APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Macon County; the Hon. RODNEY
A. SCOTT, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SIMKINS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied August 24, 1972.
This case comes to us from the Circuit Court of Macon County, and is an interlocutory appeal from a denial of a Motion to Vacate a temporary injunction. A recital of the relevant facts is necessary for a discussion of the legal issues presented.
On April 13, 1971, the Board of Education for Decatur School District No. 61 (hereinafter referred to as Board of Education) approved a calendar for the 1971-1972 school term which established August 25, 1971, as the opening day of school. The teachers employed in the Decatur School system for the 1970-1971 school term were operating under a master contract executed between the Board of Education and the Decatur Education Association that was effective on September 17, 1970, and which expired by its terms at midnight on August 25, 1971. Although not specifically stated in the record, it is apparent that the Board of Education and the teacher's association had met for several months prior to August 25, 1971, in an attempt to negotiate a new master contract for the 1971-1972 school year. These efforts proved unsuccessful and when the pupils returned to their classrooms on August 25th, the teachers failed to report to work.
On August 27, 1971, the Board of Education instituted an action for declaratory judgment in the Circuit Court of Macon County, seeking a declaration that thirty-eight individual teachers named as Defendants were no longer employees of the school board. In this action the Board of Education maintained that because of the fact these individual defendants had failed to report to work on August 25, 1971, their services as school teachers were terminated. On the 3rd day of September, the Court entered an Order granting the Board of Education leave to add as parties defendant to their declaratory judgment action, all teachers who failed to appear for teaching duty on both August 25th and August 26th, 1971.
On the 13th day of September, 1971, the suit that we are concerned with in this appeal was filed in the Circuit Court of Macon County by certain individual plaintiffs. Their complaint sought an injunction against the National Education Association, the Illinois Education Association, the Decatur Education Association, and several hundred teachers who were employed by the school district during the 1970-1971 school year. The Complaint alleged that the plaintiffs were taxpayers residing in the City of Decatur and were parents of children enrolled in schools within Decatur School District No. 61. It further alleged that the Board of Education had established August 25, 1971, as the starting date of school, and that in violation of their contractual duty the individual defendants failed to report for school on the aforesaid date, and on the date of the complaint continued to refuse to carry out the terms of their employment. Additionally, the Complaint alleged that the teachers were picketing the Board of Education, and that their picketing and withholding of services constituted an illegal strike against the Board of Education. The picketing and withholding of services by the individual teachers, the Complaint asserted, caused irreparable injury and damage to the plaintiffs, their children, and numerous other children in similar circumstances, and that the injury and damage could not be compensated for in an action at law. The complaint concluded with a prayer for a temporary injunction, without notice or bond, restraining the defendants from picketing and withholding their services. It also prayed for an order directing the individual defendants to report to their assigned classrooms and offices, and to fulfill their contractual obligations with the Board of Education.
The following day, September 14, 1971, a temporary restraining Order was issued by the Circuit Court. The Court found that the Plaintiffs were seeking well recognized reliefs; that the defendant teachers were public employees and, as such, could not lawfully strike in the State of Illinois. The Court went on to find that a teacher strike was in progress and that the strike, coupled with the picketing, interrupted the operation of the schools within the Decatur school system and caused "immediate and irreparable damage to the public." The Court then ordered the individual defendant teachers to desist from the strike that was currently in progress, and also to desist from "picketing or other conduct interferring with the usual, customary and normal operation of the schools". Finally, the temporary restraining order provided that the defendant teachers were to immediately return to their classrooms as of September 15, 1971, at the regular reporting time and perform their professional services.
On September 22, 1971, the Complaint for temporary injunction filed by the individual plaintiffs in this cause was consolidated with the previous declaratory judgment action filed by the Board of Education. Two days later, on September 24, 1971, both of these cases were consolidated with yet a third case filed by Dr. Michael Bakalis, the Superintendent of Public Instruction of the State of Illinois that was directed against the Board of Education and others. The nature of this particular lawsuit does not appear in this record. On the same day the defendants in this cause filed an Answer to the Complaint for temporary injunction and also moved to dismiss the temporary restraining order which had been previously issued by the Circuit Court.
The individual plaintiffs moved for a temporary injunction on September 24, 1971. On that date the plaintiffs appeared in Court by counsel and presented evidence in support of their motion. The defendants also appeared by counsel and presented certain evidence to the Court. The record discloses that counsel for the Board of Education was also present at this hearing but declined to join in the hearing and question the various witnesses who testified for both sides. The plaintiffs called two witnesses in behalf of their motion. The first witness, Mr. Edwin Allen, was one of the plaintiffs and testified that he owned real estate in the City of Decatur and was the parent of children enrolled in the schools of Decatur School District No. 61. Mr. Allen further testified that he had observed various individuals picketing the schools and that his own children were denied the right to start school on August 25.
The second witness called by the plaintiffs was Mr. Robert Oakes, the Superintendent of Decatur School District No. 61. Mr. Oakes testified that by virtue of his office he was also the Secretary of the Board of Education. He stated that the Board of Education had established August 25, 1971, as the starting date for the 1971-1972 school term and that on that date approximately 573 school teachers failed to appear in their classrooms. Finally, Mr. Oakes indicated that if a majority of the teachers chose to withhold their services the Board of Education could not maintain an orderly school system. The sole witness called by the defendants was Mr. Joe Splendoria, the Assistant Director of the Division of Audits, of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Through Mr. Splendoria the defendants attempted to establish that the School Board could have waited until October 6, 1971 to start the school year and still fulfill the requirement for a minimum school term set forth in Section 10-19 of the School Code. Ch. 122, sec. 10-19, Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971.
At the conclusion of the evidence presented by the parties on the plaintiff's Motion for a Temporary Injunction, the Court entered an Order granting a Temporary Injunction fashioned in much the same terms as the temporary restraining order that had been issued ten days earlier. Once again, the Court found that the defendant teachers were public employees and were prohibited from engaging in a strike. The Court also found that the teachers were engaged in a strike and that the strike, coupled with their picketing, interrupted the operation of schools in the Decatur School System causing "immediate and irreparable damage to the public". The order further provided that:
"(1) The defendants in Cause No. 71-MR-22 are ordered to desist from any further unlawful striking and from picketing or other conduct interferring with the usual, customary and normal operation of the schools;
(2) That the said defendant teachers return to the class room at regular reporting time and perform their ...