Articles Posted in Teachers

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Good Georgia Education Lawyer represents Dr. Jackson Reynolds, an APS whistleblower and former special education teacher who rescued her severely autistic special needs students from child abuse after she uncovered that certain paraprofessional staff had been physically assaulting them. She uncovered the abuse after setting up video cameras in her classroom and immediately reported the abuse within the 24 hour requisite period.

Dr. Jackson Reynolds had been complaining about the paraprofessionals negligent behavior to her Principal all year long to no avail. She repeatedly complained (well documented in writing) that they refused to do their job and watched movies all day long on their laptops. She was threatened by her supervisor after she made an attempt to report it to central office downtown. Subsequently, in an effort to prove what was happening, she set up the video cameras. It was then that she discovered the horrific reality of what actually was occurring to the children behind her back: staff abused the children when she stepped outside of the classroom, behind the partition wall to attend to diaper changes, or they were outside her line of vision.

After reporting the abuse to APS, APS failed to properly investigate, not even formally questioning her as to what she had seen. Shortly after reporting the abuse, Dr. Jackson was horrified to learn that APS concluded the investigation without questioning her or reporting it to Child Protective Services, claiming they had found no evidence even though the only people they had interviewed were the two abusers and a non-verbal autistic victim.

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Georgia Whistleblower Miss MaeDell Clark sues Floyd County School District for retaliation. The news story that explains how the District terminated Miss Maedell after she complained of being cheated out of her wages is here.

Here is a press release from the Georgia Association of Educators:
maedell clark.pdf

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The Georgia State Department of Education’s recent ruling that charter systems must comply with the Fair Dismissal Act was an enormous victory for Gilda Day and every educator throughout Georgia. Nevertheless, Northwest Georgia Superintendent Jeff McDaniel and his Floyd County local board’s choice to appeal this statewide decision by arguing that no civil right applies single-handedly places at risk the rights of all Georgia educators in threatening to strip vital constitutional protections throughout the state.

The key to the State Board of Education teacher victory was the State Board’s interpretation of the charter school statute, specifically the term “civil rights.” An excerpt from the actual decision states: “[, the] Local Board contends that since the Fair Dismissal Act, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 et seg., is within Title 20, that it is not subject to the Fair Dismissal Act. The Local Board’s assertion is without merit. O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(b)(5) provides that charter systems are “[s]ubject to all federal, state, and local rules, regulations, court orders, and statutes relating to civil rights.” The Fair Dismissal Act provides due process rights to certain school employees, which is a civil right. Thus, O.C.G.A. § 20-2-2065(a) cannot be read so broadly as to violate the due process rights of school employees who are entitled to due process.”

Mike McGonigle, Legal Services Director of the Georgia Association of Educators says the importance of this decision cannot be overemphasized in this new environment of charter-mania and he points out that GAE led the fight against the initial removal of fair dismissal and for its eventual restoration. “What fair dismissal means is the right for teachers, administrators, and support professionals to simply teach children in a learning environment that is free from the fear of retaliation and at-will termination. Contrary to what opponents have always said, fair dismissal does not provide lifelong employment opportunities for incompetent educators. Without fair dismissal protection, teachers are at will employees who could be subjected to reprimand and dismissal based on false or frivolous, unsubstantiated complaints or decisions. Fair dismissal does not protect bad teachers. On the contrary, it protects good teachers from discriminatory, biased reprimands, and unfair treatment,” he said.

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justice-scales-gavel-fb.jpegChoosing a good lawyer to help you with a case, such as wrongful death, contract dispute, employment termination; asset forfeiture, and excessive force, can be very difficult.

Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.

Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).

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Gilda.jpgGeorgia Education Lawyer was proud to represent our courageous educator, Ms. Gilda Day. Ms. Day won her appeal before the State Board of Education reversing the Floyd County Local Board of Education’s decision to non-renew her. This case has regularly drawn the attention of the front page of the Rome Tribune and can be reviewed here.

Ms. Day’s appeal was drafted by Ms. Julie Oinonen and her partner Mr. Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC. “Providing teachers with procedural due process is a constitutional right and essential to maintain quality teachers in an increasingly difficult and underpaid profession” said Oinonen. “Under the Constitution, the government cannot take away life, liberty or a property interest without due process—it is a constitutional right that not even charter systems are permitted to waive. What due process does is provide teachers with a fair hearing: the right to notice and opportunity to be heard so that a superintendent or administrator cannot unfairly or indiscriminately fire a teacher without just cause, for discriminatory purposes, or simply a personal vendetta. Gilda Day’s courage and bravery has resulted in a victory for teachers throughout our state and a win for Georgia public education that is increasingly under attack by big money, outside interests who seek corporate takeover of our Georgia public schools.”

“Today’s State Board decision stating that charter schools and systems cannot waive the Fair Dismissal Act is a huge win for all teachers,” stated Mike McGonigle, general counsel for the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). McGonigle was referring to the reversal of the Floyd County Board of Education’s decision that fair dismissal due process rights could be waived by charter schools.

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Courageous educator Gilda Day files her appeal to the State Board of Education as reported in the Rome News Tribune:

Brief of Appellant Gilda Day v Floyd County Board of Education Final (1)

https://www.scribd.com/doc/155610333/Brief-of-Appellant-Gilda-Day-v-Floyd-County-Board-of-Education-Final-1

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Good Georgia Education Lawyer sued Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson and DeKalb County School District on behalf of our client for violations of the Open Records Act in relation to a fair dismissal hearing where a graduation coach was non-renewed due to a reduction in force.

The complaint alleged that Defendant Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson thwarted the Georgia Open Records Act by withholding the production of public documents: text messages contained within her DeKalb County School District issued cellular phone. The complaint also alleged that the Superintendent made representations that she would be willing to offer Plaintiff a job and 11 (eleven) other of Plaintiff counsel’s clients who had been “RIF’d” (laid off due to a reduction in force) in exchange for Plaintiff being willing to withdraw her Georgia Open Records Act demand for the Superintendent’s text messages.

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teacher.JPGGood Georgia Lawyer was pleased to save the job of a Clayton County Public School teacher who had his contract non-renewed. Fortunately, we were able to aggressively intervene and the school system rescinded the non-renewal of the teacher, placing him back into the school system and awarding him all his retroactive back pay.

Said this teacher:

“My family appreciates your hard work and dedication to the case. You have brought so much joy and dignity back to our household and professional life. You worked hard and gave it your all to bring justice to our case. As a result, many will gain because you made it okay to fight for what is right!

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tribunal.JPGIn a recent Fair Dismissal Hearing, the Tribunal published its “Findings of Fact and Recommendations to the DeKalb County Board of Education” stating that it “rejects the recommendation to terminate the contract” of a media specialist educator based upon the Reduction in Force plan.

Ms. Oinonen successfully argued that Dekalb County School District’s (DCSD’s) implementation of the Reduction in Force (RIF) plan is illegal and a violation of the new law, OCGA 20-2-948. This legislation, recently enacted in May 2012 holds it illegal to consider length of service as the primary factor in a RIF. Rather school districts must consider “performance of the educator” as the primary factor in implementing a reduction in force.

Ms. Oinonen argued that this is exactly what DCSD is violating although they denied it— using a seniority “first in last out system” by claiming that everyone is equal because everyone supposedly has an “overall” satisfactory performance evaluation.

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teacherstudent.JPGIt is that time of year again: a time that can be very difficult for teachers in Georgia who have recently received a letter notifying them that their contract has been non-renewed. As many teachers already know, the law in Georgia protects teachers who are in their fourth year within the same local school district. The law states that once a teacher accepts a school year contract for the fourth consecutive school year from the same local school district, that teacher may not be demoted or non-renewed unless for a set of specific reasons. And if demotion or non-renewal occurs, those teachers are entitled to procedural due process which includes a non-renewal hearing. Good Georgia Lawyer has written extensively about teacher rights so to learn more about your rights to a non-renewal hearing, we recommend you read our article here. Also you can read here. And here as well.

The grounds for suspension or termination are listed in O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940 and include such reasons as: incompetency, insubordination, immorality, willful neglect of duties, inciting students to violate laws, failure to maintain educational training, reduction of staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs, or any other good and sufficient cause.

Regarding the “reduction of staff” grounds for non-renewal, one small improvement to the law happened during this year’s legislative session 2012. As a result of so many teachers facing layoffs due to our difficult economy, legislators added language which states that if non-renewal occurs due to reduction in staff (often known as “Reduction In Force” (RIF) ) due to no fault or performance issue, the local administration must specify in writing “that the termination or suspension is due to no fault or performance issues” of the employee. See: 2012 Georgia Laws Act 707 (S.B. 153).