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People v. De Caro

FEBRUARY 6, 1974.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

DONN DE CARO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. LAWRENCE I. GENESEN, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE DIERINGER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

On May 12, 1972, the defendant, a school teacher in a Chicago public school was found guilty of the battery of two students in violation of section 12-3(a)(1) of the Illinois Criminal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 38, § 12-3(a)(1)) after a bench trial in the Circuit Court of Cook County. He was fined $15 and costs on each charge.

The issues for review are whether the defendant exceeded his authority to discipline students, and whether the lateness of the hour of the trial was prejudicial.

The defendant, Donn DeCaro, was a sixth-grade teacher at the Everett Elementary School in the city of Chicago on March 8, 1972. On that date he called Neal and Newton Suwe, eleven year old twin brothers, into his classroom to discuss their conduct with respect to him. Neither boy was a student in his class. The defendant testified they used obscene and defamatory language toward him and he had been informed by another student they had written obscene words about him in the snow near their home. He stated he talked to them at his desk in front of his own students, but Neal used vulgar language so he took them into the adjoining coatroom where they could not be heard by the class. The defendant placed himself in the doorway between the classroom and the coatroom in order that his own class could see him and remain orderly. When Neal lunged for the door, he picked up a 12-inch ruler from a nearby desk to frighten him. Neal collided with him and they both fell to the floor with Neal kicking and struggling. He testified he did not hit Neal with the ruler and never touched Newton.

The boys testified the defendant hit them eight to twelve times on their buttocks and back of their legs with a stick eight to twelve inches long, which was not a ruler. The boys' mother testified Neal had bruises on his backside which lasted two weeks and Newton had bruises which lasted about six days. Pictures of the bruises were admitted into evidence.

Three students testified they saw the Suwes struggle with the defendant and saw him wave a ruler, but none saw the defendant strike either of the Suwes. Both of the boys' teachers stated they observed them when they returned to their respective classes and noted no unusual behavior.

Dr. Sebornik, the district superintendent of schools in the 12th District, was called to the school on the morning of March 9, 1972, and he examined the boys. He testified he saw black and blue marks on Neal and faint bruises on Newton. He also stated the defendant told him he had struck Neal several times with a 12-inch ruler.

The defendant argues a teacher stands in loco parentis to the students and has a duty to discipline them, and a teacher must be allowed broad discretion in carrying out his responsibilities.

Section 34-84a of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, § 34-84a) provides that teachers are responsible for maintaining discipline in the schools and gives them the same control over a student that a parent has:

"Teachers and other certificated educational employees shall maintain discipline in the schools. In all matters relating to the discipline in and conduct of the schools and the school children, they stand in the relation of parents and guardians to the pupils. This relationship shall extend to all activities connected with the school program and may be exercised at any time for the safety and supervision of the pupils in the absence of their parents or guardians.

Nothing in this Section affects the power of the board to establish rules with respect to discipline."

• 1 The law is clear that within the broad delegation of parental authority a teacher may inflict corporal punishment on a student if the circumstances warrant it. In a civil suit for damages for an alleged assault and battery by a teacher against a student the court stated:

"* * * [T]he authority of a teacher over a pupil is a delegation of parental authority, and where the teacher inflicts corporal punishment on a pupil, and he is not actuated by malice and the punishment is not excessive or wanton, the teacher is not liable." Drake v. Thomas (1941), 310 Ill. App. 57, 63-64.

In the case of the City of Macomb v. Gould (1969), 104 Ill. App.2d 361, the court acknowledged the right of a teacher to inflict corporal punishment and held he may not be guilty of a battery unless ...


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