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May 5, 2010

Public School Teachers and Due Process

The news coming out of Rhode Island, as discussed by my colleague, Monica Teixeira de Sousa, and more recently in The Boston Globe, regarding the mass firing of public school teachers is deeply disturbing.

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution is clearly in play here. Neither state law nor administrative order can take away property rights that regular public school teachers have in their jobs. Each of these teachers--whether in Boston or in Central Falls, Rhode Island, is entitled to an individualized, case by case hearing with the opportunity to confront the allegations against them plus the chance to refute them.

"The fundamental requisite of due process of law is the opportunity to be heard." So said the Supreme Court back in 1914, at a time when that Court was even more conservative than the present one.

This draconian policy of mass firing of public employees is coming down from the very top--from the Obama administration itself. One would have thought that a former teacher of Constitutional Law in one of the nation's most distinguished law schools would remember what every first year law student has learned--that the Constitution of the United States protects the due process rights of every person. Surely the public school teachers in Boston and Central Falls are entitled to nothing less.

George Dargo

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