The Louisiana Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s February ruling and declared a law enacted in 2012 giving school superintendents wide latitude in firing teachers as constitutional.
The state’s high court said the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal erred when it ruled tenured Vermilion Parish teacher Kasha LaPointe’s termination in 2013 violated her due process rights.
LaPointe challenged her firing in a 2013 lawsuit that claimed Superintendent Jerome Puyau was guilty of “willful neglect of duty and dishonesty,” according to the 3rd Circuit’s February opinion.
A district judge dismissed LaPointe’s claims after a trial in 2014.
But the 3rd Circuit sided with the plaintiff and declared the 2012 Louisiana law was unconstitutional because it did not afford LaPointe an adequate hearing before she was fired.
The 3rd Circuit wrote that the process gave school superintendents too much authority.
The Supreme Court thought differently.
“Instead, we find (the Louisiana law) provides sufficient due process to protect the tenured teacher’s vested employment rights,” the Supreme Court said in the ruling made public Thursday.
Supreme Court justices noted the law provides a teacher with the opportunity to respond to the charges in a pre-termination hearing and also in two “post-termination” hearings after the teacher is fired.
“At the first of these post-termination hearings, the teacher may present evidence to build his or her case before a tenure-hearing panel, which then makes a recommendation to the superintendent,” Justice Greg Guidry wrote.
The teacher also may seek a second post-termination hearing in front of a judge, who would review the superintendent’s decision.
“If the judge determines the superintendent’s decision to terminate or not reinstate the teacher’s employment was arbitrary or capricious, the teacher shall be entitled to reinstatement and full back pay,” Guidry wrote.
The high court sent the case back to the 3rd Circuit.