California court strikes hearing costs for teachers

\nCALIFORNIA — The California Supreme Court threw out a law\nin May that required teachers challenging a dismissal to pay for\ntheir court hearings should they lose their legal battles.

The court judged that the law, which required teachers who\nrequest a hearing and lose the case to pay half the cost of the\nhearing, violated due process. In a 4-3 vote, the court sided\nwith the California Teachers’ Association and said the law violated\nteachers’ constitutional rights.

The ruling came after Gary Daloyan, a former teacher and publications\nadviser at Lincoln High School in Stockton, was charged almost\n$8,000 when he unsuccessfully challenged his dismissal from his\njob in 1986. Daloyan had been transferred out of Lincoln High\nSchool, where he taught journalism, to a local middle school.\nHis transfer came after disputes with district officials over\nthe content of the student newspaper.

Daloyan filed a civil rights suit against the transfer and\nwas eventually moved back to teaching high school. But his new\nposition did not allow him to teach journalism and placed him\nin a remedial English class with students who had behavioral issues.\n

Many problems arose from his reassignment, and Daloyan was\nfired from his new job. Daloyan contested his dismissal before\na special commission and lost. The state later demanded that he\npay the costs of his hearing-which includes the cost of the administrative\nlaw judge who is part of the commission. In response, Daloyan\nchallenged the law, bringing his case to the California Supreme\nCourt.

According to Ernie Tuttle, Daloyan’s attorney, the elimination\nof the provision is a victory for teachers’ constitutional rights\nin California. Tuttle said the old provision had a “chilling\nimpact” on the right to due process of law.

“If you have a due process right, then you can’t go and\ncharge someone an open-ended fee to exercise that right,”\nTuttle said.

By reducing the possibility of having to pay hefty legal fees\nshould an adviser want to challenge an unfair dismissal, the change\nin California law has the potential to allow journalism advisers\nto stand up to their school districts more freely. But according\nto the director of the Northern California Journalism Education\nAssociation, Jim Shuman, the law has had little effect on advisers\nso far.

“[The ruling] hasn’t made much of an impact here in California,”\nShuman said. “I think it will eventually have some impact\ngenerally for teachers, but I don’t think it’s changed things\nfor advisers very much.”\n