Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Teacher awarded $200k in due process claim

A jury in Indiana awarded a teacher $203,840 in damages earlier this year and the judge in the case affirmed that award last month, agreeing with part of the teacher’s federal lawsuit claiming that he was fired without due process, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Brian Vukadinovich, who taught at Hanover Central High School for eight years before his position was simply eliminated in 2012, represented himself in the lawsuit and simply requested a straightforward explanation for why he was let go.

In the due process claim, he accused the school district of unlawfully denying his request for a private meeting with the school board to discuss the matter.

US Chief District Court Judge Philip Simon affirmed the jury’s finding in an order entered on October 12, in which he also dismissed several post-trial filings from both sides. “To put it bluntly, after several years of presiding over this litigation, including a five-day jury trail, I cannot tell you why Vukadinovich was terminated.”

Neither the jury nor judge agreed or disagreed with the age-discrimination claim, for the record, granting only that Mr Vukadinovich had been denied due process. The Tribune was unable to get any comment from the school corporation, which is based in Cedar Lake, Indiana.

Questions left unanswered that may be unanswerable

This case didn’t answer any claims of age discrimination, but asking whether old or young teachers are better or worse is a worthwhile pursuit of knowledge. People have argued for several years about this, claiming that if only older teachers could be cleared out of the education system, student achievement would soar.

This notion got strong support from a study that appeared to suggest younger teachers were better for student achievement than older teachers, published a few years back as a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Unfortunately, the study based its conclusions strictly on test scores and didn’t actually say old teachers burned out at a rate any greater than old people in other professions. Test scores in a few subjects do not—repeat, do not—reflect the quality of education students receive or the skill level of their teacher.

And some leading educators around the world take the opposite view entirely, suggesting that older teachers have much to offer students.

The number of teachers over 50 has decreased a little, but not by too much.
(Source: National Center for Education Statistics / US Department of Education)

Leo Winkley, headmaster of St Peter’s School in York, in the UK, told The Telegraph, “School teachers are sometimes accused of ‘not living in the real world,’ and those who come late to teaching bring with them valuable ‘real world experience’ which is of benefit to the children and also to their colleagues. Teachers who are able to draw on other life experiences are likely to bring new colors and textures to the life of a school.

“In my experience,” he continued, older teachers “tend to be passionate about learning the craft of teaching; often they can connect with, and motivate, the pupils who are harder to reach.”

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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