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Know Your Rights Part 1: State's Teacher Tenure Law

By: Fred Wickham and Brian Wood, AFT Missouri legal counsel  

Two often asked questions about Missouri teacher tenure are (1) When does a teacher become tenured?; and (2) What rights are afforded a tenured teacher?  The Missouri Teacher Tenure Act addresses each of these important questions.  

A teacher becomes tenured in Missouri once he or she has been employed as a teacher for five successive years in the same school district and thereafter remains employed in the same district.  Generally, a teacher acquires tenured status on the first day of his or her sixth successive year in the same district.  The five-year period is shortened by one year if the teacher has two or more years of teaching experience in another school system.  A teacher who gains tenure with a district and is then separated from employment with that district can regain tenure if re-employed with the same district for one full year.   In addition, teachers who are employed pursuant to a part-time contract gain credit toward tenure on a prorated basis.  

Once a teacher is tenured, he or she is considered a “permanent teacher” and is employed pursuant to an indefinite contract that continues from year to year.  This is certainly preferable to the one-year contracts given to non-tenured teachers as those contracts may be simply “non-renewed” at the end of the school year upon timely notice to the teacher.  On the other hand, should a school district seek to terminate the contract of a tenured teacher, a number of procedural rights must be provided to the teacher including a hearing before the school board.    

In addition, the Missouri Tenure Act limits the reasons for which a tenured teacher’s indefinite contract may be terminated to the following: (1) physical or mental condition unfitting him to instruct or associate with children; (2) immoral conduct; (3) incompetency, inefficiency or insubordination in the line of duty; (4) willful or persistent violation of, or failure to obey, the school laws of the state or the published regulations of the board of education of the school district; (5) excessive or unreasonable absence from performance of duties; or (6) conviction of a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude.  

These are the provisions of the law that apply most often.  Keep in mind that the Missouri Tenure Act is complex; therefore, consult your AFT Missouri attorneys with any questions about how the law applies to your specific situation.