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Scribner v. Board of Education of U.S.D. No. 492

Supreme Court of Kansas

June 15, 2018

Sallie A. Scribner and Mark E. McNemee, Appellants,
v.
Board of Education of U.S.D. No. 492, Flinthills, Butler County, Kansas, Appellee, and The State of Kansas, Intervenor.

         SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

         1.

         The 2014 Kansas Legislature did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution or Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights when it enacted L. 2014, ch. 93, §§ 49, 50, 52, 53.

         2.

         Under the facts of this case, L. 2014, ch. 93, §§ 49, 50, 52, 53 did not cause a breach of contract.

          Appeal from Butler District Court; Charles M. Hart, judge.

          David M. Schauner, of Kansas National Education Association, argued the cause and was on the briefs for appellant.

          Edward L. Keeley, of McDonald Tinker PA, of Wichita, argued the cause, and Katy E. Tompkins, of the same firm, was with him on the brief for appellee.

          Dwight R. Carswell, assistant solicitor general, argued the cause, and Jeffrey A. Chanay, chief deputy attorney general, Stephen R. McAllister, solicitor general, Dennis D. Depew, deputy attorney general, M.J. Willoughby, assistant attorney general, Bryan C. Clark, assistant solicitor general, and Derek Schmidt, attorney general, were with him on the brief for intervenor.

          LUCKERT, J.

         For a period before July 1, 2014, the contracts of tenured elementary and secondary teachers in Kansas school districts automatically continued into the next school year unless a school district gave a timely, written notice of termination or nonrenewal that set out the reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and notified the teacher of his or her rights to a due process hearing. See K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 72-5436 to 72-5438, K.S.A. 72-5439, 72-5441 to 72-5444 (Furse 2002), K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 72-5445, K.S.A. 72-5446 (Furse 2002). But the 2014 Kansas Legislature removed both (1) the requirement that the Board state its reasons for the termination or nonrenewal and (2) the right to a due process hearing. L. 2014, ch. 93.

         Here, two teachers seek a judgment declaring the 2014 amendments to K.S.A. 72-5436 et seq. (the Teacher Due Process Act) unconstitutional because the legislation constituted a taking of their property without due process in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Sections 1 and 2 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. We reject the teachers' arguments.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Plaintiffs Sallie A. Scribner and Mark E. McNemee filed a joint petition for declaratory judgment and breach of contract in Butler County District Court. According to their petition, both had been teachers employed by the Defendant Board of Education of Unified School District No. 492, Butler County, Kansas (Board). In May 2015, almost one year after the 2014 amendments became effective, the Board sent Scribner and McNemee notices advising them the Board would not be renewing their teaching contracts. The Board did not state its reasons for the decision or give notice of any due process rights. These omissions, according to Scribner and McNemee, violated their statutory rights as they existed before July 1, 2014, rights they contend were taken from them without due process.

         The Board answered the petition, contending it had complied with the law in effect on May 2015 and the 2014 amendments were constitutional. The State moved to intervene on Count I in order to defend the constitutionality of the 2014 amendments. The district court granted the motion.

         Both the teachers and the Board moved for summary judgment based on the following stipulated facts (paragraphs 1-32):

         "Parties

"1. The Defendant Board of Education of Unified School District No. 492, Flinthills, Butler County, KS (Board or School District), is duly organized pursuant to Article 6, Section 5 of the Kansas Constitution and Chapter 72 of the Kansas Statutes Annotated.
"2. Plaintiff Sallie A. Scribner was first employed as a teacher by the defendant U.S.D. No. 492 beginning with the 1997-1998 school year.
"3. Ms. Scribner had been continuously employed as a teacher by the School District for 18 consecutive years, from the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year through the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
"4. Plaintiff Mark E. McNemee was first employed as a teacher by U.S.D. No. 492 beginning with the 1999-2000 school year.
"5. Mr. McNemee had been continuously employed as a teacher by the School District for 16 consecutive years, from the beginning of the 1999-2000 school year through the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
"6. May 15, 2015, was the third Friday in May 2015. [Court's note: This date is the statutory deadline for providing written notice of termination or nonrenewal. See K.S.A. 2013 Supp. 72-5437(a). Absent such notice, teacher contracts continue for the following school year.]
"7. At the May 12, 2015, meeting of the Board of Education of U.S.D. No. 492, the Board adopted resolutions directing that Plaintiffs be given notice of the Board's intent to not renew their employment contracts for the 2015-2016 school year.
"8. The Board served Plaintiffs with written notices of its intent to not renew their contracts for the 2015-2016 school year in notice letters from Stephanie Girty, the Clerk of the Board, on May 12, 2015.
"H.B. 2506
"9. House Bill 2506 (H.B. 2506) was introduced into the state House of Representatives on January 27, 2014. (2014 House Journal, p. 1621.)
"10. H.B. 2506 was an act to repeal K.S.A. 72-60b03 relating to the expiration provision of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact Act. ...

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