The Arkansas Teacher Fair Dismissal Act

The Arkansas non dual teachers codified at Arkansas Code Annotated section 6-17-1501 and subsequent sections, is an Arkansas state law that protects teachers in public school districts from arbitrary and unlawful termination. In order to terminate or otherwise modify a teacher’s contract, certain steps must be taken. This Act provides a valuable protection for teachers from unreasonable termination, but can provide an even more valuable protection for school districts from unwarranted lawsuits when the Act is followed properly. Below are a few of the Act’s highlights:

A teacher’s contract is automatically renewed each year, for the same terms and salary, except as decreased or increased by law, unless the teacher is otherwise notified by May 1 of the contract year. If the superintendent chooses to recommend non-renewal or termination, notice must be delivered to the teacher and must state the reasons for the recommendation so that a “reasonable” teacher can prepare a defense.

A teacher may be terminated or suspended during the term of a contract, but only for the following reasons: a reduction in force pursuant to the school district’s policies; incompetent performance; conduct which materially interferes with the continued performance of the teacher’s duties; repeated or material neglect of duty; and other just and reasonable cause. A superintendent may immediately suspend a teacher for cause without notice or a hearing, but written notice must be delivered to the teacher within two days of the suspension, and a hearing must be granted by the school board if requested.

Any teacher receiving notice of a recommended non-renewal, termination, or suspension may ask for a hearing before the school board. The school board cannot consider any new reasons for the recommendation other than what was specified in the teacher’s notice. The school board may accept, reject, or modify the superintendent’s recommendations, but must do so within ten days of the hearing and must make specific written conclusions.

The school board’s decision is final with regards to probationary teachers, or those with less than three consecutive years with any particular district. Non-probationary teachers can appeal to circuit court within 75 days of the school board’s decision. However, this does not preclude any teacher, probationary or non-probationary, from filing an additional lawsuit in either federal or state court over a variety of allegations, such as some form of discrimination.

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