St. Louis Public Schools is suing 32 of its former teachers for quitting their contracts before they expired, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The district sued the 32 non-tenured teachers this summer after many left their positions in July or August of 2015 and 2016, the Post-Dispatch reported. The district had implemented a rule that teachers pay a $3,000 fine if they left before their contracts expired.
The fine was implemented to improve teacher retention rates. In past years, hundreds of teachers resigned from the district.
“St. Louis officials also acknowledge it’s more challenging to teach in urban schools, where there are more students coming to school with trauma and toxic stress,” the Post-Dispatch reported.
But an attorney for some of the teachers, Emily Perez, said in court last week that the suit, which seeks $3,000 from each of the teachers, is a “fundamentally unfair” punishment.
The teachers suffered in toxic work environments in the district, Perez said according to the newspaper.
Multiple teachers spoke anonymously to the Post-Dispatch, telling the paper that they endured little support from administrators when faced with behavioral issues and crowded classrooms.
One teacher said he saw feces smeared on the walls and rodents in his school.
Other districts in the St. Louis area have implemented varying levels of fines for teachers who quit early. The St. Louis district argued the $3,000 fine is about what it costs to search for and hire a replacement teacher.
District spokesman Patrick Wallace told the Post-Dispatch that the district was not seeking to punish the 32 teachers.
“What we’re trying to do is find replacements and not be punitive at this point,” he said.