In a decision dated Nov. 24, 2020, C36-20, the School Ethics Commission dismissed all ethics charges against a school board president in a case where a teacher claimed the president tried to manipulate him into creating special policies for her children, made disparaging remarks against him and allegedly “ordered” his dismissal.
The complainant was a non-tenured elementary school teacher in the district where the respondent served as board president. The years at issue were 2018-2019 and 2019-2020. The teacher claimed that the board president forced him to implement schedules and lesson plans to accommodate her children to the detriment of the other students in the class.
The teacher claimed that at the beginning of this time period, he made the requested changes but when he began to push back, he met with public criticism by the board president to the superintendent and principal, and ultimately was not renewed for employment and denied tenure. It was also alleged that the president filed a retaliatory harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) complaint against him regarding an incident involving a child other than the board president’s.
By summary decision, the ethics commission found that the teacher had provided insufficient evidence that the alleged acts occurred as alleged, and even if they did, they were the actions of a parent and not those of a board president. Specifically, the commission found no evidence that the president gave any orders to the superintendent demanding the teacher’s non-renewal and that all requests on behalf of her children were just merely requests. Additionally, to the extent the president made comments about the teacher, she was again doing so on behalf of her children.
This case is a good reminder that board members with children attending school in the district are permitted “to be parents” and to advocate on their behalf. However, board members must be cautioned to ensure that their actions avoid any appearance of impropriety and that he or she is not using board membership for personal gain or to secure any unwarranted privileges.
Any questions about this decision should be directed to your board attorney or to NJSBA’s Legal and Labor Relations Department at (609) 278-5254.