The Fontana Unified School District is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the teachers union in the San Bernardino County Superior Court. The suit is demanding that the school district reinstate counselors that the district laid off. The teachers union alleges the counselors should be allowed to return to work on the basis of seniority.
The teachers union claims that the Fontana Unified School District has violated the California Education Code. According to the lawsuit, the district let 68 counselors go after the 2010-2011 school year, then created two new job titles for what was essentially the same position and attempted to hire 42 new counselors.
According to Pat Mazzulli, president of the Fontana Teachers Association, the new counselor positions are “substantially similar” to the old counseling positions. “Rather than follow procedure in the Education Code, the FUSD made reduction in force counselors reapply and interview for their jobs. FUSD attempted to hire outside the district as well,” Mazzulli said. According to Mazzulli, the California Education Code requires that the laid-off counselors be given the opportunity to accept or refuse substitute slots before the jobs are offered to new applicants.
The Fontana Unified School District denies any wrongdoing and insists the new counseling positions are entirely different from the old ones. William Wu, assistant superintendent of human resources for the school district, said in an interview that “the district reviewed the comprehensive counseling program, tailored it to the needs of the district and then created new district positions to provide better and different student services…They are not the same as the comprehensive counseling program.” Furthermore, said Wu, “The district is not in the business of violating peoples’ rights. We are in the business of serving children, but we are not in the business of violating peoples’ rights in the process.”
However, the school board has postponed plans to hire applicants for the new positions. According to Mazzulli, no trial date has been set.
If you are a California school administrator with a question about school district related employment law, student/teacher safety, special education, accommodations, student rights, free speech or discipline, feel free to call attorney Richard Oppenheim at 818-461-8500. There is never a charge for an initial consultation and we can help you choose the best direction to resolve any school district employment law issue.