As July comes to a close, schools across Ohio have begun to gear up for another school year. Yet just when you think you have put the chaos of staffing buildings and assigning students behind you, inevitably a teacher who would be very hard to replace at this juncture approaches the district and provides notice that he or she plans to resign to accept a position elsewhere. The question becomes whether the district must release the teacher from his contract. Before you agree to such a proposal, keep the following in mind.

Ohio law places strict limits on when a teacher may terminate a contract of employment absent consent from the board of education. Under ORC §3319.15, a teacher must provide a district with written notice that he or she wishes to terminate an employment contract each summer by July 10th. The law prohibits teachers from terminating a contract beyond that date, or at any point during the school year. The law also states a teacher must provide at least five days’ notice to the board before voluntarily terminating any agreement.

Interestingly enough, a board of education cannot seek an injunction in court to force a teacher to return to work if he or she attempts to resign beyond the narrow statutory window, or simply refuses to show up for work after the July 10th deadline. Such an injunction would violate the state and federal Constitutions’ prohibitions against involuntary servitude (U.S. Constitution, Amendment XIII, and Ohio Const. Art. I).

However, a district is not without some form of recourse. A school district can challenge violations of ORC §3319.15 through the Department of Education. The State Board of Education adopted the Licensure Code of Professional Conduct for Ohio Educators in 2008. Under the Code of Conduct, the State Board of Education may terminate or suspend a teacher’s license for abandonment of a contractual agreement without consent from the employing Board of Education. A teacher’s failure to comply with the law could thereafter have a significant impact on the individual’s future teaching career.

Questions? Contact your district’s legal counsel for more information.