Can teachers be transferred or reassigned any time their administration decides to move them?

While it may seem unfair, unjust and downright wrong, school districts have an almost absolute right to transfer or reassign teachers at any time for any reason.

With the exception of the diminishing number of teachers on continuing contracts, most teachers sign a contract every year or two. Although you might not have read your contract in great detail, it always includes a clause stating, for example, that each teacher "shall be subject to assignment and reassignment of positions or duties, additional duties, changes in responsibilities or work, transfers, or reclassification at any time during the contract term."

School district authority to reassign or transfer a teacher is typically explicit both in the teacher’s contract and in local policies. A complete copy of your school district’s policies should be available in your personnel office, and a growing number of districts have these documents online.

If your district subscribes to the Texas Association of School Boards policy service, the policies specifically addressing the ability of the superintendent to reassign/transfer a teacher are Policy DK (local) and BJA (local). A typical DK (local) policy reads as follows:

"All personnel are employed subject to assignment and reassignment by the superintendent or designee."

A typical BJA (local) policy, under the personnel management section, reads as follows:

"[A superintendent can] Assign and reassign all personnel; exercise final placement authority for educators transferred because of enrollment shifts or program changes."

    When you consider these several grants of authority in conjunction, it becomes clear why school districts have almost an absolute authority to reassign/transfer a teacher at any time.

    Challenging the district action

    Although you, as a teacher, may be reassigned or transferred, it is not to say that you do not have an avenue to challenge the reassignment/transfer. The most formal avenue is to file a grievance to what is, in most districts, Policy DGBA (local).

    The grievance process is a procedure every district uses to enable employees to file formal complaints regarding any condition of work. Most policies allow 15 calendar days for initially filing a grievance, and generally this timeline is strictly followed. Once you know or should know about your reassignment or transfer, you have 15 calendar days to file a grievance. Some district policies allow for a longer (or shorter) period of time, so you MUST read your district DGBA policy to ensure that you file a grievance in a timely manner.

    A reassignment or transfer would be grounds for filing a grievance. Although you, as a teacher, have an absolute right to file a grievance, you should be aware that the chances for success are not great unless you can show an impermissible motive for the action.

    If you can show that the school district reassigned you for an impermissible reason (for example, race, sex, national origin or religion), you would have a higher likelihood of success. Providing evidence of an illegal motive, however, is not an easy task; you must show that the reassignment/transfer was directly related to the impermissible reason. If the district has evidence to show that the action was based on any other reason, even if the other reasons are rather mundane, you most likely will not be successful in challenging the action.

    A reduction in pay is another factor that is considered during the reassignment/transfer grievance process. Action that results in a pay reduction might provide a financial reason to successfully grieve the action; however, if the district pays the difference in salary, this argument would not be valid.

    Bringing a grievance will ultimately allow you to reach the school board level, which on occasion results in a favorable outcome for the teacher even in the absence of a strong legal argument. If you can persuade your local school board that you were treated unfairly or that a better alternative was available, it is possible that the board could grant the relief requested in your grievance. More commonly, however, local boards are urged to support the administration and not interfere in management decisions. This usually results in the board’s ratification of the administration’s action.

    Movement to an area for which you are not certified

    A final reassignment/transfer issue that is highly problematic involves moving a certified teacher to a teaching position for which he/she is not certified. Surprisingly, districts DO have the right to take this action. Under the authority of the Texas Administrative Code, a school district can apply for an emergency permit for a certified teacher who was employed by the district in the previous year or semester in a position for which he/she was certified to teach. The authority is granted in the Texas Administrative Code Title 19, Sec. 230.501.

    If the requirements in this provision are satisfied, the district has the authority to require reassignment/transfer. The good news is that the district can get the emergency permit for only one year. If you are placed in this situation, you can file a grievance and challenge the district’s decision. If your grievance is unsuccessful, and you will likely be unsuccessful if the district has followed the proper procedures, you should file a written request to be reassigned back to a position for which you are certified once a position becomes available.

    TCTA members with additional questions or who would like to discuss this issue in more detail are encouraged to contact the TCTA legal department at 1-888-879-8282 (a toll-free call in Texas) or submit a question via our Ask-A-Lawyer form.