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Court Finds Teacher Tenure, Dismissal, and Layoff Statutes Unconstitutional; Decision Stayed Pending Appeal

The Los Angeles Superior Court has issued a ruling declaring that the following statutes regarding employment of public school teachers are unconstitutional and enjoining their enforcement:

  • Education Code section 44929.21 (Permanent Status/Tenure)
  • Education Code section 44934 (Charges and Notice of Intention to Dismiss or Suspend)
  • Education Code section 44398(b)(1) and (2) (Unsatisfactory Performance)
  • Education Code section 44944 (Dismissal Process)
  • Education Code section 44955 (Layoff/Seniority as Basis for Layoff) 

In 2012, Vergara v. State of California was filed in the Los Angeles Superior Court by parents on behalf of nine school children.  The Defendants included the State of California, the State Board of Education, Tom Torlakson, the State Superintendent of Public Education, and several school districts (the districts were later dismissed, and CTA and CFT later intervened as Defendants).  The lawsuit alleged that Education Codes listed above are unconstitutional and disproportionately negatively impact the quality of education received by poor and/or minority students.

The matter was tried before Judge Rolf M. Treu from January 27, 2014 through March 27, 2014.  (There is no jury in a suit seeking injunctive and declaratory relief.)  The parties submitted written briefs on April 10, 2014.  Judge Treu issued his decision yesterday, June 10, 2014, and found that all of the statutes listed above are unconstitutional.

In ruling the statutes unconstitutional, the Judge found that the challenged statutes, including the “churning of teachers caused by the lack of effective dismissal statutes” and the seniority-only layoff system disproportionately affect poor and/or minority students.

Be aware that this decision has not gone into effect.  In addition, the parties have the right to request clarification of the decision.  Judge Treu ordered his ruling stayed pending appellate review of his decision. While the appeals are pending, districts and county offices of education should continue to follow the Education Codes in question as written.  CTA has publicly stated that it intends to appeal the decision.  Stay tuned for updates regarding this lawsuit.

 This is not intended to substitute as legal advice.  If you have specific questions about Vergara v. State of California, please contact our office.

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