Judges have undoubtedly heard every excuse in the book when it comes to why people want to get out of jury duty. But some teachers are asking to be let out of their civic duty because of performance pay.
"I'm an elementary school teacher, and we have testing for the next few weeks," one teacher told a judge at a murder trial this week.
Another teacher argued he couldn't afford to be out of the classroom because student performance is tied to his paycheck.
"Our pay, or raises, are part of student grades," he said. "For us, it's how they do on that test at the end of the year. They don't do well, that looks bad on me. They don't do well, I don't get a raise, or I lose my job depending on how poorly they do," the teacher told the judge
So is it a valid excuse?
At least one lawyer in a recent murder trial bought the argument. He asked the judge to strike both teachers because he felt they would be too distracted to be impartial jurors.
Steve Hegarty, a spokesperson for Hillsborough County Schools, says teachers have a valid concern if trials last more than a few weeks.
"We live in a high stakes world for students and teachers. They're very conscious that every day, every hour in the classroom has an impact and I think they're feeling some of the pressure," said Hegarty.
Forty percent of teacher pay is decided on average student performance, while 60 percent is decided by principal and peer evaluations.
Renalia Dubose, a Cooley Law School professor and former school administrator, says this is an issue the court system needs to be prepared to handle.
"The average teacher at this point that gets pulled for a jury duty that lasts two to three weeks, they're going to ask to be excused," said Dubose. "Because this is high stakes testing time," she said.
The teachers also told the judge it's important for students to learn from familiar faces, not substitutes.
Ultimately, a judge decides whether a teacher, or anyone for that matter, can be dismissed from jury duty for cause.