Superintendent Dismissal - Procedural Due Process and Qualified Immunity for Board Members
IASB filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the district to no avail – the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider its decision that a dismissed superintendent was denied procedural due process rights and that the school board members were not entitled to qualified immunity.
The school board dismissed the superintendent for cause before his contract expired. In the pre-termination hearing, it provided him an opportunity to address the board. The superintendent, believing the process was unfair, refused to participate in the hearing. The Seventh Circuit Court rejected the district’s argument that the superintendent waived his due process rights and held that the board should have given him full trial-type procedural due process. The availability of a post-termination lawsuit for breach of contract was insufficient, according to the Seventh Circuit, to protect his “present entitlement” to his contractual interests.
Most surprisingly, however, was the Seventh Circuit’s opinion that a reasonable board member would have known his or her conduct was unlawful because the superintendent’s procedural due process rights were clearly established. This finding precipitated the court’s denial of qualified immunity to the individual board members.