The Wisconsin Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that the Kewaskum School District was wrong when it claimed Act 10 negated any part of a contract that was in effect when the law was passed.
The decision stems from the district firing special education teacher Linda Kiser for allegedly using physical force with her students. Kiser contested her firing, and an arbitrator reinstated the teacher with back pay.
The district then brought the case in front of a judge in Washington County and later claimed that any arbitration – which was spelled out in a contract between the district and the teacher’s union – ended when Act 10 was enacted in June 2011.
But the circuit court judge upheld the arbitrator’s ruling, which the appellate court seconded Wednesday.
“The school district has it wrong,” the appeals opinion, penned by Judge Paul Reilly, stated. “The plain language of the new law delays its effectiveness … until after the expiration of their existing collective bargaining agreements.
“Under the agreement, which was in effect at the time that Act 10 was passed, Kiser had the right not to be discharged without just cause and the School District promised to be bound by an arbitrator’s decision resolving any dispute that arose over the interpretation of the agreement,” the decision stated.
The School District took issue with the arbitrator’s findings that the allegations of physical force were not proven. But the appellate court again upheld the circuit court judge’s findings.
“We fail to see,” the court wrote, “how reinstating a teacher who is found to have engaged mostly in permissible physical contact with her students manifestly disregards federal or state law or how it will open the door to litigation against the School District.”