April 22, 2002
TEACHER TENURE LAW
By: Judith Lohman, Chief Analyst
You asked for a summary of the teacher tenure law (CGS § 10-151).
The 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.
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 nonrenewal 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.
REASONS FOR DISMISSAL
A teacher may be dismissed only for:
1. inefficiency or incompetence based on evaluations that comply with State Board of Education guidelines for evaluations;
2. insubordination against reasonable board of education rules;
3. moral misconduct;
4. disability proven by medical evidence;
5. 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
6. 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 nonrenewal 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.
DISMISSAL PROCESS AND TIMETABLE - TENURED TEACHERS
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
School board notifies teacher in writing that it is considering termination.
Teacher files written request asking the board to state its reasons.
Seven days after teacher receives notice of potential termination.
Board notifies teacher in writing of reasons.
Seven days after board receives request.
Teacher files written request for a hearing.
Within 20 days after teacher receives termination notice.
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
Hearings begin. Hearings may be public at the teacher's request or if designated by the board. The teacher may appear and be represented by counsel.
Within 15 days after the board receives the hearing request. The parties may mutually agree to extend this deadline for a maximum of 15 days.
Board subcommittee, panel, or hearing officer submits written findings and recommendations to the full board concerning the case and sends a copy to the teacher.
Within 75 days after the hearing request unless the parties agree to extend for a maximum of 15 days.
Board gives teacher its written decision.
Within 15 days of receiving the recommendations. If the hearing takes place before the full board, within 15 days after the close of the hearing.
Board furnishes a copy of the hearing transcript if the teacher requests one in writing and pays the cost.
Within 15 days of the decision.
Teacher may appeal board's decision to Superior Court.
Within 30 days after the decision.
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.
DISMISSAL PROCESS FOR NONTENURED TEACHERS
Nontenured teachers have many of the same termination rights as tenured teachers. But they can also be dismissed by simple nonrenewal of their contracts, if they are notified by April 1. If a teacher files a written request, the board must supplement the nonrenewal notice with a written statement of its reasons for nonrenewal 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 nonrenewal 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.
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.