Shabbat Parashat Shemini| 5765
Firing a Teacher who is Unable to Control his Class - Excerpts from Piskei Din Rabbaniim, vol. XIV, pp.69-77
Case: A man was hired by a yeshiva for teenagers to teach for the first time. He began the school year, but after a matter of days, it became clear to the administration that he was unable to maintain order in the classroom, and so he was fired. The teacher now demands his salary for the entire year that he was supposed to have worked.
Ruling: The gemara (Bava Batra 21a) brings two opinions whether a Torah teacher may be removed when a more effective one is found. The argument hinges on which possibility fosters better teaching standards. The Rosh and Shulchan Aruch (YD 245:18) accept the opinion of R. Dimi that he can be replaced. It is, therefore, difficult to explain the Rosh’s (Shut 104:4) ruling that a teacher cannot be removed during the time that he was appointed for.
A few distinctions are given to reconcile the apparent contradiction. 1) R. Dimi only said that the teacher can be removed and cannot make a claim on his position of teaching, but monetarily he must be compensated for the entire time for which he was hired. 2) The only time that R. Dimi allowed the teacher to be fired is when he was not hired for a specific amount of time. 3) Aruch Hashulchan (YD 245:18)- Just as a worker can interrupt his work when he desires, so may an employer terminate the employment, just that payment for work done is calculated in a way that is detrimental to the employer who terminates the work.
In our case, no set time was set for the teacher’s employment. Although the two sides signed a piece of paper titled, “Obligations and Rights of Teachers for the School Year 5742,” that does not mean that his job was assured for the entire time. Rather, it spells out what the conditions are as long as the position continues. (Par. 2 also states that the teacher is responsible to control his class.) Since this was the young man’s first teaching position, it is unlikely that the administration would give him an unconditional obligation for a full year, as many first time teachers fail.
Although the Teacher’s Union reported that there is a nationwide practice not to fire teachers in the middle of the year, there are a few reasons why that will not create a minhag hamedina (local practice) in this case. Firstly, that applies only to teachers with tenure. Secondly, that agreement is an informal one between the Teacher’s Union and the public school system and likely does not apply to private schools like the one in question.
There was a difference of opinion among the dayanim whether the inability of the teacher to control the class in his few days on the job constitutes a p’shiya, a general inability to perform the job. One dayan pointed out that many first time teachers had initial difficulty in disciplining, but learned how to do so as they proceeded. Given that they were aware that he was new, initial difficulties should not be a surprise. Another dayan countered that inability to control a class causes as much damage as not knowing the material to be taught and is grounds for removal.
All dayanim agreed that the teacher could be removed, and the ruling was to pay him only for the days worked and another week in lieu of proper, advance warning.
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