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Employment Law For Georgia Public School Teachers: Understanding Your Legal Rights

The Official Code of Georgia §§ 20-2-940, et seq., governs the demotion,
dismissal, and suspension of professional, certificated school district employees in Georgia. This law also governs the termination and suspension of school district employees who have a contract for a definite term. The law applies equally to all employees who have contracts with the school district, but does not apply to at-will employees without contracts.

Termination or suspension can only be based only on the eight grounds listed in
O.C.G.A. § 20-2-940(a), and the school district is required to hold a hearing before this happens. (Suspension is without pay and may last up to 60 days under O.C.G.A. § 20-2-943(a)(1)(b), and the suspended employee cannot be working at this time.) These eight specific grounds for suspension or termination are as follows:

(1) Incompetency–for example, deficient record keeping or a high failure rate of students.

(2) Insubordination–for example, failure to obey instructions.

(3) Willful neglect of duties–for example, failure to complete lesson plans and grades.

(4) Immorality–for example, sexual encounters at school.

(5) Inciting, encouraging, or counseling students to violate any valid state law, municipal ordinance, or policy or rule of the local board of education–for example, encouraging students to protest a board of education policy.

(6) To reduce staff due to loss of students or cancellation of programs–for example, due to budgetary considerations.

(7) Failure to secure and maintain necessary educational training–for example, a teacher who does not possess the necessary teacher certifications and failed to obtain it during a provisional probationary period.

(8) Any other good and sufficient cause–for example, making false statements about the school administration or assaulting a student.

Notice must be given to the employee of the hearing and charges at least ten days
prior to the date of hearing on the proposed termination.
At a minimum, the notice must include:

(1) The cause or reasons for suspension, discharge or demotion in detail enough that permits the employee to refute it if it is made in error.

(2) The names of witnesses and a concise summary of evidence that will be utilized to prove the case against the employees. The names of all new witnesses must be given as soon as practical.

(3) The place and time of the hearing.

(4) That the charged employee/teacher shall be given subpoenas (if requested) requiring the production of documents or compulsory attendance of witnesses as provided by law.

The burden of proof is on the school district and the employee has the right to appeal to the State Board of Education and later to the court system if necessary. In our next article, we will discuss service, the hearing itself, and the right to bring counsel.

Most importantly, if you are a teacher or a public school employee facing such a hearing, don’t go it alone. Consider contacting our law firm for more information and legal assistance to aid you through the process.

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