A teacher filed an appeal of her contract nonrenewal with the commissioner, arguing that the district had improperly nonrenewed her contract because she was entitled to immunity from disciplinary action for use of necessary reasonable force with a student.

The teacher was employed as a special education teacher at a middle school. The nonrenewal of her contract was based on an incident that occurred when the teacher observed a male student and a female student fighting on the classroom floor. The teacher did not observe the events leading up to fight, but when the male student got up and began to leave the room, the teacher grabbed his wrist with both hands to stop him so that she could find out what happened. The teacher held onto the student’s wrist for more than a minute while the student struggled and refused to answer questions. The student was not injured during this incident.

The commissioner determined that the district had improperly nonrenewed the teacher’s contract and reversed the board’s decision, ordering that the district reinstate the teacher with back pay and benefits. In doing so, the commissioner noted that Texas law provides that a teacher is immune from discipline, termination or nonrenewal for use of physical force against a student when such force is reasonable and necessary to further a special purpose or to maintain discipline in a group.

In this case, the commissioner determined that the teacher’s actions were reasonable. The teacher observed two students fighting on the floor and became concerned for their safety. The teacher used minimal force to stop the student and determine what happened. The teacher testified that other students were shouting at the student to kick or bite the teacher while this was taking place. Additionally, a video of the incident showed the teacher speaking calmly to the student, while he struggled and failed to respond.

Because the teacher had used reasonable and justified force, the district could not nonrenew the teacher's contract.