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Everett v. Board of Education

JUNE 20, 1974.

J. STEVEN EVERETT, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DISTRICT 201, COOK COUNTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE MCGLOON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied September 25, 1974.

Plaintiff, J. Steven Everett, was dismissed from his employment as a tenured high school teacher by the defendant, Board of Education of District 201, Cook County, Illinois, upon charges and after a hearing held pursuant to The School Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, sec. 24-12.) Plaintiff appealed the Board's decision to the circuit court of Cook County under the provisions of the Administrative Review Act. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, sec. 24-16, and ch. 110, sec. 264 et seq.) Upon review of the record, the circuit court affirmed the Board's decision and plaintiff now appeals the decision of the circuit court.

Plaintiff raises five issues on appeal. First, he contends that the Board was without jurisdiction to act in this matter. Second, he claims that the Board's decision was arbitrary. The last three issues raise constitutional questions relating to academic freedom, the freedom of speech, and the right to a fair hearing.

We reverse and remand.

The record on appeal reveals the following facts. Plaintiff was a tenured high school teacher at Morton East High School, Cicero, Illinois, having taught there since 1962. On January 12, 1971, he dismissed one of his classes early and allowed 12 students out of another class without passes, both actions contrary to school rules. On January 13, the next day, the principal sent him the following letter:

"Dear Mr. Everett:

I have spoken to you previously regarding the necessity of giving passes signed by you to any student leaving your class for a legitimate reason. Mr. Musil told me that on January 12, 1971 twelve students from your classes were found in the corridors during class period and the students indicated that you did not give them a pass. This letter is to direct you not to allow any student out of your class except for a legitimate reason and only then with a pass made out and signed by you.

Further, I observed and you confirmed on January 12, 1971 that you dismissed your seventh hour class early. This letter is to direct you not to dismiss any of your classes early. Follow the class schedule. If you have any question about the rules or procedures, ask Dr. Antal or me prior to deviating from procedure.

Sincerely, J. Keith Kavanaugh"

On February 3, 1971, Mr. Everett distributed a sociological questionnaire to the students in his sociology classes as part of their study of the scientific method of gathering data. The questionnaire, which asked questions pertaining to sexual behavior and attitudes as relating to Women's Liberation, was copied directly from the February, 1971 issue of Psychology Today, a nationally known magazine which sponsored the questionnaire. The completion of the questionnaire was optional with the 95 students in the classes, and Mr. Everett mailed to the magazine the 45 anonymous responses of those students who elected to complete the questionnaire. The plaintiff did not analyze the responses of the answer sheets he relayed to the magazine.

Subsequently, the School Board found out about the questionnaire and ordered the district superintendent to investigate the matter. After investigation, the superintendent recommended that the plaintiff be dismissed from his position as a teacher at the high school.

On April 5, 1971, Mr. Everett was notified of his dismissal based upon the four charges placed against him. The first three charges related to his use of the questionnaire, which the Board felt was objectionable. The fourth charge was "Repeated violations of instructions with reference to the manner of allowing said students in said Respondent's classes to leave the classroom."

Pursuant to the statute governing the dismissal and removal of tenured school teachers (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 122, sec. 24-12), the plaintiff requested a bill of particulars and a hearing on the charges. The Board provided a four-point bill of particulars. The ...


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