December 13, 2012
No legal obligation to initiate disciplinary charges against an individual
Decisions of the Commissioner of Education, Decision #16,427
A tenured high school teacher alleged that the high school superintendent neglected her duty to ensure the integrity of the school system by failing to initiate disciplinary charges against the principal of the high school at which he was serving.
The teacher alleged that he reported the school’s principal for alleged violations including failure to identify at-risk students as required by Title I of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 USC §6301, et seq.) and scoring irregularities on New York State Regents mathematics examinations.
Following his reporting these alleged violations, the teacher claimed that the principal retaliated against him by  placing several disciplinary letters in his personnel file,  his being ordered to undergo medical examination and  his removal from the school to a “temporary assignment center.”*
The teacher asked the Commissioner to remove the high school superintendent and the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education from their respective positions because they failed to take disciplinary action against the principal.
After considering a number of procedural issued, the Commissioner said that the teacher’s application “must be dismissed on the merits.”
The Commissioner explained that a member of the board of education or a school officer may be removed from office pursuant to Education Law §306 when it is proven to the satisfaction of the Commissioner that the board member or school officer has engaged in a willful violation or neglect of duty under the Education Law or has willfully disobeyed a decision, order, rule or regulation of the Board of Regents or Commissioner of Education.
The teacher alleged that the high school superintendent “neglected her duty to ensure the integrity of the school system by failing to initiate disciplinary charges against [the principal].” However, said the Commissioner, the teacher s failed to meet his burden of proof as he did not establish how the superintendent’s failure to file an Education Law §3020-a charge against the principal, at his request, constituted a willful violation or neglect of duty under the Education Law, requiring her removal under Education Law §306 nor did the teacher show that the superintendent “was under a legal obligation to initiate Education Law §3020-a charges against [the principal].”
The Commissioner ruled that “On the record before me, I find that [the teacher] has failed to demonstrate that [the high school superintendent] has willfully neglected her duties [and] failed to establish any basis for [the superintendent’s] removal” and denied the teacher’s application.
* The teacher was later restored to service at the school..
The decision is posted on the Internet at:
Reprinted by permission
Mitchell H. Rubinstein