Supreme Court Rules Memphis School Board Owes Teacher Back Pay For Improper Termination

Friday, December 21, 2012

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment awarding a Memphis teacher back pay and damages after the board failed to comply with the Teacher Tenure Act when it dismissed her.

Saundra Thompson, a tenured teacher in the Memphis City Schools, was terminated by the school board in April 2007 for failing to return to work after taking extended sick time. The board did not provide written charges or an opportunity for a hearing prior to the termination.

Ms. Thompson filed suit alleging violation of the Tenure Act and right to due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United State Constitution. She was granted summary judgment and awarded reinstatement, back pay, damages and legal fees of $325,419. On appeal by the school board, the Court of Appeals remanded the case after it determined a factual dispute existed as to whether Ms. Thompson requested more sick leave prior to her termination, or whether she forfeited her tenure by making no such request.

The Supreme Court, in its holding Friday, reverses the Court of Appeals decision and affirms the trial court’s summary judgment, determining that, although a tenured teacher’s failure to return from sick leave may constitute cause for termination, there is no statute authorizing a board of education to deem it a constructive resignation or a forfeiture of tenure. The Court notes that by dismissing Ms. Thompson without providing her with written charges or an opportunity for a hearing, the defendant board of education violated her rights under the Tennessee Teacher Tenure Act and her constitutional right to due process of law.

To read the Saundra Thompson v. Memphis City Schools Board of Education opinion, authored by Justice Cornelia A. Clark, visit the opinions sections of TNCourts.gov.


State Releases 2014 District-Level TCAP Results

The Tennessee Department of Education on Wednesday released district-level results from the 2014 Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program, which show strong gains in high school, and relatively constant scores in elementary and middle school. As seen in state results, districts did well in high school in most subject areas. Statewide, growth in 3-8 reading dropped slightly ... (click for more)

Women Entrepreneur Symposium To Be Held Tuesday

The WE women entrepreneur symposium (formerly named Women At The Top Symposium or W.A.T.T.S) will be held on Tuesday, August 5, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Stratton Hall. Congressman Chuck Fleischmann, Honorary WE Chairperson, invites all women entrepreneurs to a symposium featuring Sloane Scott, a.k.a. the “Digital Diva” of FLO Thinkery, as the keynote speaker, ... (click for more)

County Commission Chairmanship Up For Grabs After Exit Of Henry, Skillern

The chairmanship of the County Commission is up for grabs after the exit of two commissioners who have held the post in recent years. Larry Henry is moving on to serve as Circuit Court clerk. Fred Skillern was upset by Randy Fairbanks in the Republican primary. Most of the returning commissioners have their eye on the possibility of taking over as chairman, or at least getting ... (click for more)

PAST Act On Horse Abuse Stalls Out In U.S. House Despite 70% Support

Rep. Ed Whitfield (KY-01), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Power, issued the following statement today regarding the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act, H.R. 1518:   “I regret to inform you that Speaker of the House, John Boehner, currently refuses  to bring the Prevent All Soring Tactics (PAST) Act to the floor for a vote.  His decision ... (click for more)

Curtis Adams: Beck, Mackey Should Be Considered For County Commission Leadership

Just think about this;  a person highly qualified applying for a job.  As he is just about finished filling out his papers for his interview, he sees at the bottom there is a place for him to check Democrat or Republican.  He would think, “if I mark the wrong one I may not get the job.” Being a real leader requires honesty, integrity, and, most importantly, fairness. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Orchids And Onions

With record low temperatures being recorded around the South, I didn’t know what I’d find in my garden on the first day of August but – sure enough -- there is a profusion of orchids and onions. The start of college football will be later this month and, with the chilly mornings, fall practice is a far cry from what it will be when the sweltering heat comes back next week. Here’s ... (click for more)