Key Decisions

July 2013 – Actual Notice, Even by E-mail, is Enough Notice to Terminate a Teacher

(filed under: Key Decisions | July 22, 2013)

Actual Notice, Even by E-mail, is Enough Notice to Terminate a Teacher

Grace v. Beaumont Unified School District
(Cal. Ct. of App., 4th Dist.), filed  June 4, 2013, published  June 4, 2013

Del M. Grace was a probationary school nurse with the Beaumont Unified School District.  On March 3, 2009, the District decided to terminate her employment for the 2009-2010 school year.

Grace was present at the school board meeting of March 3, 2009.  In open session, the board announced its decision to lay off 12 employees, identified by employee number.  Grace was one of these.

On March 11, Grace was sent an e-mail asking her to be available for a meeting that day.  She responded that she was unable to meet then and asked the purpose of the meeting.  The assistant superintendent for personnel services, responded that the purpose of the meeting was “to provide you notice that the district will not be offering you a contract for next school year.”  The e-mail said that, if Grace preferred, the District would mail her notice by certified mail.  Grace asked that the district notify her by certified mail.

Grace filed a petition for writ of mandate to compel her reinstatement, arguing that the notice of her termination was insufficient.  She asserted that under Education Code Section 44929.21(b), the governing board of a school district must notify a probationary teacher on or before March 15 of the teacher’s second complete consecutive school year of employment of the decision to reelect or not reelect the teacher for the next succeeding school year and that if the notice is not given, the teacher is deemed reelected for the next school year and must be classified as a permanent employee of the district at the commencement of that year.

The trial court found that an e-mail notice from the District’s head of human resources was sufficient notice and denied the petition.

The Court of Appeal affirmed.

Education Code Section 44929.21(b) does not say how notice must be given.  However,Hoschler v. Sacramento City Unified School Dist., 149 Cal.App.4th 258 (2007) had already resolved the matter.  It held that the notification requirement of Section 44929.21(b) contemplates personal service or some other method equivalent to imparting actual notice.

Since Grace had actual personal notification, her belated receipt of the certified letter did not preclude her termination.