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Commissioner of Education Dismisses Cases Against Superintendent for Lack of Jurisdiction

By on April 18, 2017 in Labor & Employment with 1 Comment

On March 30, 2017, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”) in Chiodi v. Eitner affirmed an Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) decision dismissing cases brought by three teachers against Superintendent Jason Eitner of the Waterford Township Board of Education (“Board”) due to a failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The teachers sought to revoke the Superintendent’s certificate for conduct unbecoming based on allegations of sexual harassment, age discrimination, and bullying. In short, the cases were dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.

The teachers alleged that the Superintendent discriminated against them, invaded their privacy, and violated school policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation and/or bullying (“HIB”). For these reasons, the teachers sought to remove the Superintendent’s certificate. While one of the teachers initiated a grievance against the Superintendent, no appeal was filed. In response to the allegations of harassment and discrimination, the Board conducted an affirmative action investigation. None of the teachers filed a HIB complaint under the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights statute.

The ALJ determined that even if the teachers’ allegations were true, they did not amount to a cause of action under the school laws against the Superintendent. Specifically, an action to remove an administrator must be brought under the tenure provisions of Title 18A:6-10. Moreover, an action against an administrator of the school for action relating to their position in the school must be brought via a grievance and then an appeal from that grievance, which is also beyond the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.

In affirming the ALJ’s decision, the Commissioner reasoned that the authority to revoke or suspend the certificates of teachers or administrators lies exclusively with the State Board of Examiners pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:6-38 and N.J.A.C. 6A:9B-4.5. Moreover, this case was not an appeal of an HIB determination, nor would an HIB allegation be appropriate in this circumstance as the statute does not permit HIB complaints from school employees – only students.

For these reasons, the Commissioner agreed with the ALJ and affirmed the dismissal of the teachers’ petitions for lack of jurisdiction.

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Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev

About the Author

About the Author:

Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq. concentrates her practice on the representation of boards of education and charter schools in all areas of school law including: labor and employment, special education, Section 504, student discipline, FERPA, Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, student residency, civil rights, tenure, OPRA, and OPMA. In connection with these representations, she is experienced in handling matters before State and Federal courts, including the Office of Administrative Law. Ms. Dev is an experienced special education litigator and defends school districts in due process hearings from inception through trial. In addition, she has handled matters before governmental agencies, including the U.S. Office for Civil Rights and New Jersey Division on Civil Rights. Ms. Dev routinely conducts training and seminars, drafts policies and manuals, and provides strategic advice to school administrators regarding school law issues. Ms. Dev was recently recognized as one of South Jersey’s Awesome Attorneys as published by South Jersey Magazine. She is licensed to practice law in New Jersey, the District Court for the District of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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There is 1 Brilliant Comment

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  1. Patricia says:

    Will be filing with the state board of examiners……..

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