Denver judge tosses teachers’ mutual consent lawsuit

A Denver District Court judge Friday dismissed a lawsuit alleging Denver Public Schools violated portions of the state’s teacher effectiveness law.

The union, in an early morning statement, vowed to appeal the decision.

The lawsuit, filed by five former Denver Public Schools and the Denver Classroom Teachers Association, claimed Denver Public Schools officials misused a provision of the 2010 law that set up Colorado’s teacher evaluation system. The DCTA was supported in the legal effort by the statewide union, the Colorado Education Association.

Known as mutual consent, the challenged provision requires both principal and teacher agreement for placement of a teacher in a school.

Plaintiffs claimed the statute allowed DPS to fire teachers without due process. And that’s what DPS did in at least five instances, the suit alleged.

Judge Michael A. Martinez, in his 14-page order of dismissal, disagreed and threw out the lawsuit at the request of DPS.

“This Court has previously found that the contested provisions of S.B. 191 do not facially violate the Due Process Clause,” Martinez wrote in his opinion. “Nothing about the circumstances under which Defendants implemented alters this analysis or conclusion.”

DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said the ruling will allow the school district to move forward with its mission of having a quality teacher in every classroom.

“Forced placement of teachers into schools where they do not want to go or where the school does not want to have them is wrong — wrong for students, wrong for teachers, and wrong for schools,” he said in a Saturday afternoon statement. “Our most important objective as a school system is to have the best teacher in every classroom for every child. We welcome the court’s rejection of CEA’s claim that the Colorado legislature is somehow prohibited by the U.S. and state constitutions from ending forced placement.”

CEA President Kerrie Dallman framed the court’s decision differently, saying in an early morning statement: DPS schools are losing valuable resources in its veteran teachers.

“CEA members are highly disappointed by the Denver District Court ruling that Denver Public School’s release of hundreds of veteran teachers did not violate the Colorado Constitution nor subvert the intent of Senate Bill 191,” Dallman said. “Denver students have clearly suffered by the inappropriate release of veteran teachers with good to excellent teaching evaluations. CEA will appeal the ruling and remains dedicated to ensuring qualified teachers remain in the classroom to provide our public school students with the best possible education.”

Education reform groups celebrated the decision.

“This was always about giving educators the right to decide who gets the privilege of teaching next to them,” said Sen. Mike Johnston, D-Denver, in a statement issued by the Great Teachers and Leaders Law Coalition. “I look forward to working with educators across the state to fully implement this important legislation.”

Johnston was a prime sponsor of the bill the teacher evaluation system created by Senate Bill 10-191. Prior to passage of that law, a district could unilaterally place a teacher in a school, regardless of the wishes of the principal or other teachers. Ending that practice has been a key goal for education reform groups.

Scott Laband, president of the business group Colorado Succeeds, said the court’s decision means better classrooms for students.

“As business leaders, our members understand the monumental importance of being able to evaluate and choose their employees,” he said in a statement. “That’s why the state should continue empowering school leaders to make decisions that are in the best interests of their students instead of stifling their ability to manage teachers in their building.”

The judge’s decision represents a double defeat for the union in its battle against the mutual consent provision. Earlier this spring a bill that would have amended that part of the law died in the legislature.

District court decision