Teacher Wins Lawsuit After Being Fired for Not Giving Unearned Grades, Now Running for School Board

AP Photo/Ron Harris

After winning a significant legal battle against her former employer for wrongful termination, a former elementary school teacher in Henry County, Georgia, is setting her sights on a new goal: a seat on the school board. Sheri Mimbs was fired from Cotton Indian Elementary School in 2017 for refusing to give passing grades even if students had not earned them.

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Her six-year battle against the school resulted in her winning a six-figure settlement from her former employer. Mimbs is now seeking to affect change by securing a school board seat.

She says back in 2017 an assistant principal wrote a note to her telling her not to give students grades less than 60, even if they didn’t turn in any work.

“I went to the assistant principal and she was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. You need to change those grades. Kids can’t have less than a 60,’” Mimbs described.

Mimbs says after she complained, her contract wasn’t renewed. She sued and won.

“I knew I was being retaliated against,” she said.

The jury ordered the district to pay her six figures in monetary damages for retaliation. It has to pay her attorney’s fees and most importantly it had to reverse her non-renewal. She says that non-renewal was keeping her from getting teaching jobs.

Now after the court victory, Mimbs hopes to get a victory at the polls.

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The former teacher defended her actions, asserting that “Nobody can make me believe just giving out grades is helping any student.”

This case highlights an often-overlooked issue in many school districts – especially those in predominantly black and brown communities. Teachers are regularly pressured to give grades to students who have not earned them to boost the school’s numbers. It is a problem that has persisted despite the fact that it clearly does not help to set these students up for success.

In Arizona, multiple teachers in the Casa Grande Union High School district indicated that the administration pushed them to give passing grades to dozens of students so they could graduate.

Teacher and whistleblower Donna Telles says the grades of an estimated 50 students from Vista Grande and Casa Grande high schools will be changed to ‘P’ or passing.

“There’s been a request made by our administrators of our teachers to go back into historically archived grades of seniors who would otherwise not pass and change their grades,” Telles said.

Telles, who teaches at Vista Grande High School and serves as a union representative, says teachers are being asked to change the grades against their will. “Teachers are being required to do things that they know are not right. They’re afraid of not doing it for fear of being termed insubordinate and terminated.”

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Unfortunately, it appears many who are in positions of leadership in the school system are more concerned about making their schools look good than they are about actually making sure they are providing the level of education necessary to equip kids for adulthood. There are likely many factors contributing to this trend. Hopefully, more people like Mimbs will be willing to do the hard work to fix the problems instead of simply sweeping them under the rug.

Mimbs appears to have the right idea. Instead of trying to fight this battle inside the schools, perhaps it would be more effective to win governing seats that allow people serious about education to effect real change.

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