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Kansas Supreme Court Selected Opinion Summaries
Unified School District No. 501 and The Board of Education of U.S. No. 501 et al. v. Linda M. Baker, Docket 83,805
May 26, 2000

Summaries and press releases are prepared by Ron Keefover, Office of Judicial Administration, Kansas Judicial Center, 301 West 10th, Topeka, KS 66612-1507 (785-296-2256), e-mail: keefoverr@kscourts.org.

Re: Appeal No. 83,805: Unified School District No. 501 and The Board of Education of U.S. No. 501 et al. v. Linda M. Baker

The Supreme Court today filed its decision in the above entitled appeal and rules 5-2 that teachers are ineligible to serve as a member of the their Board of Education under the common-law doctrine of incompatibility of office, reversing Shawnee County District Court. Writing for the majority is Justice Fred N. Six. Justices Donald L. Allegrucci and Tyler C. Lockett, in separate dissents, would affirm the district court on the basis that 11 attempts to pass a bill prohibiting the dual service has failed each time since the bills were first introduced beginning in 1979.

Justice Six, in writing for the majority, said the positions of teacher as employee and board member as employer are incompatible. He said the fact that the legislature has not acted is "not necessarily indicative of legislative intent. A court can draw many contradictory inferences from the legislature’s failure to pass a bill," he wrote.

The appeal arose in a lawsuit from Shawnee County in which the court was asked to determine whether Linda M. Baker, a teacher in the Topeka school district since 1984, could serve on the board of education after assuming the position on July 1, 1999. The court ruled that rather than finding that Baker vacated her tenured teaching position when she assumed the duties of board member, the more equitable approach is that "because she is contractually employed by the district, her employment as a teacher endures."

Justice Allegrucci, in his dissent, said he agrees with the rationale and decision of District Judge Marla Luckert and that Supreme Court previously ruled that inferences can be drawn from the legislature’s inability to pass legislation.

He said the legislature’s consideration, but failure to enact, a so-called dram shop act is indicative of legislative intent under a decision relating to the liability of a nightclub for an ensuing drunk driving accident caused by one of its patrons. "The legislature’s failure to pass any of the 11 bills introduced since 1979 speaks volumes on the issue of whether a teacher may serve on a school board," Justice Allegrucci wrote.

Justice Lockett added in his dissent that be believes the majority’s interpretation of the statute prohibits a member of the "board of education from contracting to perform any work or service for or to sell any goods to the school district."

The full text of this decision may be found at www.kscourts.org.