There’s got to be something in the file

The Delaware Supreme Court has clarified key procedural requirements for terminating non-tenured teachers set forth in a decision issued last week, Angstadt v. Red Clay Consolidated School District.

Section 1410(b) of Title 14 of the Delaware Code states that a non-tenured teacher may request in writing the reasons for his termination after.  The statute requires the district to “provide such reason or reasons in writing” and that “the stated reason or reasons must have either been contained in the teacher’s performance appraisal, and the teacher was provided time to correct any deficiency through an individualized improvement plan or other documented materials properly placed in the teacher’s personnel file prior to said notice.” 3d green folder

According to the Delaware Supreme Court, the term “personnel file” means exactly that- a physical personnel file- and does not simply refer to the type of documentation.  Moreover, documents supporting the decision to terminate a non-tenured teacher’s services must be in the personnel file at the time the district’s makes its decision.  However, the Court took a very broad view of what constitutes “other documented materials.”  Such documents are not merely limited to reprimands or other disciplinary documents.  In this instance, a Lesson Analysis noting some difficulties controlling the classroom constituted the “other documented material” that sufficiently supported the school district’s decision to terminate. 

In light of the Angstadt decision, districts will need to review their procedures to ensure that disciplinary documents are promptly placed in teachers’ personnel files.  In addition, school districts would be well advised to review the contents of personnel files prior to distributing notices of their intention to terminate non-tenured teachers to ensure that documents supporting the decision are located in the file. 

Angstadt v. Red Clay Consol. Sch. Dist., No. 08C-03-051 (Del. July 8, 2010)

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