News & Resources

Vergara v. State of California: Court Strikes Down Teacher Protection Statutes

Jun 10, 2014 | Legal Developments and News

Stay tuned tomorrow for a video from DWK’s  Sue Ann Salmon Evans, who acted as counsel for defendant Los Angeles Unified School District, explaining how the ruling will affect California schools.


The Los Angeles Superior Court held that nine California public school students met their burden of proof in establishing that specified Education Code provisions protecting teacher seniority and tenure violate the equal protection clause of the California Constitution.  In a written decision issued this morning, the Court found that the statutes cause the potential and/or unreasonable exposure of grossly ineffective teachers to all California students in general and to minority and/or low income students in particular.

Click here to read the complete decision.

Permanent Employment Statute (§ 44929.21): Calling the two-year probationary period statute a “misnomer,” the Court stated:  “both students and teachers are unfairly, unnecessarily, and for no legally cognizable reason (let alone a compelling one), disadvantaged by the current Permanent Employment Statute.”

Dismissal Statutes (§§ 44934, 44938(b)(1) and (2) and 44944): While acknowledging a legitimate interest in due process, the Court found the dismissal statutes to go too far: “There is no question that teachers should be afforded reasonable due process when their dismissals are sought. However, based on the evidence before this Court, it finds the current system required by the Dismissal Statutes to be so complex, time consuming and expensive as to make an effective, efficient yet fair dismissal of a grossly ineffective teacher illusory.”

Seniority-Based Layoffs (§ 44955):  The Court opined that the certificated layoff statute that mandates the concept of “last-in, first-out” is constitutionally unsupportable because it results in the “de facto separation of students from competent teachers,” and the “de facto retention of incompetent ones.”

While the Court held that these statutes are unconstitutional, it also suspended action to enforce the Court’s orders pending appeal.  The Court further called on the Legislature to “fulfill its mandated duty to enact legislation … providing each child in this state with a basically equal opportunity to achieve a quality education.”


Dannis Woliver Kelley has been California’s thought leaders in education law for 35 years and is a full-service, women-owned law firm. Representing hundreds of school districts, community college districts, and county offices of education, DWK is recognized throughout California as a firm that applies creative, proactive, in-depth advice and strategies to achieve cost-effective results on behalf of its clients. For more information, visit our website at: www.DWKesq.com.

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