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Teachers sue Tuscaloosa County School System in federal court

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 7:37 PM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA Co., Ala. (WBRC) - Several teachers have filed a lawsuit against the Tuscaloosa County School System. The lawsuit centers around what the teachers were tasked to teach students who were doing remote learning and how some teachers said they feel they were treated because they were women.

Teachers who filed the lawsuit claimed they performed significantly more teaching duties than for which they were hired and not compensated for and that it happened after the school system moved to a blended teaching model virtual and in-person learning.

One of the teachers suing claimed that Edgenuity, the system Tuscaloosa County Schools used for remote learning, did not cover all classes and some students didn’t use it. The suit also includes discrimination claims that some teachers’ concerns were not taken seriously because they were women.

WBRC spoke with an employment law expert at the University of Alabama School of law who explained some of the legal complaints the teachers made against Tuscaloosa County Schools.

“When an employer changes the terms of employment during the course of the employment relationship courts are going to differ as to whether or not an employees’ continued performance of her job duties constitutes an implied acceptance of those new terms. That varies court by court,” according to Deepa Das Acevedo, an employment law expert at the school.

Tuscaloosa County School Superintendent Dr. Keri Johnson released a statement:

“In 2020, we were faced with the task of completely reimagining the way we deliver education to our students, in a matter of months. At the direction of the Alabama State Department of Education, TCSS adopted a reopening plan. Our plan provided a choice of on-campus or off-campus learning for students, to meet the individual needs of our students and families.

Soon after the start of the 2020-2021 school year, it became clear that the state-provided online learning software did not provide what we expected. In order to quickly get a platform in place that would be more effective for both students and teachers, I recommended to our Board of Education that we use a portion of our federal COVID-19 relief funds to purchase Edgenuity. This is a software program I and other TCSS administrators and teachers had previous experience with, and which was already in use by many other school systems.

TCSS also provided additional compensation to faculty members at each school, to serve as remote learning coaches. The role of the remote learning coach was to provide additional support to off-campus learners, and for the teachers serving those students. In addition to remote learning coaches, some teachers also received compensation above their regular salary. For example, teachers of some Advanced Placement courses or electives not included in the online platform received extra compensation.

The task of educating students during the pandemic was and continues to be monumental. I am so grateful for the work of so many, which has allowed us to continue serving our students during this crisis. There were no perfect solutions during the pandemic, but every decision I made was with the best interest of our students as my number one priority.

While I would like to provide a more complete response regarding inaccurate allegations made in the pending lawsuit, I am confident that our decisions will be validated.

-Dr. Keri C. Johnson, Superintendent

An attorney representing the teachers filing the suit declined to comment.

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