Tenure Law and Legal Definition

The term tenure has different legal definitions. In real property law, it refers to landholding of any type; it usually implies, however, that the landholder does not have absolute possession but derives the right from some other person.

The common usage of the term tenure relates to the employment of teachers. Tenure is a guarantee of due process for a tenured teacher facing dismissal charges. Tenure is not a guarantee of a teaching job for life. Tenure laws are designed to protect the free speech rights of teachers and minimize the political pressures affecting their performance in the classroom. Under state laws, which vary by state, the teacher tenure law sets out strict termination and due process requirements for teachers, whether or not they have tenure. It covers certified professional employees below the rank of superintendent employed by a board of education for at least a minimum time period.

Tenured teachers have their contracts automatically renewed from year-to-year; can be dismissed only for statutorily specified reasons; and have the right to

  1. bump untenured teachers in positions for which they are qualified if their positions are eliminated,
  2. written notice of the reasons for termination,
  3. a termination hearing before the board of education or an impartial hearing panel, and
  4. appeal the results of the hearing to Superior Court. Private schools and universities also may have their own separate rules regarding tenure of teachers.