TENURE – PLAIN AND SIMPLE
By: Melissa Tomlinson & Marla Kilfoyle
Imagine you are charged with the job of making the decisions that concern the life of a child, including the protection of that child. If you are a parent, this is no stretch of the imagination.
Now imagine that you are prevented from doing this. You are afraid to speak up and have opinions for fear of personal recriminations that could affect yourself or other family members. Consequences could include temporary loss of income, loss of a job, even loss of a career. You become silenced, effectively opening the door to the possibility of harmful decisions to be made regarding children that are in your charge.
As a parent, you have power. You have legal guardianship rights over the lives of your children until they turn 18. For a large portion of that time a child attends school. While that child is in school it is in the best interest of all children that adults involved can advocate for the child. When you deny tenure rights of teachers you are silencing that advocate.
We are 2 teachers and we are 2 mothers. Melissa has 2 boys and Marla has 1 boy. As teachers we understand the importance of teacher tenure, which for the remainder of this article we will call due process. First of all, a teacher’s right to due process does NOT guarantee them a job for life. For example, in New York State any tenured teacher can be dismissed under 3020a law.
Here are some scenarios in which teachers would need due process to protect children.
Mrs. Smith goes to a meeting for Johnny, a special education student that she has taught all year. She knows that Johnny needs to have speech therapy and plans to recommend that he receive it as soon as possible. Before the meeting Mrs. Smith is told via email that she is NOT to recommend speech therapy for any more children because the district does NOT want to pay for the services.
Mrs. Smith with NO due process rights – goes to the meeting and doesn’t say a word in advocacy for Johnny because she is a afraid to lose her job and/or goes to the meeting and advocates for him and is fired by the district directly after the meeting is over.
Mrs. Smith with due process rights – goes to the meeting and can ignore the district directive and recommend speech therapy because that is what Johnny needs. The district cannot fire her for ignoring this harmful directive without a due process hearing.
Mr. Jones suspects that one of his students is being beat up at home. The student in question, Mark, comes to school with a black eye. Mr. Jones tells his department chair that he is calling Child Protective Services on the parents. Mr. Jones gets an email from the district telling him to NOT call CPS because they don’t want the bad publicity.
Mr. Jones with NO due process rights – does NOT call CPS because he is the sole breadwinner in his house and cannot lose his job and/ or he calls CPS and is fired at the end of the week.
Mr. Jones with due process rights – calls CPS, ignoring the district directive not to, and cannot be fired without a due process hearing.
Mrs. Davis is an award winning English teacher. She has enjoyed teaching an amazing unit on To Kill A Mockingbird for her entire 15 year career. In this unit she can teach children about social justice and equality. In Mrs. Davis class is the new president of the Board of Education’s daughter. When Mrs. Davis starts her To Kill a Mockingbird unit the BOE President calls her up and expresses concern that the book has rape in it. Mrs. Davis explains to the BOE President that her focus on the book isn’t rape but social injustice. The next day Mrs. Davis is called into her directors office and told she cannot teach the book.
Mrs. Davis with NO due process rights does NOT teach the book in fear of losing her job. She is the sole provider for her mother and herself and/or Mrs. Davis teaches the book against the advice of her director and is fired at the end of the year
Mrs. Davis with due process rights explains respectfully to her director that she will teach the book as she has done so successfully for 15 years. She further states that she will be attending the BOE meeting to make a statement that the BOE President is attempting to censor reading lists in the district for children. She cannot be fired without a due process hearing.
Mr. Bryant has been a math teacher at XYZ High School for 25 years. He is loved by his students and parents in the community. He has been active in school and advises the award winning Math Club. During Mr. Bryant’s 25th year as a teacher the district hired a new Superintendent of Schools. This Superintendent sought to trim the budget and decided to cut several clubs, including Mr. Bryant’s award winning Math Club. Mr. Bryant made an appointment with the new Superintendent to plead their case. The meeting did not go well so Mr. Bryant rallied the community to raise money to keep the club. This angered the new Superintendent who
Mr. Bryant with NO due process is fired immediately and the new Superintendents nephew, a new math teacher, is hired to take his place.
Mr. Bryant with due process is called up to the Superintendent’s office and given a hearing prior to an attempt to fire him.
The above scenarios are only a few that we can provide to you. We could write a book but we hope that you get the overall simple reason why teachers need due process rights. Many people argue that no other job gets due process rights, and in many cases they are correct, but NO other occupation deals with the complexity of teaching children and making sure that the environment that they learn in is free of cronyism, favoritism, safe, and free from personal bias. A teacher’s right to due process provides a stable, safe, and productive environment for children to learn and thrive. It gives teachers the ability to advocate freely for children in their care without fear of losing their jobs.