Bethel University Wins Suit Against State
NASHVILLE (June 29) — Bethel University has won its case against the Tennessee Board of Education, and the university’s education department accreditation was reinstated. Chancellor Claudia Bonnyman heard the university’s complaint against the State Board of Education and the chancellor reviewed the Board’s rulings.
Following the hearing, the Court issued an oral bench ruling stating its findings on behalf of the petitioner. According to the ruling, the Court found and concluded the Board of Education had statutory authority to regulate and set standards for Education Preparation Providers (EPPs). Yet, the Board’s attempted revocation of approval of Bethel’s EPP pursuant to policy 5.504 was invalid because it was never properly transmitted in accordance with the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act. The remaining issues raised in Bethel’s petition regarding the Board’s alleged violations of the school’s due process rights under the Tennessee and United States Constitutions were rendered moot by the Court’s finding that the Board’s attempted revocation of approval of Bethel’s EPP was invalid.
Bethel brought the court action in response to a Board of Education vote, recommended by Education Commissioner Candice McQueen, which would have had the immediate effect of revoking Bethel’s longstanding approval to license its graduating students to teach.
Bethel alleged the State Education Department previously approved its program until the fall of 2017. In May of 2016, Bethel received additional accreditation for the same time period from a national accrediting agency approved by the United States Department of Education to accredit EPPs known as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
In response to the State’s surprise revocation of Bethel’s approval, Bethel sued the Education Department and the State Board of Education stating that the defendants’ actions are in violation of Bethel’s due process rights under Article I, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution; that the policies being used by the defendants to harm Bethel are null and void as they are outside the scope of the authority prescribed and granted to the Department and Board by the Tennessee General Assembly; that the actions by the Department and the Board were arbitrary, capricious and void; and that the Board policies formed the basis for the Board’s revocation action are null and void because those were implemented unlawfully and outside of the express procedures required by the Tennessee Uniform Administrative Procedures Act.
Bethel’s students have achieved a one hundred percent passage rate in three of the last five years on the Praxis Principles of Learning and Teaching examination test, which applicants for teacher licensure are required to take by the State of Tennessee. In the other two years, Bethel students achieved a ninety-three percent and ninety- eight percent passage rate.
Bethel was represented by the Nashville law firm of Lewis, Thomason, King, Krieg, and Waldrop, P.C. Samuel L. Jackson served as lead counsel representing Bethel.