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TEACHER DISCIPLINE & STANDARD OF REVIEW - BOAZ CITY SCHOOL BOARD V. STEWART

Boaz City School Board v. Stewart, [Ms. 2150582, Nov. 4, 2016] __ So.3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2016). The Court of Civil Appeals unanimously reverses an administrative determination of a hearing officer who, upon appellate review, reversed an earlier decision of the Boaz City School Board terminating a teacher's employment for abuse of its regulations concerning paid medical leave.

The court first noted that under the Students First Act, § 16-24C-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, hearing officers are supposed to employ an "extremely deferential" "arbitrary-and-capricious" standard of review of employer's decisions. Ms. *2, quoting Ex parte Lambert [Ms. 1130071, Aug. 28, 2015] __ So.3d __ (Ala. 2015), and Huntsville City Bd. of Educ. v. Jacobs, 194 So.3d 929, 939 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014).

By contrast, the Court of Civil Appeals' standard of review of the hearing officer's order is de novo with no presumption of correctness. Ms. *3, citing Chilton Cty. Bd. of Educ. v. Cahalane, 117 So.3d 363 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012).

Upon engaging in such a de novo review of the evidence presented to the Boaz City School Board, the court (Ms. *4-14) concludes the school board could reasonably have concluded that the teacher failed to adhere to board policy and, thus, just cause existed for his termination pursuant to § 16-24C-6(a), Ala. Code 1975. Because the board's determination was reasonable, the hearing officer erred in determining it was arbitrary or capricious such that Ex parte Lambert required the board's decision to be reinstated.

Related Documents: Boaz City School Bd. v. Stewart

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