Arbitration Clause Applies to Superintendent’s Claims against Individual Board Members
A school district superintendent’s employment contract includes a broad arbitration clause. Does the arbitration clause apply to the superintendent’s legal claims against individual members of the board of education? The Court of Appeals answered “yes” in Steward v. School District of the City of Flint, Case Nos. 361112 and 361120 (May 11, 2023).
Steward involved a typical dispute between a superintendent and a board of education. The board was critical of the superintendent’s performance and the superintendent accused certain individual board members of “micro-management.” The relationship deteriorated to the point the board replaced the superintendent. The superintendent sued the school district and certain individual board members, alleging a variety of statutory and common law claims. The school district and the individual board members responded with a motion to dismiss based on the arbitration provision in the superintendent’s contract.
There was little dispute the arbitration clause applied to the superintendent’s claims against the school district. The argument was whether it also applied to the superintendent’s claims against the individual board members who, after all, had not signed the contract. The Court of Appeals held that it did, noting the applicability of agency principles to arbitration agreements. However, the Court did not address why the school district’s elected officials should be considered its agents.