A Lawrence High School teacher who says his conservative political beliefs led to his contract not being renewed for a second year had a hearing with district officials Monday.
Tim Latham just finished his first year teaching government and American history in the district. He had taught elsewhere for 19 years, most recently in Arkansas.
According to his attorney, Caleb Stegall, Latham has filed an official grievance with the school district claiming administrators did not do the proper classroom observations spelled out in teachers’ contracts. The master agreement states that nontenured teachers should be observed twice each semester for at least 20 minutes as part of two yearly evaluations.
“The central allegation has to do with the fact that the administration really made up its mind ahead of time on this, didn’t bother to follow the proper procedures,” Stegall said. “If they would have done that, certainly I think that their biases and prejudices would have been disabused.”
The grievance filed is based solely on procedure, and district officials say they will not address allegations beyond that.
“It has nothing to do with his political beliefs,” Superintendent Randy Weseman said.
Latham and his supporters, including some of his former students and the Kansas 9:12 Project, a group in which Latham is also a member, say his political views are the reason his contract was not renewed.
“He’s being told ... you’re not conforming to our culture. You’re not fitting in,” Stegall said.
Latham was recommended for nonrenewal on April 27. He was pulled from the final list the school board approved on June 8, pending Monday’s hearing. Weseman said he would render a written decision in a few days.
“If everything was done correctly, that means one thing,” Weseman said. “If I think there’s some loose ends, I’m going to do what’s right. This is a process that protects him and makes sure he’s treated fairly.”
Latham can appeal Weseman’s decision to the Lawrence school board, which would then have a hearing, and its decision would be the final one from the district.
To appeal a school board ruling, Latham would have to sue the district.
Because Latham is not a tenured teacher, the district does not have to release why his contract was not renewed. But Weseman said he was taking extra care in the situation.
“I’m going the extra mile to make sure I’ve reviewed everything,” he said.
The Lawrence Journal-World and 6News investigated the matter this spring. “It was determined then that the issue was a personnel matter for the district, one that didn’t rise to the list of a true concern for our community,” managing editor Dennis Anderson said Monday.