COURT RULES LAW FAVORS TEACHERS FOR COACHING.
Public schoolteachers who want to be athletic coaches are entitled to a hiring preference under California law, the state Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In a 4-3 decision, the court said that while school districts can decide their own standards for coaches, they must hire any teacher who meets those standards. Only if no qualified teachers apply can nonteachers be considered, the court said.
In a case from San Bernardino County, the court relied on a 1977 law that said vacant coaching jobs ``shall first be made available to teachers presently employed by the district.''
Lawyers for local school boards argued that the law merely requires them to notify teachers of coaching vacancies so that they can compete equally with nonteachers. That interpretation gives districts the freedom they need to hire the best qualified coaches, the boards said.
But the court said the law was intended to give teachers ``an advantage in the hiring process'' if they met the district's standards for coaches.
That doesn't mean any credentialed teacher who knows the rules of football is entitled to coach the varsity, said the opinion by Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar. She said districts have broad leeway in setting standards and judging candidates.
For example, she said, an applicant's knowledge of ``coaching techniques,'' one of the criteria in the law, can include ``an evaluation of whether he or she has demonstrated an ability to instill commitment, discipline and teamwork in a group of young people of perhaps widely varying athletic ability, socioeconomic background or language skills.''
Likewise, Werdegar said, a school district can decide how much emphasis to place on winning, academics, athletic participation by all students and equal participation by boys and girls. But she said the Legislature ``intended schools, whenever possible, to hire qualified coaches who already possess the skills of a teacher.''
Dissenting Justice Ming Chin said the ruling ``shortchanges our public school students'' by denying them ``the best available coaches.'' He said the law should be interpreted to require only that teachers be notified of coaching vacancies, and called on the Legislature to clarify the issue.
The case involved two assistant basketball coaching jobs in 1992 at the newly opened Rialto High School in the Rialto Unified School District. Gary Stanley, a junior high school teacher, applied for both jobs and was interviewed for one but rejected. The district hired nonteachers for both.
Superior Court Judge A. Rex Victor's ruling in the district's favor was overturned by a state appellate court, which said Stanley, as the only teacher who applied, was entitled to either job. The Supreme Court disagreed but said Stanley was entitled to consideration under standards set by the district.