SIBLEY—The Iowa Supreme Court has ruled that a teacher who was fired from her job at Sibley-Ocheyedan High School in Sibley must be reinstated in her former position.
According to a 14-page order issued Oct. 21, the state Supreme Court overturned the Sibley-Ocheyedan School District Board of Education’s decision to fire teacher Danna Braaksma.
The Iowa Supreme Court also upheld the state appeals court’s Dec. 15 decision to overturn the Osceola County District Court’s decision in favor of Sibley-Ocheyedan’s dismissal of Braaksma.
In addition, the State Supreme Court ruling ordered Braaksma’s reinstatement to her former position under the terms of her teaching contract and remanded the case to the District Court for further proceedings in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling.
Sibley-Ocheyedan Superintendent James Craig noted that he was aware of the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision in the case, but had no comment.
Braaksma had been a full-time Spanish teacher at Sibley-Ocheyedan since 2001 and had previously served as a substitute teacher in the school district for 20 years, according to court records.
During the spring semester of the 2018-19 academic year, Sibley-Ocheyedan administrators raised concerns about Braaksma’s teaching performance and asked her to participate in an “intensive support program” described in Chapter 284 of the Iowa Code.
Under the school district’s own policy for implementing Chapter 284, teachers who are required to participate in an intensive support program have a minimum of six months — and a maximum of 12 months — to complete the program.
If, after an educator’s participation in the program, the teacher fails to successfully complete the program or continues to fail to meet performance standards, the school district has the authority, among other options, to immediately terminate the teacher’s employment.
In that case, according to the Iowa Supreme Court ruling, Sibley-Ocheyedan fired Braaksma before she had been granted six months to carry out her intensive relief program.
Spencer’s attorney, Stephen Avery, argued that the school district had the power – under Iowa Code Section 279.27 – to terminate Braaksma for “reasonable cause” at any time during the contract year, regardless of ongoing intensive relief programs.
Des Moines attorney Christy Hickman argued that Braaksma was denied her contractual and statutory right to complete the intensive assistance program before Sibley-Ocheyedan fired her and that in any event the school district did not have sufficient evidence of performance problems, to establish a “valid reason” for Braaksma shoots.
Braaksma appealed the school board’s January 2020 decision to terminate her apprenticeship contract in Osceola County District Court, which in turn upheld Sibley-Ocheyedan’s decision.
She then appealed to the Supreme Court, which referred the case to the Iowa Court of Appeals.
The state appeals court reversed the district court’s decision and the school board’s decision to fire Braaksma.
Sibley-Ocheyedan requested further review of the case, which the Iowa Supreme Court granted on March 1.
The Supreme Court heard hearings in the case on September 14 before issuing its injunction on October 21.