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MACE Scores Legal Victories!

The MACE Legal Department has been extremely busy these past few months. The hearings started off with the now famous Keene Walker case of Fulton's Tri-Cities High School. Keene Walker, a very popular first year teacher, was mysteriously non-renewed as a teacher at Tri-Cities High School. This move by the principal upset the faculty and the students at the school. By all accounts, Mr. Walker worked extremely well with the diverse student body at Tri-Cities. The students were devastated when they learned that Mr. Walker's contract was non-renewed. After the MACE Picketing Division staged a very colorful picket wherein the East Point Police Department (about seven officers and the major!) could not get the MACE picketers to leave, attention was focused on this outrageous move by the principal, Amelia Davis. A few days later, the students of Tri-Cities High School staged a walkout which was covered even by the international media. Then, in a very stupid move, Fulton County abruptly told Mr. Walker that he was suspended and needed to go home. His due process rights were flagrantly violated. The MACE Legal Department jumped into the fray and demanded a hearing which was Mr. Walker's right to have according to O.C.G.A. 20-2-940 (g). Superintendent James Wilson, who didn't seem to know what was going on, wrote Mr. Walker a letter, telling him that he was being suspended without pay, pending the emergency hearing. This, of course, was an egregious violation of the law, and MACE Attorney William Woods tortured Mr. Wilson on this point in the hearing.

Fulton County was claiming that Mr. Walker had encouraged the students to walk out of the school, an allegation that Mr. Walker unequivocally denied. In the hearing, the Fulton County School System did not produce a single witness who testified in any manner or form that Mr. Walker encouraged the students to walk out. They couldn't present this evidence because there was no evidence!

The hearing room was packed with Mr. Walker's supporters. (Many of these same supporters had been picketing against Principal Davis for several days at Tri-Cities High School.) Attorney Woods scorched the Fulton County administrators in cross examination, and Mr. Walker performed admirably while on the witness stand. Unanimously, the people in the audience stated that Attorney Woods gave Fulton County a real butt-kicking! Mr. Walker was effusive with praise for Mr. Woods's work on his behalf. The Tribunal (a panel of people hand-picked by the superintendent) returned an incredible verdict for Fulton County. However, it was a grave miscarriage of justice. There are several appealable issues involved, and Attorney Woods has already filed an appeal for Mr. Walker with the Georgia State Board of Education. Many times, school systems have so much false pride that they don't want to admit when their administrators do stupid things. Stay tuned for the Walker case!

When the principal at Fulton's McNair Middle School attempted to fire one of the MACE members at McNair, this entailed another non-renewal hearing. This time, the same Fulton County Tribunal evidently felt that it would be too embarrassing for the Tribunal to rule for the principal. Again, Attorney Woods filleted the principal under a grueling cross-examination, making him look foolish. The teacher was ecstatic that Attorney Woods had so ably defended her in the hearing, stating that he did a "superb" defending her and saving her job.

In two cases brought against MACE members in DeKalb County, it was the aggressive MACE Legal Department which salvaged these teachers' jobs. In one case, the DeKalb County School System had violated the 10-day rule in O.C.G.A. 20-2-940 (g) wherein the statutory law requires that the board of education give a teacher a hearing within 10 days when a superintendent relieves the teacher from his or her duties. DeKalb was trying to get around this provision by claiming that it had not "officially" the teacher until later in the process. However, Attorney Woods held the school system's feet to the fire, citing relevant Georgia statutes. Finally, DeKalb caved in, as it did again recently in another case wherein it was making a move to terminate a MACE member. In the former case, the DeKalb School System referred the teacher to the Professional Standards Commission (PSC). Again, Attorney Woods defended this teacher, and she was totally exonerated before the PSC. (Last year, the PSC tried to suspend one of the MACE member's teaching certificate for one whole year. Attorney Woods defended this teacher in an evidentiary hearing before the PSC, and the teacher was totally exonerated. Attorney Woods has accomplished many victories for MACE members with the PSC.) Both of these teachers were singing Attorney Woods's praises.

In another case in DeKalb County this past school year, a female student attacked a high school basketball coach. The DeKalb County School System kept dragging its feet and even continued investigating the teacher! Attorney Woods defended this MACE member by filing battery charges against the student, resulting in an out-of-court settlement wherein the student apologized to the teacher and agreed to undergo an anger management course.

In Atlanta, the MACE Legal Department always has to hold the Atlanta administration's feet to the fire. Atlanta is known as a "gangsta" school system, choosing to ignore very clear statutory mandates. If allowed, Atlanta would egregiously and continuously violate teachers' due process rights. But, when it comes to MACE members, the MACE Legal Department refuses to grant Atlanta that leeway. Atlanta and other school systems have learned that if they venture into the deep waters and try to unjustly suspend or terminate a MACE teacher, then they will have a titanic struggle on their hands. MACE Attorney William Woods recently noted: "If a school system attempts to fire a MACE teacher without following due process or without presenting convincing evidence, it had better strap on the head gear because we are going toe-to-toe in battle. A MACE member will never be left hanging."

The MACE Union is well-known for its tough and thorough representation of its members in grievance hearings. MACE's Executive Director, Dr. John Trotter, is legendary in his scathing and often humorous cross examinations of angry and abusive administrators. By the time Dr. Trotter finishes his "thorough and sifting cross examination," these once-bold administrators become hapless and downright pitiful.

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