Braun Wins Settlement for Suburban Educator
When the newly elected members of a suburban school board reassigned an elementary school principal to serve as assistant principal at another school, the administrator turned to SRZ for help. SRZ concluded that her contractual and due process rights had been violated and sought injunctive and monetary relief on her behalf in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois soon after the school board refused SRZ’s demand to reinstate the principal and thus honor the contract.
“Not only did the new board violate the principal’s rights by reassigning her,” explains senior litigator Mike Braun, “it limited the new assignment to a one-year term, half the time remaining on her contract.” The board also cut the administrator’s pay, another blatant violation.
Although the school board argued the contract was invalid because a quorum of the previous board members had not renewed it, SRZ’s argument proved more persuasive. Ultimately the judge disagreed with the board, ruling the contract enforceable and the board’s actions in violation—a resounding triumph for the principal.
“The confidentiality provision in the settlement prohibits discussing the outcome,” cautions Braun. Nonetheless, justice clearly prevailed. In his written opinion the judge wrote: “A public employee whose term of employment is set by contract has a protectable property interest in performance of the contract according to the terms of that contract.” The judge further held the plaintiff had “sufficiently pled that she was deprived of this protected property interest without due process of law and that the deprivation of this interest was caused by state officials acting under the color of law.” Also telling was the judge’s on-the-record refusal to honor the school board’s request to deny SRZ’s motion for injunctive relief.
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