Published by MoASBO, July 2011

Q:  Our principals are frequently asked to provide job references for former employees.  With the passage of the Amy Hestir law, do we need to make any changes?

A.  The new law requires all Missouri public school districts to adopt a policy regarding information that will be provided to prospective employers about former employees.  This policy, which must be adopted by July 1, 2012, requires the District to designate the District official(s) authorized to respond to requests for references and requires the District to state what information will be provided.

Given the increased scrutiny of information provided about former employees, I recommend that districts limit the person(s) authorized to provide information about former employees.  In MCE’s proposed policy revision, Policy 4120, we recommend designating the Superintendent/designee.  I believe a centralized source of information, the Superintendent or Human Resource Director, is preferable to allowing every building principal to make responses.

Restricting the authorized source of information will ensure compliance with Amy Hestir and will avoid inconsistencies when probationary teachers are nonrenewed.  While it has been suggested that principals provide references on plain stationary, I believe the best approach would be to limit references from building principals.  I do not see a problem with a principal providing a draft response to the Central Office for review, approval, and mailing.  There have been several instances where nonrenewed teachers received a favorable reference which was later used against the district in nonrenewal litigation.  Limitation on persons authorized to respond to requests for references will avoid this potential problem.

Finally, as required by Amy Hestir, Policy 4120 lists the information to be provided about former employees.  This information is limited to job title, length of employment, whether the employee was terminated or suspended, and whether the district would re-employ the individual.  Copies of the policy should be provided to all employees, which should result in significantly reduced requests for information concerning employees whose employment was unsatisfactory.

© 2011 Mickes Goldman O’Toole, LLC