Governor Signs AB 215 – The Teacher Termination Reform Bill

In a not-so-unexpected move, Governor Brown signed AB 215 (Buchanan) on June 25, 2014. Ostensibly for the purpose of “streamlining” and speeding up the teacher dismissal process and reducing associated costs, the bill makes extensive changes and additions to the already complex statutory process for terminating certificated employees. The bill found its primary support from CTA and EdVoice.

To be sure, the bill provides a few beneficial changes: It upgrades murder and marijuana charges to the mandatory compulsory leave category; it eliminates the 4-year evidence bar for sex and child abuse allegations; it relaxes the standard for panel member selection; it reduces the dual-notice, dual-response process to a single notice and response; it allows for a hearing by a single ALJ (rather than a three-member panel) in certain cases; and it allows for charges other than unsatisfactory performance to be served at any time during the year (eliminating the May 15–September 15 “blackout period”).

The bill also purports to provide an expedited procedure for “egregious misconduct” cases, as defined. Unfortunately, the realm of egregious misconduct is fairly narrow. We anticipate this change will be of very limited benefit to school districts, in practice.

These “reforms” come at a price. The standard, non-egregious misconduct cases will fall under a new procedure, including some unwelcome changes. Cases involving unpaid suspensions pending dismissal will now be subject to a separate, additional hearing upon a motion by the employee to reverse the suspension. Except in extraordinary circumstances (not defined), hearings may no longer be commenced more than six months after the employee’s request for hearing, and must be concluded within seven months. The bill provides for parties to object to the other party’s panel member nomination.

Perhaps most alarming are the numerous and complex changes to the discovery rules for the non-egregious misconduct cases. The new rules replace standard written discovery with a series of mandatory evidence disclosures tied to oppressive timelines, and limit the number and duration of witness depositions regardless of the complexity of, or number of victims involved in, the case.

This blog post provides a brief snapshot of the many significant changes to your certificated discipline practices and procedures that will take effect next January 1. Our readers, clients, and friends can look forward to a comprehensive AALRR Alert on this subject in the coming days.

Categories: Labor/Employment
Tags: AB 215

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