Lawsuit filed against state school board over website detailing discipline of Utah teachers

SALT LAKE CITY – A new website could harm a teacher’s reputation. That’s according to a lawsuit filed by the Utah Education Association against the State Board of Education.

The website launched in February of 2017. It’s the first time the state has provided information online about an educator who has been disciplined by the board.

The site lists if the educator’s license was suspended or revoked.

State school leaders say the purpose of the website is to increase transparency.

“The educators who have been disciplined by the board have often engaged in activities that are illegal or dangerous or endanger our students,” said Angie Stallings, Deputy Superintendent Utah State Board of Education.

Stallings says the records have always been public, but now people can access the information through a website.

UEA, the state’s largest teacher’s union, is suing the board. They’ve filed their complaint in the Third District Court, but have yet to formally serve the board.

“The litigation, I think of it more as a placeholder,” said Kass Harstad, an attorney representing the UEA.

She says the lawsuit was a last resort to buy more time to work with the board on making changes to the website.

Their biggest concern about the website is that it’s retroactive – meaning it lists discipline that occurred prior to January 2017. Because most educator discipline is done by agreement, with 75% of teachers waiving their right to a fair hearing, Harstad argues the terms of the agreement have changed by putting their names on the public website without their consent.

“UEA is not trying to hide information relating to educator discipline, but we do want to protect the rights of UEA members who did not agree to have their discipline placed on a website in the past," Harstad said.

Stallings says the board plans to meet with their attorneys to talk about the lawsuits before they take action on any amendments to the website.