation" for the board's delay in bringing disciplinary charges against Petitioner.
The Commissioner concluded that as Petitioner's suspension was not acted upon in a timely manner, it must be deemed null and void and directed that all references to the suspension challenged by Petitioner be expunged from her record.
Finally, the Commissioner ordered that Petitioner be deemed to be on involuntary sick leave pursuant to Education Law §913 until she submits to a medical examination, indicating "that nothing in this decision precludes [the] board from filing [disciplinary] charges [against Petitioner] in accordance with Education Law §3020-a within the period of limitation prescribed in Education Law §3020-a(1).
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