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A Look Into New York Education Law § 3020A Hearings


ew York Education Law §3020 outlines the procedures and grounds for disciplining tenured teachers in the state. A key aspect of this law is the provision for a 3020-a hearing, which allows tenured teachers to challenge any disciplinary action taken against them. According to New York Education Law §3020, tenured teachers can only be terminated for “just cause.” This implies that the school district must have valid and substantial reasons for taking disciplinary action against a tenured teacher. When a school district initiates disciplinary proceedings against a tenured teacher, the teacher has the right to a 3020-a hearing. This hearing is a quasi-judicial process where the teacher can present evidence, call witnesses, and challenge the evidence presented by the school district.

Grounds for discipline, as outlined in New York Education Law §3020, include:

  • incompetence,
  • insubordination,
  • immoral character,
  • neglect of duty,
  • and other specified charges.

The specific charges against a tenured teacher will depend on the circumstances of the case. During the 3020-a hearing, the tenured teacher has the right to legal representation, the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses, and the ability to present evidence in their defense. The hearing is typically conducted by an impartial arbitrator.

After the 3020-a hearing, the arbitrator will make a decision regarding the disciplinary action. If the arbitrator finds in favor of the teacher, they may retain their position. If the arbitrator supports the school district’s disciplinary action, consequences can range from a reprimand to termination. Both the school district and the teacher have the right to appeal the decision of the 3020-a hearing. Appeals may be made to the New York State Supreme Court.


What Needs to Be Proven at Your 3020A Hearing?


If you’re a tenured educator or administrator facing involuntary departure from your position, the responsibility to substantiate “just cause” lies with the school district. The district must demonstrate the following:


  1. You were notified of subpar performance, received support or training, and were provided sufficient time to enhance your performance.
  2. Despite being advised or requested to make specific improvements, you failed to implement the necessary changes in your service and performance.
  3. Your persistent failure to modify your conduct is attributed to insubordination.


Under section 3020A, the following are grounds for termination:

There are 12 concrete grounds that constitute “defective” performance set forth by the law:

  1. Immoral character
  2. Conduct unbecoming a teacher
  3. Insubordination
  4. Neglect of duty
  5. Inefficiency
  6. Failure to maintain certifications
  7. Physical or mental disability
  8. Corporal punishment
  9. Excessive absenteeism
  10. Verbal abuse
  11. Sexual contact/relationship
  12. Pedagogical incompetence

Pedagogical incompetence can include failing to prepare lesson plans as required, neglecting duties and being unable to control a class. Of the 580 decisions made in 3020a cases between 1995 and 2005, this was the most common charge.

What are my rights if I am acquitted?

If you are acquitted in a 3020-a hearing, a disciplinary proceeding for tenured teachers or administrators in New York State, several important rights and considerations come into play. Firstly, your job is typically retained, affirming your position as a tenured educator. The acquittal serves to protect your professional reputation by indicating that the charges brought against you were not substantiated. If you faced suspension without pay during the hearing process, a successful acquittal may entitle you to back pay for the suspended period and the reinstatement of any benefits that were temporarily withheld. Your rights as an employee, including any that may have been restricted during the disciplinary process, are generally restored. The specifics of your rights and the consequences of the acquittal may also be outlined in the collective bargaining agreement governing the relationship between the school district and its educators. Overall, an acquittal ensures the continuation of your employment without the lingering impact of the disciplinary charges. However, it is essential to seek legal advice from an attorney familiar with education law and employment law, as the procedures and rights can vary based on local laws and policies.

To learn more about how we can help you in a 3020a hearing, call Stewart Lee Karlin Law Group, PC, to schedule an appointment.

Tenured teacher facing a 3020a hearing in New York.
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