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.



Lee Writing Prof Commissioned To Write Play

Lee University’s Stacey Isom Campbell has been commissioned to write a play to be performed by Lee Theatre next spring.  “It’s a huge honor to have been asked to write something brand new to be performed on our campus,” said Ms. Campbell, associate professor of creative writing at Lee. “I’m excited to have my work showcased in this way.”  Dr. Christine Williams, ... (click for more)

Then And Now: Faculty And Staff Recreate Original Photo

When Dalton State opened in the fall of 1967, the charter faculty and staff gathered for a photo to commemorate the occasion outside the upper level of the Pope Student Center. The photo is a reminder of the College’s beginnings. There were only 54 faculty and staff members when the College opened its doors on Sept. 25, 1967. Today there are 456. Many of the current faculty ... (click for more)

Jury Hears About Incident Behind Food Lion That Authorities Say Led To Triple Murders In Lookout Valley

A Criminal Court jury on Thursday was told about an incident behind the Food Lion on Brown's Ferry Road that authorities say was the motive for an April 9, 2014, massacre at a Lookout Valley trailer park. Brandon Jackson said the incident five days earlier involved Derek Morse, who is standing trial on three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted first-degree ... (click for more)

Firefighters Battle 2-Alarm Apartment Building Fire

More than a dozen people were forced from their homes early Thursday morning when fire broke out in their apartment building.   The Chattanooga Fire Department received the alarm at  2:58 a.m.  and responded to Rainbow Creek Apartments at  7604 Standifer Gap Road  with six fire companies. Seeing a significant amount of fire upon arrival, a ... (click for more)

September Is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

The calendar fills up quickly in September as families return to a packed routine after quieter summer days. Unfortunately, your health might take a backseat to your busy schedule. So make a note on your calendar that September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, and remind yourself—or the men in your life—about the importance of a healthy prostate.   Prostate cancer is ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: McQueen & Her TVAAS

If I am reading my Ouija Board right, I suspect the Hamilton County School Board will vote to allow a controversial “partnership” to be formed with the state Board of Education tonight at its monthly meeting. State Education Commissioner Candice McQueen has said she will demand the one-sided partnership to take over the operation of five at-risk schools in Hamilton County and, if ... (click for more)