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Michigan Court of Appeals Finds School District Properly Terminated Tenured Teacher Who Failed to Timely Renew Her Teaching Certificate

By Kurt M. Graham / Aug 19, 2014

In Wellman v Melvindale-Northern Allen Park Public School District, Docket No. 318423, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a school district properly terminated a tenured teacher who had failed to timely renew her teaching certificate. The teacher had filed suit claiming her discharge was arbitrary or capricious. The school district argued that the teacher was properly terminated pursuant to MCL 380.1233(1), which states "[e]xcept as otherwise provided by law, the board of a school district . . . shall not permit a teacher who does not hold a valid teaching certificate to teach in a grade or department of the school."

The teacher argued her discharge was arbitrary or capricious because the school district could have applied for a permit to allow her to continue teaching notwithstanding the withdrawal of her certificate by the Michigan Department of Education ("MDE"). The Court of Appeals disagreed with the teacher's argument stating Rule 390.1141 of the Teacher Certification Code "does not contemplate the temporary employment of an experienced teacher whose certification is withdrawn," but rather "only requires the issuance of a permit 'when a properly certificated teacher is not available for employment.'"

The Court of Appeals found that while MCL 380.1233(1) does not require "a district to take a particular action in the event a certified teacher becomes uncertified," MCL 380.1231(3) provides that "[a] contract shall terminate if the certificate expires by limitation and is not renewed immediately or it is suspended or revoked by proper legal authority." Because the teacher's certificate was revoked by proper legal authority, i.e. the MDE, her teaching contract immediately terminated as of that date. Since the teacher had no recognizable right to continued employment after her certification was withdrawn, the district's termination decision was not arbitrary or capricious. 

If you have any questions about the Wellman decision, please contact Kurt Graham at kgraham@clarkhill.com or (616) 608-1144, or your Clark Hill Education Law attorney.