Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teacher's Termination Upheld For Sexually Explicit Craigslist Ad Not Connected To School

By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995

Some time ago, a question was sent to me via my Twitter account regarding just WHAT is enough to get a teacher terminated.  Termination is up to the individual school district involved and what is enough may be very fact specific.  However, some instruction on just what a teacher can be fired for was outlined by the California Court of Appeals, Fourth District in its decision San Diego Unified School District v. Commission on Professional Competence (2011) issued this week (May 3, 2011).

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals upheld a District termination of a teacher for posting a highly explicit sexual ad on Craigslist seeking male-on-male companionship.  The ad included four pictures, two of which were very intimate pictures of the teacher, while another showed the teacher's face.  The ad did not reference the teacher's employment, name, nor was the ad connected in any way to the teacher's school activities.  However, according to the opinion, the ad was viewed by a parent who reported it to the Principal.  Later, an investigator was assigned and the teacher was terminated.

Although the ad was personal and outside the purview of daily school activities, the Court upheld the termination for "immoral conduct," and "evident unfitness." This was based in part on the activity, the fact that a parent and the Principal had seen the ad, and also based on deference to the school district as the final arbiter of who is fit to work in their district.

Also instructive on teacher termination is a prior decision by the Commission on Professional Competence (CPC) upholding a teacher's termination for failing to get her English Language (EL) certificate for 8 years, in direct contradiction to her district's orders.  Her termination was upheld as she was found to have been unprofessional and insubordinate (see a summary here by the attorneys who represented the district).

Even though such certification was not legislatively mandated, the Court of Appeals for the Third District in Governing Board of Ripon School District v. Commission on Professional Competence (2009) found that school districts can impose additional requirements on their employees, above and beyond what is outlined in the law.  The district in that case (Ripon Unified) was required to provide access for its EL students to its programs, but could not assign an EL student to the teacher's classroom (she was the only music teacher) due to her lack of EL training.  The teacher's continued refusal to be trained got her terminated.

To be clear, I do not represent teachers in their employment law matters, but do help parents lodge complaints on teachers with districts.  As such, I wanted to provide a little flavor of a couple of the issues which can get a teacher terminated, including off campus personal conduct.  If a parent is having problems with a teacher, they should involve an attorney to file a personnel complaint,http://www.craigslist.org/about/sites and may want to investigate the teacher's on and off campus behaviors, as these can give a district the ability to terminate the teacher in question.


Best,
Michelle Ball
Education Law Attorney
LAW OFFICE OF MICHELLE BALL
717 K Street, Suite 228
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-444-9064
Fax: 916-444-1209
Website: http://www.edlaw4students.com/
Please see my disclaimer on the bottom of my blog page [http://edlaw4students.blogspot.com/]. This is legal information, not legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is formed by this posting, etc. etc.!  This blog may not be reproduced without permission from the author and proper attribution of authorship.

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