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GAE appeals charter school ruling
"GAE feels that the State Board was correct in its decision that charter schools cannot waive fair dismissal and due process rights."
For Immediate Release                                                           July 18, 2014

GAE appeals charter fair dismissal ruling to Georgia Court of Appeals

The following statement is an update to the Nov. 12, 2013 release included below. Please attribute this statement to GAE Legal Counsel Mike McGonigle:

"The Floyd County School Board appealed the decision of the State Board of Education to the Floyd County Superior Court (FCSC) that charter schools could not waive Fair Dismissal and due process rights. The FCSC disagreed with he ruling of the State Board of Education. GAE is pursuing further appeals because this case has potentially far reaching consequences for all Georgia public school systems should the decision stand. The appeal was filed yesterday Thursday, July 17 to the Georgia Court of Appeals. GAE feels that the State Board was correct in its decision that charter schools cannot waive fair dismissal and due process rights."

November 12, 2013
State Board rules that charter schools cannot waive Fair Dismissal and Constitutional Due Process rights


ATLANTA -- "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.

The case involved Ms. Gilda Day, a GAE member, who worked for the Floyd County Schools, a charter school system. Ms. Day was appealing a non-renewal of her contract for the 2013-14 school year.

The key to the decision 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."

McGonigle 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.

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."

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Contact:

Mike McGonigle
678-837-1126
mike.mcgonigle@gae.org

Kevin Pearson
678-837-1129
kevin.pearson@gae.org


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