LAFAYETTE — The Lafayette Parish school system has opted to resolve lawsuits filed by employees who challenged the use of a new state law to validate their terminations by allowing them to follow the appeals process in place before the law was changed.
“The law changed on July 1, so we’re just going to extend them the procedures that would have been extended to them before July 1,” said Jon Guice, the system’s attorney.
One of the employees, Mary Lynn Hebert, alleged in her lawsuit that the School Board violated the state’s Open Meetings Law and teacher tenure laws when it voted June 20 not to renew her contract.
Hebert has been reinstated, but has not received word yet on when she can go back to work in a supervisory role, said her attorney, Brian Blackwell.
The other lawsuits, all involving classroom teachers, challenge the use of Act 1, which took effect July 1 and revamped teacher employment protection laws and hiring and firing authority and procedures.
The teachers who filed the lawsuits claimed their terminations were based on actions in the 2011-12 school year, which ended before Act 1 took effect and they should be afforded the due process rights available to them before the new law.
For the tenured teachers, that’s a hearing before the School Board, rather than a panel that would include their school principal, and for the non-tenured teachers, the superintendent will need to file a written recommendation for termination, Guice said.
It was unclear Wednesday whether hearings had been scheduled for the tenured teachers.
They include Katie Champagne, a teacher at Lafayette High, who was arrested in December for six counts of indecent behavior with a juvenile.
She had denied wrongdoing and a grand jury opted not to accept the charges in May.
Other tenured teachers challenging their terminations are Judy Miller, Nadena Sonnier and Monique Taylor, who are all party to the same suit.
Last school year, Miller taught kindergarten at Ossun Elementary; Sonnier taught special education at Broussard Middle and Taylor taught English and social studies at Milton Elementary/Middle School.
A separate suit was filed by two nontenured classroom teachers: Stephanie Rogers, who taught special education at Acadiana High, and Shanita Scott, an English teacher at Northside High.
Efforts to reach attorney Isaac Funderburk, who represented the six other employees, at his office were unsuccessful Wednesday.
Guice said a training workshop on Act 1 will be held in the coming weeks for the Lafayette Parish School Board and school system staff.
The workshop will be held at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 4 at the David Thibodaux Magnet STEM Academy, according to Angela Morrison, the district’s community collaborations and partnerships director.
“Our firm is doing this for boards throughout the state. It’s such a drastic change in the law,” said Guice of the law firm, Hammonds, Sills, Adkins and Guice.
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