To paraphrase, no citizen is safe while the judiciary is in session. This was once again demonstrated in the recent case of Lewis v. Bridgman Public Schools, decided May 8, 2007. In that case, the Court of Appeals overthrew a decision by the Tenure Commission to reduce a finding of discharge to time served. The Court of Appeals, ignoring a half century of precedent, took away the power of the Commission to reduce a penalty, in the Lewis case. The Court limited the Commission simply to reviewing the hearing referee’s decision to see if it was arbitrary or capricious. This is a legal standard that is all but impossible to show and thereby the Tenure Commission has been replaced as the final arbiter of all teacher discipline disputes.
This decision ignores the statutory mandate that a teacher shall not be discharged or demoted except for just cause. This decision further ignores that the concept of just cause has always allowed the final decision maker to evaluate the given penalty and modify that penalty if the decision was not just. The real final decision maker for teachers is now a bureaucratic state hearing referee, not the Teacher Tenure Commissioners who have been appointed by the Governor. All of our friends in the MEA and AFT should bombard their elected state officials with protest over this decision. “When they came for the gypsies, I did nothing...” Hopefully, this decision will be overturned on appeal.