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AGO 1952 No. 384 - August 21, 1952
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Smith Troy | 1941-1952 | Attorney General of Washington

SCHOOL DISTRICTS ‑- TEACHERS ‑- CONTRACTS OF ‑- NOTICE OF REFUSAL TO RENEW ‑- SUFFICIENCY OF REASON STATED ‑- RIGHT OF APPEAL OF TEACHER

Notice of refusal to renew a teacher's contract given pursuant to RCW 28.67.070 must state the reason for non-renewal [[nonrenewal]].  Renewal of the contract being discretionary, any reason is sufficient and the teacher has no right of appeal.

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                                                                 August 21, 1952

Honorable Lowell B. Vail
Prosecuting Attorney
Garfield County
Pomeroy, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 51-53 No. 384

Dear Sir:

            We have your letter requesting an opinion relative to the notice required under RCW 28.67.070, (Rem. Rev. Stat. § 4776), and specifically asking four questions, to wit:

            "1. Is the notice defective if it does not state a reason or reasons?

            "2. Is the notice sufficient if it merely states that the reason is that the board intends to employ someone else for the position?

            "3. Is the teacher entitled to an appeal or hearing on the action of the board in giving such notice?

            "4. Must the reasons given in the notice be substantiated by the board on appeal or otherwise?"

            Our conclusions may be summarized as follows:

            The notice not to renew the contract required by the last paragraph of RCW 28.67.070 must state the reasons for refusal to renew, and any reason which is given, such as that the board of directors intends to hire another for the position presently held by the teacher, is sufficient.  The teacher has no right  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] of appeal from the action of the board, and the board is not required to substantiate the reason which it gives for refusal to renew a teacher's contract.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            The pertinent part of RCW 28.67.070 reads as follows:

            "Every teacher, principal, supervisor, or superintendent holding a position as such with a school district, whose employment contract is not to be renewed by the district for the next ensuing term must be notified in writing on or before April 15th preceding the commencement of such term of the decision of the board of directors not to renew his employment and the reason or reasons therefor, and if such notification is not timely given by the district, the teacher, principal, supervisor or superintendent entitled thereto shall be conclusively presumed to have been reemployed by the district for the next ensuing term upon contractual terms identical with those which would have prevailed if his employment had actually been renewed by the board of directors for such ensuing term:Provided, That in union high school districts the written notification must be given on or before April 30th next preceding the commencement of the ensuing term."

            Your first question is answered by an opinion of this office of May 29, 1946, to the Prosecuting Attorney of Adams County.  We there stated in speaking of the same part of the above statute:

            "* * * the reasons for non-renewal [[nonrenewal]]of a teacher's contract must be stated in a written notice to her on or before April 15th * * *

            "It is our opinion that failure to include the reasons for non-renewal of a teacher's contract, by the express language of the statute, entitles her to be reemployed by the district for the next ensuing term * * *."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Your remaining questions appear to us to be definitively answered by the Washington court inSeattle High School Chapter No. 200 etc., v. Sharples, 159 Wash. 424, 293 Pac. 994 (1930).

            In that case the plaintiffs sued to enjoin the directors of the school board from requiring the signatures of teachers to a certain affidavit before their respective contracts for the ensuing year would be renewed.  The lower court dismissed the action and on appeal was affirmed.

            The court quoted from § 4776, Rem. Comp. Stat., now codified as RCW 28.58.100 (1), which is as follows:

            "Every board of directors, unless otherwise specially provided by law, shall:

            "(1) Employ for not more than one year, and for sufficient cause discharge teachers, and fix, alter, allow and order paid their salaries and compensation;"

            The court noted that as to the power of a board of directors to employ and discharge teachers the language used is "to employ" and "for sufficient cause to discharge," and the court continued, at 159 Wash. 428, as follows:

            "* * * For aught that is involved in this case, by the terms of the statute, the power to employ is to be exercised at the will and discretion of the board, while the power to discharge depends upon the existence of sufficient cause‑-the one unqualified, the other qualified.

            "There is a manifest reason for the difference.  The employment of teachers is a matter of treaty of voluntary contract.  Both parties must consent and be mutually satisfied and agreed.  On the part of each, it is a matter of choice and discretion.  However, though qualified, no teacher has the legal right to teach in the schools until the directors willingly enter into a contract for that purpose.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Similarly the directors have no legal right to the services of any teacher until the teacher voluntarily enters into a contract for that purpose.  Unless limited by statute in some way, the board is entitled to the right of freedom of contract, as much so as the teachers are.  On the other hand, the discharge of a teacher affects a legal right.  It affects the right of a contract that may not be canceled or impaired at the will or discretion of the board of directors, but only for sufficient cause."

            The court affirmed the principle announced by the lower court that the discretion of school boards as to the future employment of teachers will not be interfered with by the courts.

            Since theSharples case was decided, the 1943 amendment which appears in the last paragraph of RCW 28.67.070 was added to the original act.  However, the amendment does not alter the rule or the applicability of the reasoning of theSharples case.  The result of the amendment is to require merely that notice before April 16th must be given the teacher whose contract is not to be renewed and the reason or reasons for non-renewal must accompany the notice.  The nature of the reason which may be given is in no way qualified or stipulated by the amendment.  While in the case of discharges "sufficient cause" must exist, no such requirement is exacted of the reasons given for the refusal to rehire.  The act as it now stands leaves the future employment of teacher entirely within the discretion of the school boards as was the situation when theSharples case was decided.

            Consequently, any reason given for refusal to rehire is sufficient and a teacher given notice that his contract is not to be renewed accompanied by the reason therefor has no right to appeal from the action of the board.  There can be, consequently, no occasion on which the board must substantiate its action.  The ultimate approval of the action lies with the electorate of the school board.

Very truly yours,

SMITH TROY
Attorney General

FRED L. HARLOCKER
Assistant Attorney General

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