Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

WINSTON v. CITY OF NEW YORK

February 29, 1984;

HELEN WINSTON, HARRY VAN GORDER and NATALIE VERNON, Plaintiffs,
v.
THE CITY OF NEW YORK, NEW YORK CITY TEACHERS' RETIREMENT SYSTEM, BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK, FRANK J. MACCHIAROLA, as Chancellor of the City School District of the City of New York, BOARD OF EDUCATION OF COMMUNITY SCHOOL DISTRICT 3, GORDON M. AMBACH, as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Education, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: GLASSER

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

GLASSER, United States District Judge:

 The plaintiffs in this suit are teachers presently or formerly employed by the defendant Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York ("Board of Education"), or one of its component community school districts. They are challenging a provision of State law, codified in Section B20-38.0 of the New York City Administrative Code, that provides that New York public school teachers who are dismissed for cause are ineligible to receive City-funded retirement benefits. All parties to the action have moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons that follow, summary judgment is granted in plaintiffs' favor against the City defendants. *fn1"

 I. Background

 A. Dismissal Procedures

 Tenured public school teachers in New York cannot be dismissed from their teaching positions except for cause, after a hearing provided under New York Education Law § 3030-a. Either the teacher or the employing board of education may appeal a hearing panel's decision to an appropriate court or to the Commissioner of Education. N.Y. Educ. Law. § 3020-a(5)(McKinney). Teachers such as plaintiff Winston, who serve in a community school district, are subject to removal proceedings by the community school board for any of the following reasons: unauthorized absence from duty or excessive lateness; neglect of duty; conduct unbecoming the teacher's position; incompetent or inefficient service; violation of state or city bylaws or regulations; or "[a]ny substantial cause that renders the employee unfit to perform his obligations properly." N.Y. Educ. Law § 2590-j(7)(b)(McKinney). All other New York City teachers, including plaintiffs Van Gorder and Vernon, are subject to removal proceedings by the New York City Board of Education on a showing of cause. See N.Y. Educ. Law §§ 2573, 3020, & 3020-a (McKinney). Section 3020, which applies to all school districts in the state, provides that a teacher may be removed for "neglect of duty, incapacity to teach, immoral conduct, or other reasons which, when appealed to the Commissioner of Education, shall be held by him sufficient cause for such dismissal." *fn2"

 B.The Pension Scheme

 In New York City, a teacher who retires from the public school system is eligible for a "retirement allowance" under the provisions of the New York City Teachers' Retirement System ("TRS").See Administrative Code of the City of New York, Ch. 20, Title B, §§ B 20-44.0. The retirement allowance consists of the accumulated deductions taken from the teacher's salary, which are placed in an annuity savings fund, plus a contribution from the City. Teachers who do not qualify for retirement, but who resign from the public school system after at least fifteen years of credited service, still have a "vested right" to receive a retirement allowance when they reach the age at which they would have been eligible to retire had they remained in service.§ B 20-44.2. *fn3" However, the teachers who are dismissed prior to retirement do not qualify under § B 20-44.2 and can only withdraw the amount of their accumulated deductions in the annuity savings fund.

 C. Plaintiffs' Claims

 Plaintiff Winston had been an elementary school teacher for twenty-one years, from 1959 to January 1981, at which time the Board of Education at Community School District 3 preferred charges against her pursuant to N.Y. Educ. Law § 2590-j(7)(b) (McKinney) for "neglect of duty," "incompetent and inefficient service," and "substantial cause that renders her unfit to perform properly her obligations to the service." These charges were based on allegations that on certain occasions during the period from September 30, 1980 to January 23, 1981, plaintiff Winston failed to plan and organize properly classroom activity and failed to maintain control of students in her class, and that she was absent a total of twelve days during the 1980-81 school year. Plaintiff Van Gorder was similarly charged by the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of New York with "incompetent and inefficient service," "conduct unbecoming his position and prejudicial to the good order, efficiency and discipline of the service," and "substantial cause that renders this employee unfit to properly perform his duties to the service," following twenty-four years of service as a high school teacher. These charges were based on allegations that at certain times during the period from September 1979 to June 1982, plaintiff Van Gorder used ineffective teaching methods, had poor classroom control, used class time unproductively, taught lessons in an inappropriate sequence, planned classwork poorly, and generally failed to provide proper instruction to his pupils. Pending a hearing and determination on these charges, plaintiffs Winston and Van Gorder have been removed from their classroom posts and have been assigned to administrative duties.

 Plaintiff Vernon was a special education teacher in the New York City school system for twenty-seven years, from February 1953 through September 1980. In May 1979, defendant Macchiarola, on behalf of the Board of Education of the City of New York, preferred charges against her for recklessly injuring a ten-year-old child in her special education class. Following a hearing demanded by Vernon, the hearing panel concluded that the Board of Education had failed to prove the charges against her. This ruling was appealed to defendant Ambach as Commissioner of Education of the State of New York, who, under the statute, can make an independent determination regardless of the hearing panel's decision. Pending this appeal, however, Vernon submitted her resignation and applied to the TRS for retirement benefits. She allegedly resigned to protect her pension rights since, under § B 20-38.02(2), these rights are forfeited by dismissal prior to retirement, and she did not want to risk the possibility of an adverse determination by the Commissioner of Education.

 Plaintiffs have challenged § B 20-38.0(2) on the following constitutional grounds:

 (1) By not providing dismissed teachers with an independent hearing to determine whether their pension benefits should be forfeited, the statute deprives plaintiffs of their procedural due process rights.

 (2) The imposition of a forfeiture of pension rights for all dismissed teachers is arbitrary and irrational and thus deprives plaintiffs of their contitutionally protected interests in violation of their substantive due process rights.

 (3) The forfeiture provision violates plaintiffs' equal protection rights by impermissibly discriminatinng (a) between those who exercise their rights to a hearing and those who resign prior to a hearing to avoid dismissal; and (b) between public school teachers outside New York City, who are not subject to the automatic forfeiture provision and City public school teachers, who automatically lose their pensions upon their dismissal.

 (4) In denying pension benefits to those teachers who exercise their right to a hearing prior to dismissal and against whom an adverse determination is made, the provision unconstitutionally chills plaintiffs' ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.