A teacher was employed by a school district under a continuing contract, which is a type of contract that entitled her to continuing employment unless the district terminated the contract for good cause. The teacher worked for the district for 13 years and received positive reviews, with proficient or exceeds expectations across every domain of her summative evaluations.

The teacher was reassigned at the beginning of the year to teach a grade level she had never taught before. She went on unforeseen medical leave later that year. While on leave, she received her summative evaluation. She received below expectations in two categories and was informed upon her return to work that her contract was going to be recommended for termination for good cause. The teacher requested a hearing regarding the proposed termination of her contract.

At the hearing, the vast majority of the evidence related to her performance during the most recent school year. After the hearing, the independent hearing examiner recommended that the teacher’s contract be terminated, finding that her “failure to follow policies, rules, regulations and administrative directives made it difficult or impossible for others to determine where students were in terms of progress and had a significant detrimental effect on the district’s obligation to provide a quality education to its students.”

The hearing examiner determined that the teacher had violated a “reasonable rule that had a clear effect on the school district’s business” and that therefore there was “good cause per se” to terminate the contract. The school district's board of trustees voted to accept the hearing examiner’s recommendation and terminated the teacher’s continuing contract. 

The teacher filed an appeal with the commissioner of education, who affirmed the termination. The teacher then filed an appeal to district court, arguing that the district and commissioner had failed to properly apply the law. The district court agreed, reversed the commissioner’s decision and ordered the district to reinstate the teacher and pay back pay and benefits.

The commissioner and district filed an appeal to the court of appeals. The court noted that, according to the law, a teacher employed under a continuing contract could be terminated for good cause and that according to the statute, “good cause” means “the failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the profession as generally recognized and applied in similarly situated school districts in this state.” In this case, the district failed to introduce any evidence about what the accepted standards of conduct for the profession in other similarly situated school districts were, and instead applied a “per se” standard that said that the teacher could be terminated simply for violating policy at the district where she was employed.

The court of appeals disagreed, holding that the law required the district to present evidence that other school districts would consider the teacher’s conduct to be a failure to meet the accepted standards of conduct for the teaching profession. Since it did not do so, the decision to terminate the teacher’s contract was unlawful. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court, which ordered the teacher to be reinstated with back pay.