Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kanakee county; the Hon. C.D.
HENRY, Judge, presiding. Judgment of the circuit court reversed.
Final administrative order of the defendant-appellant affirmed.
PRESIDING JUSTICE CROW DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
The appellant, Board of Education of Community High School District No. 307 of Kankakee County, defendant in the trial court, brings this cause by appeal from the Circuit Court of Kankakee County, heard there under the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Statutes, 1955, Chapter 110, Secs. 264-279).
The Circuit Court reviewed an administrative decision of the defendant, Board of Education, dismissing the plaintiff, Joseph Jepsen, as a teacher in the Bradley-Bourbonnais High School after a hearing held pursuant to the Teacher Tenure Law (Illinois Rev. Statutes, 1955, Chapter 122, Secs. 24-1 to 24-8).
Thereafter, the trial court found that the dismissal of the plaintiff, Joseph Jepsen, by the defendant, Board of Education, was erroneous and void and by final judgment reversed and set aside the dismissal.
It appears from the record that the plaintiff had been employed by the defendant, Board of Education, for a number of years as a teacher. At various times his additional duties included coaching athletic teams and driving a school bus. On March 28, 1956, the defendant, Board of Education, delivered to the plaintiff a notice of dismissal as required by the provisions of the Teacher Tenure Law setting forth as the reason for his discharge, to-wit: that the best interest of the school required it. Six charges upon which the dismissal was founded were set out in the notice. Thereupon the plaintiff, pursuant to the Teachers' Tenure Law requested and was granted a public hearing.
It is urged for reversal that the record and proceedings show: (1) that sufficient cause for the dismissal of the teacher did exist; (2) that the determination by the defendant, Board of Education, that the interests of the school, required the dismissal of the plaintiff was made in the exercise of a discretion vested in it by The School Code and may be set aside only upon proof of abuse of that discretion; (3) there was no abuse of discretion and (4) that the trial court erred in reversing and setting aside the final decision of the defendant, Board of Education, particularly since it made no finding that the defendant abused the discretion in it vested or that the decision was manifestly against the weight of the evidence.
The plaintiff, arguing that the decision of the trial court is correct and should be upheld, contends that: (1) the charges against him were not sufficient in law to warrant his dismissal and were not supported by the evidence, (2) the defendant, Board of Education, abused its discretion and there was no evidence to support its decision, and (3) the manifest weight of the evidence is in favor of the plaintiff.
Section 7-16 of the School Code (Illinois Revised Statutes, 1955, Chapter 122, paragraph 7-16) gives the defendant, Board of Education, "power to dismiss and remove any teacher, whenever, in its opinion, he is not qualified to teach, or whenever, in its opinion, the interests of the schools require it, subject however to the provisions of Sections 24-2 to 24-7, inclusive. . . ." The controlling question in this case is whether sufficient cause for dismissal of the plaintiff did exist and is shown by the record.
Our first consideration is whether the charges, findings and report here for review constitute sufficient cause within the meaning of Section 7-16 of the School Code to warrant dismissal of the plaintiff. It is for the Board of Education to determine in the first instance what in its opinion is cause for dismissal but it may not make an arbitrary and unreasonable rule in this respect. In Murphy v. Houston (1928) 250 Ill. App. 385, the court defined cause to mean "some substantial shortcoming which render continuance in his office or employment in some way detrimental to the discipline and efficiency of the service and something which the law and a sound public opinion recognize as good cause for his not longer occupying the place." The rule as laid down is in harmony with Throop on Public Officers (Book III, Chapter XVI); Chicago v. Condell (1905) 124 Ill. App. 64; Heaney v. Chicago (1904) 117 Ill. App. 405; Joyce v. Chicago (1905) 120 Ill. App. 398, affirmed 216 Ill. 466; Chicago v. Gillen (1906) 124 Ill. App. 210; Joyce v. Board of Education of Chicago (1945) 325 Ill. App. 543. The question as to who shall determine what constitute cause has frequently been presented to the courts of this state and the rule to be deduced from the authorities is that where the statute is silent, as in the instant case, as to what constitute cause, the right to determine the question is in the tribunal having jurisdiction of the particular officer or employee. (Joyce v. Board of Education of Chicago, 325 Ill. App. 543; Pearson v. Board of Education, Community Unit School Dist. No. 5, Macoupin County (1956) 12 Ill. App.2d 44.)
Of the six charges specified against the plaintiff, three, specifically the first, fifth and sixth were found to be true, namely:
(a) Plaintiff had been disrespectful of the Board of Education and the principal of the school;
(b) Plaintiff incited misunderstanding and distrust of the superintendent or principal and the athletic coaches by stating to officials of other schools that the football coach did knowingly play an ineligible player in a football game;
(c) Plaintiff wilfully and without justification accused the school principal of concealing or attempting to conceal the ineligibility of the football player.
Upon review, the Administrative Review Act provides that the findings and conclusions of the administrative agency shall be held to be prima facie, true and correct. It is only where its decision is without substantial foundation in the record or is manifestly against the weight of the evidence that the same will be set aside. (Drezner v. Civil Service Commission (1947) 398 Ill. 219; Community Consolidated School Dist. No. 201 of La Salle County, Ill. v. County Board of School Trustees of La Salle County, Ill. (1955) 7 ...