April 23, 2019

Colorado Supreme Court: School Board’s Finding of Fact Must Be Warranted by Hearing Officer’s Findings

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in Ritzert v. Board of Education of the Academy School District No. 20 on Monday, November 23, 2015.

Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act—Procedure for Dismissal—Insubordination.

In this case, the Supreme Court considered whether a school board’s decision to dismiss a non-probationary teacher for insubordination, despite a hearing officer’s recommendation that the teacher be retained, was arbitrary, capricious, or legally impermissible under the Teacher Employment, Compensation, and Dismissal Act of 1990. When a teacher faces charges of insubordination, the hearing officer and school board must consider whether the teacher has intentionally refused to obey a “reasonable order.” The Court held that whether a school district’s order is reasonable is a finding of ultimate fact within the discretion of the governing school board. Still, that finding must be fully warranted by the hearing officer’s findings of evidentiary fact. This requires a school board to assess reasonableness on a case-by-case basis after consideration of all facts found by the hearing officer. The Court concluded that the school board in this case failed to adequately assess the reasonableness of the school district’s order, and therefore its decision to dismiss the teacher for insubordination was arbitrary and capricious. The Court reversed the court of appeals’ judgment and remanded the case to the school board to reinstate the teacher.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

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