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Hutchison v. Board of Education

OCTOBER 18, 1961.

SANFORD E. HUTCHISON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF GREENFIELD COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 10, GREENE, MACOUPIN AND MORGAN COUNTIES, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Greene County; the Hon. CLEM SMITH, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

CARROLL, J.

This is a proceeding brought under the Administrative Review Act to review a decision of the defendant Board of Education, dismissing plaintiff as a teacher in Greenfield Community Unit School District No. 10, Greene, Macoupin and Morgan Counties. The Circuit Court reversed the decision and the board has appealed.

Plaintiff was employed by the defendant Board as an agriculture instructor. On March 25, 1960, the Board served plaintiff with a dismissal notice which reads as follows:

"Notice is hereby given you that at its adjourned meeting held on the 17th day of March, 1960, the Board of Education of Greenfield Community Unit School District No. 10, Greene, Macoupin and Morgan Counties, Illinois, upon motion duly made, seconded and unanimously adopted by the six members present, voted for your dismissal as a teacher in said school at the end of the present school year for the following reasons: (1) failure to effectively perform and carry out your instructional duties; (2) the best interest of the school requires such action.

Dated this 25th day of March, 1960."

Plaintiff requested a public hearing and also served the Board with a demand for a bill of particulars. A public hearing was held but the Board refused to furnish a bill of particulars. The hearing began May 13, 1960, and on May 20, 1960, after hearing numerous witnesses, the Board adopted the following resolution:

"Resolved, that this Board find from the testimony taken and the exhibits introduced at the public hearing held at the request of Sanford Hutchison, that the charges made by this Board against Sanford Hutchison were fully proven; that such charges were not remediable and were sufficient reason for his dismissal; that the motions made to dismiss such charges should be denied; and that the best interest of the school require that the dismissal of Sanford Hutchison be approved.

"Further Resolved, that all motions made by the said Sanford Hutchison to dismiss said charges be and they are hereby denied and that the action of this Board is dismissing the said Sanford Hutchison be and the same is hereby approved.

"Further Resolved, that a copy of this Resolution be served upon the said Sanford Hutchison as notice of the decision of this Board."

On review the Circuit Court found the Board's decision to be contrary to law and against the manifest weight of the evidence and ordered the same reversed.

It was stipulated on the hearing that by virtue of his employment plaintiff qualified for contractual continued service under the Teacher Tenure Law, Art 24, Ill Rev Stats 1959, c 122, and was entitled to the benefits afforded him by said law. Among such benefits are those conferred by § 24-3, which insofar as pertinent here, is as follows: ". . . the dismissal . . . shall not become effective until approved by a majority vote of all the members of the Board upon specific charges and after a hearing, if a hearing is requested in writing. . . . Before service of notice of charges on account of causes that may be deemed to be remediable, the teacher shall be given reasonable warning in writing, stating specifically the causes which, if not removed, may result in charges." It was further stipulated on the hearing that no warning in writing was given plaintiff prior to the service of the notice of charges on May 25, 1960.

We think the first question requiring consideration is whether plaintiff was afforded a hearing upon specific charges in accordance with the provisions of the Tenure Law.

The Board's dismissal resolution would seem to indicate a failure to distinguish between "charges" and "causes". Under the School Code the Board of Education is vested with power to dismiss a teacher for incompetency, cruelty, negligence, immorality or other sufficient cause and also whenever in its opinion a teacher is not qualified or whenever in its opinion the interests of the school require it. Ill Rev Stats c 122 §§ 7-16 and 6-36. These are the specified causes on account of which charges may be made against a teacher. For the protection of teachers who have qualified for contractual continued service under the Tenure Law, the latter statute provides that where the causes relied upon are remediable, the Board, before serving notice of charges on account of such causes, must give the teacher written warning. In this case the sole cause relied upon was that the best interest of the school required plaintiff's dismissal. Despite the fact that the Board may have regarded such cause as not being remediable, he was entitled to a hearing upon specific charges on account of said cause. Although the dismissal resolution refers to "charges" made by the Board against plaintiff, the only notice thereof served upon him was the statement that he was being discharged for: "Failure to effectively perform and carry out your instructional duties." We think such a vague accusation was wholly insufficient to qualify as a specific charge within the meaning of the Tenure Law. If plaintiff was being dismissed because he refused or neglected to perform certain duties, then he had a right to be informed specifically as to the particular duties alleged to have been breached. Furthermore, if the charges related to a cause which was remediable, then plaintiff should have been given an opportunity to remedy such cause. If plaintiff was not entitled to specific information as to wherein he had failed as a teacher, then the provisions concerning remediable causes would be meaningless. Whatever the specific charges against plaintiff may have been, they were not disclosed in the dismissal notice. The record shows that prior to the hearing, the Board refused to furnish plaintiff with a bill of particulars. As a result, he faced a hearing upon the general charge that he had not done his duty. This was not the type of hearing to which he was entitled under the plain provisions of the Tenure Law.

It appears from the record that at the commencement of the hearing plaintiff filed a written motion to dismiss the charges and all proceedings against him. One of several grounds alleged in support of such motion was the failure of the Board to give plaintiff reasonable warning in writing stating specifically the causes which if not remedied would result in his removal. This motion which was denied at the conclusion of the hearing raised a question as to the jurisdiction of the Board to proceed. If in fact the causes relied upon were remediable, then plaintiff was entitled to reasonable written warning and failure to give such warning would deprive the Board of jurisdiction. Keyes v. Board of ...


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