Attorney says ‘hostile’ new contract for DeKalb teachers opens district to flood of lawsuits

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Some DeKalb County teachers are worried about an addition to their contract for the next school year.

It’s a list of performance factors which includes the ability to work under stress and to concentrate.

A metro area attorney told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher that the contract leaves the district open to a flood of lawsuits.

Belcher learned about 6,000 DeKalb teachers received their contracts for the upcoming school year a few days ago.

Some are baffled by a page of 10 new performance factors.

One attorney told Belcher the factors are vague, hostile and possibly illegal.

“It’s really shooting itself in the foot with this kind of hostile language,” said attorney Stephen Katz, who has extensive experience with school-related and job-related litigation.

He contends some of DeKalb’s proposed new performance factors may violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and should be especially troubling for teachers with attention deficit disorder or depression.

“I think that the district is going to be looking at a lot of lawsuits,” Katz said.

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A veteran teacher sent Belcher a copy of the proposed contract over the weekend. She said many of her colleagues have grave concerns.

Katz said teachers are rightly disturbed by what he calls the vagueness of the new standards.

“They don’t know whether this condition or that condition is going to interfere with their job, whether they’re going to be assessed on something that really can’t be measured,” Katz said.

Katz points to the standard that says teachers should have the ability to ignore irrelevant sights and sounds and intrusive thoughts or stimuli.

“What are they saying in the context of the job? How would you measure that performance?” Katz said.

Or this: Teachers should maintain composure and not compound the situation when interacting with persons who may be angry, demanding or otherwise less polite.

“Does that really need to be in there? As adults?” Katz said.

And if a teacher fails to meet some of the new standards?

“That doesn’t make them bad teachers. It doesn’t make them bad employees. It makes them someone who needs an accommodation,” Katz said.

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