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.


East Ridge High School Hosts Heritage Day Celebration

East Ridge High School (ERHS) presented a school-wide project, “Honoring Our Heritage” on Friday.   East Ridge High School has a diverse student population, with 20 foreign countries represented. Organizers said, " Because some of our students came to ERHS from a foreign country unable to speak English, we wanted to create a project to solidify us as a student body.  ... (click for more)

Lee University Announces Summer Camp Opportunities

Lee University is home to a wide variety of summer camps hosted by Lee personnel in which community youth can participate.  Each Lee camp is handled separately by individual directors. Specific information for each camp is found below. Registration deadlines vary, but some are quickly approaching. Please contact camp organizers for specific information about camp costs and ... (click for more)

State Attorney General Says City Council Cannot Make Taxis Not Registered In Hamilton County Go Through Emissions Testing

The state attorney general's office has ruled that the City Council cannot require that taxis not registered in Hamilton County go through emissions testing. The city is dealing with the new Uber taxi service that has an out-of-town owner. Locally-owned cabs have to go through the annual emissions testing. The opinion says that local taxi owners cannot get around the emissions ... (click for more)

New Attorneys Have Not Decided On Whether To Seek Mental Evaluation For Hixson Woman Facing Possible Death Penalty

New attorneys for a Hixson woman facing a possible death penalty in Catoosa County, Ga., said they have not decided whether to seek a mental evaluation of Catherine Joann Goins. Police said she lured a 30-year-old woman to a friend's house and killed her in order to steal her newborn. After District Attorney Herbert "Buzz" Franklin opted for the death penalty, two attorneys ... (click for more)

The Heart Of A Teacher Makes A Difference - And Response (2)

In less than four weeks, I expect to be one of 216 graduating seniors from East Hamilton School. One could say all possible variables help a student rise to the highest levels in school; but a student is more than his environment or genetic code. He is a mixture of his own propensity and dedication to academics, coupled with a systemic team of mentors who give their all as a student’s ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: FBI To Study ‘Lickers’

About 25 years ago there was a terrifying movie called “The Silence of the Lambs.” It was so good it won the Academy Awards in all five categories – Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director and Adapted Screenplay. Further, Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster were brilliant, but do you remember the third “star?” Scott Glenn played a character named “Jack Crawford,” the ... (click for more)