Employment Law

What Is the Law Controlling Drug Testing in the Workplace or in Public Schools in Connecticut?

Among employees, there are a variety of times in which they may legally be drug tested in the workplace.  Employees are often tested prior to being hired to prevent employers from hiring people who use illegal drugs.  After an employee is hired, if an employee’s supervisor has reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they may test the employee for illegal drug use.  Employees in a workplace may also be tested post-accident to determine whether drugs or alcohol contributed to the event.

Lastly, employers may choose to conduct random testing to deter drug use.  However, Connecticut law prohibits private-sector employers from requiring employees to undergo random drug tests.  An employer must have a reasonable suspicion that the employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol that is affecting or could affect, his job performance before he may require a test.

Who is Protected Against Drug Testing?

State and municipal employees are not covered by the state law that prohibits random drug testing, however they are protected by the Fourth Amendment which prohibits the government from carrying out unreasonable searches.  The Supreme Court has ruled that urine tests are searches and that the Fourth Amendment applies to governments acting as employers.

Federal law and regulations also require the operators of commercial vehicles over a certain size, to undergo drug tests before they are hired, after serious incidents, and when there is a reasonable suspicion.   In the private sector, pre-employment drug testing is fairly common.

There are no federal or state statutes that cover drug testing of students in public schools.  Students do not have the same level of constitutional rights as adults however.  A 2002 Supreme Court decisions permits schools to conduct random drug testing of students who participate in extracurricular activities, but drug testing cannot be a condition for attending school.


If you have any questions regarding employment law in Connecticut, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at (203) 221-3100 or e-mail him directly at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

Hurdles Employees Must Jump in Filing a Claim for Unlawful Discrimination

Here in Connecticut and across the nation, employees from all walks of life routinely face unlawful discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace. Depending on the nature of the claim, he or she may file civil lawsuits under Title VII (which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin) or the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA).

However, employees need to keep in mind that before they seek recourse with the courts, they must first exhaust all of their administrative remedies. “The exhaustion requirement exists to afford the administrative agency the opportunity to investigate, mediate, and take remedial action.”[1] Failure to do so will result in dismissal of the case (see, for example, this previously-discussed case).

CFEPA Title VII

Furthermore, employees must pay attention to statutory time restrictions for filing administrative charges under Title VII and CFEPA:

To sustain a claim for unlawful discrimination under Title VII in a deferral state such as Connecticut, a plaintiff must file administrative charges with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission] within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory acts.[2] … CFEPA requires that a complainant file the administrative charge with the CCHRO [Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities] within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act.[3]

Courts are particularly cognizant of these requirements and endorse “strict adherence… [as] the best guarantee of the evenhanded administration of the law.”[4] As a result, the time bar will begin running for each individual adverse employment action against the employee on the date it occurred. Failure to timely file a claim may prevent it from being reviewed by the EEOC or CCHRO.

However, employees often endure discriminatory practices over a prolonged period of time, so even if alleged conduct falls outside of the charging period, it may be reviewable. An important exception to strict adherence is the continuing violation exception, which involves incidents occurring both within and outside the time bar. A continuing violation occurs “where there is proof of specific ongoing discriminatory policies or practices, or where specific and related instances of discrimination are permitted by the employer to continue unremedied for so long as to amount to a discriminatory policy or practice.”[5]

As an employee, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes, as well as the requirements for filing a lawsuit under State and federal anti-discrimination law. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport.

If you have any questions regarding any employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Stewart v. United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, 762 F.2d 193, 198 (2d. Cir. 1985).

[2] Flaherty v. Metromail Corp., 235 F.3d 133, 136 n.1 (2d Cir. 2000).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-82e.

[4] Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826 (1980).

[5] Cornwell v. Robinson, 23 F.3d 694, 704 (2d Cir. 1994).

Considering Teacher Evaluation Under Connecticut Law

On Sunday night, the Chicago Teacher’s Union called for a strike that lasted this entire week, stemming from disagreements over such negotiable employment terms as teacher evaluations. As Katherine Wojtecki explained, “Teachers are concerned about job security in the wake of a new program that evaluates them based on their students’ standardized test scores” that had the potential to leave thousands of teachers without jobs.[1]

Presently, Connecticut law governing teachers is rather extensive and goes into particular detail regarding employment, tenure, and notice and hearing on failure to renew or termination of contracts. See Connecticut General Statutes (C.G.S.) § 10-151. The process of evaluating teacher performance, particularly in light of the potential pitfalls as seen in Chicago, had already become a focal point of legislation in this State. At the present time, Connecticut law requires continuous evaluation of school teachers by every district, taking into consideration more factors than mere test results: 1) teacher strengths; 2) areas that need improvement; 3) improvement strategy indicators; and 4) numerous measures of student academic growth.[2]

Collection and Articulation of Teacher Data

By July 1, 2013, the State Board of Education “must develop new model teacher evaluation program guidelines for using multiple indicators of student academic growth.”[3] In addition, public schools will be required to collect data not just on mastery test scores but also students and teachers themselves. This data will then be used when evaluating student performance and growth. Teacher data that must be collected is articulated in C.G.S. § 10-10a:

(i) Teacher credentials, such as master’s degrees, teacher preparation programs completed and             certification levels and endorsement areas

(ii) Teacher assessments, such as whether a teacher is deemed highly qualified pursuant to the No Child Left Behind Act, P.L. 107-110, or deemed to meet such other designations as may be established by federal law or regulations for the purposes of tracking the equitable distribution of instructional staff

(iii) The presence of substitute teachers in a teacher’s classroom

(iv) Class size

(v) Numbers relating to absenteeism in a teacher’s classroom

(vi) The presence of a teacher’s aide

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

For more information regarding statutory requirements that govern teacher layoffs and evaluations, please follow this link, which provides a summary produced by the Office of Legislative Research. Should you have any questions about teacher evaluations or other education law matters, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at Maya Murphy, P.C.’s Westport office located in Fairfield County at (203) 221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] “Source: Tentative deal reached in Chicago teacher strike,” by Katherine Wojtecki. September 14, 2012: http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/14/us/illinois-chicago-teachers-strike/index.html

[2] “Teacher Layoff and Teacher Evaluation Requirements,” by Judith Lohman, Office of Legislative Research. February 9, 2011: http://cga.ct.gov/2011/rpt/2011-R-0075.htm

[3] Id.

Military Law & Policy Poses New Challenge for Sexual Harassment Law

Sexism in Military Academies 

Several years ago, West Point cadets initiated first-year students, including young women, by teaching them to sing the following chant while marching: ”I wish that all the ladies were holes in the road and I was a dump truck. I’d fill ’em with my load.” Years before that, Air Force Academy cadets sang similar refrains marching to and from training events. One chant described taking a ”chain saw” to cut a woman ”in two” so that they could keep ”the bottom half and give the top to you.” Two years ago, a West Point investigation revealed that a cadet on the rugby team had instructed a teammate to ”get your girl on a leash.” All of these chants and songs demonstrate instances of sexual harassment in military academies.

These incidents expose the entrenched sexism that is tolerated at the three military services academies overseen by the Department of Defense — West Point, the Naval Academy, and the Air Force Academy. They also help explain repeated reports that the academies have not taken complaints of sexual assault and harassment seriously. The pattern is familiar: Each revelation incites an outcry, the academies announce reforms and the schools’ efforts prove ineffective. What endures are the chants, and the institutional misogyny they reveal.

Absence of Title IX in Military Academies 

We are student members of a legal clinic at Yale Law School representing a nonprofit group that aims to eradicate gender discrimination in the military. The Service Women’s Action Network, founded in 2007 by female veterans of the Marine Corps and the New York Army National Guard, has long objected to the way apathetic administrators at the service academies have let students get away with harassment and assault.

Part of the problem is that the military service academies are not subject to the laws that have helped students at civilian schools force their colleges to shape up. Title IX requires almost all American schools that receive federal money to eliminate sex discrimination, including sexual violence. Students can file complaints with the Department of Education to allege discriminatory policies or practices on their campuses, including the mishandling of sexual assault and harassment claims. The Department of Education has opened investigations into more than 100 schools, helping to set off an important national conversation on campus assault.

But Congress exempted the service academies when it passed Title IX in 1972. Perhaps legislators feared imposing Department of Education oversight onto military affairs. Maybe they failed to even consider the possibility of sex discrimination at the academies, which did not admit women until four years later. Whatever the reason, the result of Congress’s omission is that the approximately 2,700 female cadets and midshipmen are deprived of a fundamental protection necessary for their safety and equality.

Reporting Sex Discrimination in Academies 

Students on military campuses can file individual complaints of sex discrimination and misconduct within their academies, which are ultimately decided by various levels within the chain of command. But they have no one to turn to when their academies mishandle their reports or engage in other practices that hurt women. If a cadet or midshipman who reports sexual harassment and discrimination is mistreated by her academy, she can appeal the decision within the academy system and her chain of command, but she can’t appeal the manner in which such decisions are made. Her civilian peers, by contrast, can bring such claims to the Department of Education.

As it is, very few cadets and midshipmen come forward to report sex discrimination, but not because they aren’t experiencing it. According to the Department of Defense’s own surveys and data, 8 percent of women at the military academies were sexually assaulted last year, almost half faced serious sexual harassment and nearly 90 percent experienced other forms of sexism and discrimination. Yet fewer than 5 percent of the roughly 1,400 women who were sexually assaulted or harassed reported what had happened to them within their existing systems.

Legal Reform in Academies and the Military 

There is a simple way for President Obama, in his capacity as commander in chief, to put an end to this impunity. To provide cadets and midshipmen with a meaningful way to challenge sex discrimination at their academies, he should issue an executive order modeled on Title IX’s legal protections. This order would, in effect, borrow Title IX’s prohibition against sex discrimination and create a pathway for Title IX-like complaints within the Defense Department. The president should also order the Pentagon’s inspector general to enforce this anti-discrimination rule at the academies.

Over the past decade, public outcry about sexual assault on college campuses and in the military has spurred legal reform. But one group at the intersection of these issues — women at the service academies — are still waiting for meaningful change. Last year, while announcing a new task force on gender-based violence on civilian campuses, Mr. Obama spoke to survivors directly: ”I’ve got your back,” he said. Female cadets and midshipmen volunteer to serve our country — the president should have their backs, too.

Source: Ashley Anderson, Elizabeth Deutsch, Stop Assaults on Military Campuses, The New York Times, (May 12, 2015) available at http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/12/opinion/stop-assaults-on-military-campuses.html

If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

***All posts for the MayaLaw.com blog are created as a public service for the community. This case overview is intended for informational purposes only, and is not a solicitation of any client.***

Joseph Maya selected to 2022 Edition of Best Lawyers in America

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Westport, CT – Maya Murphy, P.C. is pleased to announce that Joseph Maya has been included in the 2022 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Joseph Maya, a Connecticut and New York-based litigation attorney, was recognized in The Best Lawyers in America© 2022 edition. He has been rated Best Lawyers in America and ranks among the top private practice attorneys nationwide. Attorneys listed in this edition of The Best Lawyers in America were selected after an exhaustive peer-review survey that confidentially investigates the professional abilities and experience of each lawyer. Recognition in Best Lawyers® is widely regarded by both clients and legal professionals as a significant honor.

Mr. Maya has been practicing law in Connecticut for more than 25 years. He has been a licensed attorney in New York for more than 30 years.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession,” said Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer. “We are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide.”

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Maya Murphy, P.C. has offices in Westport, CT and New York City. For additional information on Joseph Maya or Maya Murphy, P.C., please visit its website at https://mayalaw.com, or call 203-221-3100.

Contractual Rights for Teachers: An Overview

Contracts for School Teachers

The law of contracts applies to contracts between teachers and school districts. This law includes the concepts of offer, acceptance, mutual assent, and consideration. For a teacher to determine whether a contract exists, he or she should consult authority on the general law of contracts. This section focuses on contract laws specific to teaching and education.

Ratification of Contracts by School Districts

Even if a school official offers a teacher a job and the teacher accepts this offer, many state laws require that the school board ratify the contract before it becomes binding. Thus, even if a principal of a school district informs a prospective teacher that the teacher has been hired, the contract is not final until the school district accepts or ratifies the contract. The same is true if a school district fails to follow proper procedures when determining whether to ratify a contract.

Teacher’s Handbook as a Contract

Some teachers have argued successfully that provisions in a teacher’s handbook granted the teacher certain contractual rights. However, this is not common, as many employee handbooks include clauses stating that the handbook is not a contract. For a provision in a handbook to be legally binding, the teacher must demonstrate that the actions of the teacher and the school district were such that the elements for creating a contract were met.

Breach of Teacher Contract

Either a teacher or a school district can breach a contract. Whether a breach has occurred depends on the facts of the case and the terms of the contract. Breach of contract cases between teachers and school districts arise because a school district has terminated the employment of a teacher, even though the teacher has not violated any of the terms of the employment agreement.

In several of these cases, a teacher has taken a leave of absence, which did not violate the employment agreement, and the school district terminated the teacher due to the leave of absence. Similarly, a teacher may breach a contract by resigning from the district before the end of the contract term (usually the end of the school year).

Remedies for Breach of Contract

The usual remedy for a breach of contract between a school district and a teacher is monetary damages. If a school district has breached a contract, the teacher will usually receive the amount the teacher would have received under the contract, less the amount the teacher receives (or could receive) by attaining alternative employment. Other damages, such as the cost to the teacher in finding other employment, may also be available.

Non-monetary remedies, such as a court requiring a school district to rehire a teacher or to comply with contract terms, are available in some circumstances, though courts are usually hesitant to order such remedies. If a teacher breaches a contract, damages may be the cost to the school district for finding a replacement. Many contracts contain provisions prescribing the amount of damages a teacher must pay if he or she terminates employment before the end of the contract.

Source: FindLaw

If you feel you have been mistreated by your employer or in your place of employment and would like to explore your employment law options, contact the experienced employment law attorneys today at 203-221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com. We have the experience and knowledge you need at this critical juncture. We serve clients in both New York and Connecticut including New Canaan, Bridgeport, White Plains, and Darien.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

***All posts for the MayaLaw.com blog are created as a public service for the community. This case overview is intended for informational purposes only, and is not a solicitation of any client.***

Brief Summary of Connecticut’s Teacher Tenure Law

Attaining a Tenure

Connecticut’s teacher tenure law sets out strict termination and due process requirements for teachers, whether or not they have tenure. It covers certified professional employees below the rank of superintendent employed by a board of education for at least 90 days in a position that requires certification.

Covered teachers first hired after July 1, 1996, attain tenure after working for 40 school months, if their contracts are renewed for the following school year. Teachers who attain tenure with one board of education and who are reemployed by the same or another board after a break in service attain tenure after 20 school months of continuous employment, if their contracts are renewed for the following school year.

Dismissal Process of Tenured vs. Untenured Teachers

Tenured teachers have their contracts automatically renewed from year-to-year; can be dismissed only for six statutorily specified reasons; and have the right to (1) bump untenured teachers in positions for which they are qualified if their positions are eliminated, (2) written notice of the reasons for termination, (3) a termination hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel, and (4) appeal the results of the hearing to Superior Court.

Untenured teachers must be (1) employed under a written contract; (2) notified by April 1 if their contracts are not being renewed for the following year; (3) given written reasons for termination or non-renewal on request; (4) allowed a hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel on the termination; and (5) if the termination is for moral misconduct or disability, granted the right to appeal to Superior Court.

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

Tenured Teacher Dismissal Process and Timetable

The teacher tenure law sets out strict termination and due process requirements for teachers, whether or not they have tenure. Tenured teachers have their contracts automatically renewed from year-to-year; can be dismissed only for six statutorily specified reasons; and have the right to (1) bump untenured teachers in positions for which they are qualified if their positions are eliminated, (2) written notice of the reasons for termination, (3) a termination hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel, and (4) appeal the results of the hearing to Superior Court.

Reasons for Dismissal of Tenured Teacher

The tenured teacher dismissal process can only commenced against a tenured teacher for:

  • Inefficiency or incompetence based on evaluations that comply with State Board of Education guidelines for evaluations;
  • Insubordination against reasonable board of education rules;
  • Moral misconduct;
  • Disability proven by medical evidence;
  • Elimination of the position to which he was appointed or loss of a position another teacher, as long as there is no other position for which the teacher is qualified and subject to the applicable provisions of a collective bargaining agreement or school board policy; or
  • Other due and sufficient cause.

Before they become tenured, teachers can also be notified in writing by April 1 of each school year that their contracts will not be renewed for the coming year. The board does not have to specify any reason for non-renewal unless the teacher files a written request for the reason. If the teacher makes such a request, the board must supply a reason within seven days.

School boards must follow a specific statutory process when dismissing both tenured and nontenured teachers. The process requires notice, a hearing, and a right to appeal.

Notice and Right to a Hearing

The law requires local school boards to follow the steps and timetable shown in Table 1 when notifying a tenured teacher that it is considering his termination.

Table 1: Tenured Teacher Pre-Hearing Termination Process

 

Table 1: Tenured Teacher
Pre-Hearing Termination Process

Hearing and Hearing Panel

The board may hear the case itself or may designate a subcommittee of three or more board members to hear the case. The board may convene an impartial hearing panel, if the teacher requests it or the board designates one. The parties may also agree to a hearing before an impartial hearing officer chosen by both parties. If the parties cannot agree on a hearing officer within five days after they decide to use one, the hearing must be held before either the board or a hearing panel. The hearing panel consists of three members, one chosen by the teacher, one by the board, and a chairman chosen by these two members.

If the two members cannot agree, the third member must be selected with the help of the American Arbitration Association (AAA), using its expedited process and rules for selecting neutral grievance arbitrators. If these procedures do not work after five days, the board of education or a subcommittee must hear the case. Each party pays its own panel member and splits the cost of the third and all other hearing costs.

The hearing, decision, and appeal timetable is shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Hearing, Decision, and Appeal Timetable

 

Table 2: Hearing, Decision, and Appeal Timetable

Despite the foregoing requirements, the law gives a school board the right to suspend a teacher from duty immediately and without prejudice when serious misconduct is charged. [1]

[1] “Teacher Tenure Law,” by the Connecticut General Assembly. April 22, 2002: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2002/olrdata/ed/rpt/2002-r-0469.htm

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 

Dismissal Process for Nontenured Teachers

Dismissal Process

Nontenured teachers have many of the same termination rights as tenured teachers. But they can also be dismissed by simple non-renewal of their contracts, if they are notified by April 1. If a teacher files a written request, the Board must supplement the non-renewal notice with a written statement of its reasons for non-renewal within seven days of receiving the request.

Nontenured teachers may be “bumped” by tenured teachers whose positions are eliminated. Bumping must occur in accordance with a collective bargaining agreement or, if there is none, with a written policy of the board.

Nontenured teachers dismissed because their positions were eliminated or they were bumped have no right to a hearing. Otherwise, like a tenured teacher, a nontenured teacher has 20 days after receiving notice of non-renewal or termination to file a written request for a hearing, either before the board or, if the hearing request specifies it and the board designates, an impartial hearing panel appointed as described above. The hearing must begin within 15 days of the request, unless the parties agree to an extension of not more than 15 days, and must be conducted in the same way as a tenured teacher’s hearing.

Unlike tenured teachers, nontenured teachers cannot appeal board decisions to Superior Court unless the dismissal is for moral misconduct or disability.

Court Appeals

If a teacher appeals a dismissal to Superior Court, the court must treat it as a privileged case and hear it as soon as practicable. The board must file the hearing transcript and other relevant documents with the court. The court must review the record and allow the parties to introduce new evidence if equitable disposition of the case requires it. The court may affirm or reverse the board’s decision but is not allowed to assess costs against the board unless it finds the board acted with gross negligence, malice, or bad faith. [1]

[1] “Teacher Tenure Law,” by the Connecticut General Assembly. April 22, 2002: http://www.cga.ct.gov/2002/olrdata/ed/rpt/2002-r-0469.htm

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. Please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any employment law matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 

Tenured Teacher Terminated After Calling Student an “Animal”

Case Background

In the case of Kline v. New Haven Board of Education, a tenured teacher appealed the New Haven Board of Education’s decision to terminate his employment in the city school system. The teacher argued that the board of education was violating his freedom of speech by terminating him for alleged comments made in the classroom.

The teacher began his employment in 1974 and was continuously employed by the New haven Board of Education until his termination in October 2004. While students were passing in the school corridor, the teacher reportedly used the term “animals” in reference to some students. One student became angry and upset, after claiming that the teacher directed a derogatory remark toward him. The student claims that the teacher called him an “animal” and said, “some animals cannot be trained.” The teacher admitted to making this comment. After due notice and hearing, the board of education terminated the teacher’s employment.

The Court’s Decision

The court denied the teacher’s appeal. There was no violation of free speech, as the derogatory remark was uttered without any purpose that would otherwise further teaching. There was ample evidence to support due and sufficient cause for his termination.

“The type of language employed by the [tenured teacher] on more than one occasion is disruptive, and incurred the ire of one student in a situation which could have become confrontational” said the court. “The New Haven Board of Education, faced with the task of promoting an effective educational environment in an urban school system, with a large African-American student population, has both the right and the obligation to curb the use of language and remarks made by its professional staff which may be incendiary, and which promote discord.”

This case was not handled by our firm. However, if you have any questions regarding this case, or any education matter, please contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

If you have a child with a disability and have questions about special education law, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com, to schedule a free consultation.