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Understanding The Protections That Tenure Provides

For Michigan teachers, so-called “tenure rights” have long been a fundamental part of job security, as well as academic freedom. However, laws enacted by the Michigan Legislature in 2011 have fundamentally changed the meaning of tenure rights and substantially limited the scope of job security for Michigan teachers.

School districts in Michigan now grant newly certified teachers tenure after they have completed five years of probationary service in an appropriate position and have received ratings of “effective” or better from the district on their three most recent year-end performance evaluations. Once a Michigan teacher has achieved tenure, certain special rights to stability and job security apply.

Even so, if a tenured teacher is rated as “ineffective” on two consecutive year-end evaluations, the teacher shall be required to serve an additional probationary period. Also, if a tenured teacher is rated as “minimally effective” on two consecutive year-end performance evaluations, the school board will have the discretion to require the teacher to serve an additional probationary period.

Prior to July 19, 2011, tenured teachers would be evaluated just once every three years but now, they are subjected to annual year-end performance evaluations. The front line to protect tenure rights continues to generally be filled by the teachers’ union, but is sometimes handled by private education law attorneys working for the individual teacher or handling the case for the union.

If you are represented by a teachers’ union, the first step is to contact your union. At NachtLaw, our education lawyers work for individual Michigan teachers personally, or through the teachers’ union, to protect Michigan tenure rights — at the tenure commission and in court.

Rights Of Tenured Teachers

If you have tenure and are discharged, demoted or suspended without pay for more than 15 days, you have a right of appeal to the State Tenure Commission. The school board has no specific obligation to hold a hearing or hear witnesses; the board only has to consider the charges and record a vote to proceed upon the charges. When a school board votes to forward the charges on, a Michigan teacher must file a claim of appeal within 20 days of receiving a notification.

A Michigan teacher cannot be discharged unless and until the school board’s decision is upheld. In the meantime, the board can suspend with pay. Unless there is an appeal, the school board’s decision will stand, and the teacher will lose a job and possibly the career to which she dedicated her life.

The stakes cannot be higher. At NachtLaw, our education lawyers take the rights of teachers seriously. NachtLaw lawyers are prepared to stand up for tenure rights and advocate for the best interests of Michigan teachers whether at tenure commission hearings or in the courtroom. Our job is to defend your right to continue practicing in the career to which you have dedicated yourself. If you are a Michigan teacher facing tenure action, contact the education lawyers at NachtLaw to arrange an initial consultation today by calling 866-965-2488.