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Gilliland v. Board of Education

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 13, 1976.

KAREN GILLILAND, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF PLEASANT VIEW CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 622 OF TAZEWELL COUNTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Tazewell County; the Hon. JAMES D. HEIPLE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE BARRY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal is a result of the dismissal of Karen Gilliland from her position as a tenured elementary school teacher with defendant Pleasant View Consolidated School District No. 622 of Tazewell County, Illinois. Karen Gilliland was dismissed by the defendant School Board on August 8, 1973, following a lengthy hearing. She filed a complaint for administrative review in the Circuit Court of Tazewell County. That court upheld the School Board's dismissal. Plaintiff has now appealed seeking reversal of the circuit court findings and reinstatement in her position as a tenured elementary teacher in the school district.

Plaintiff raises five points on appeal. First, that it was error for her to be required to pay for and file in the circuit court a copy of the transcript before the Board of Education as a condition of proceeding there under the Administrative Review Act. Second, the circuit court erred in disallowing plaintiff's petition for change of venue. Third, the Board of Education lacked the jurisdiction to dismiss the plaintiff because certain statutory requirements were not followed. Specifically the plaintiff claims the defendant School Board did not by resolution authorize her dismissal but merely asked for her resignation. Further plaintiff argues that the defendant failed to give her the written warning required by statute for remediable charges. Fourth, the plaintiff complains that the School Board's findings were contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. Fifth, the dismissal of the plaintiff was improper, as the procedure required by statute for a tenured teacher's dismissal is unconstitutional in that it violates the teacher's rights to due process of law and a fair hearing before an impartial tribunal.

The plaintiff was first employed by the defendant Board of Education for the 1969-1970 school year. She taught second and third grades. During the 1972-1973 school year she taught only the second grade. The school district involved is a rural one. During the 1972-1973 school year there were only 57 families living within the district and slightly over 100 children in school.

On November 13, 1972, Superintendent Gerald Pullen, without having been directed by the Board, discussed with plaintiff certain parent-type complaints generally, about her teaching. Following their conversation, Pullen had a letter typed and sent to plaintiff. The letter contained six separately numbered paragraphs setting out these complaints and the Board's concern regarding the plaintiff's teaching. The complaints consisted of expecting too much from students by giving homework without specific directions, lack of teacher-pupil rapport, worrying and frustrating students who now hate school, sending students unattended to the library, the plaintiff being late for work and spending excessive time in the lounge. The following day the defendant Board directed Superintendent Pullen to send a second letter to plaintiff entitled "Board Concerns." The complaints contained in this second letter consist of several questions of plaintiff. That letter, in pertinent part, reads as follows:

"1. Has one or more of your second graders been responsible for writing pupils' names on the board for talking while you were out of the room, with the understanding that when you returned, and if a pupil had been talking and had his name on the board that he would be punished?

2. Have you had the custodian in your room to supervise your youngsters while you were out of the room at times?

3. When you have pupils sitting at the library table near the office, who is supervising your classroom? If you have pupils at the library table near the office, are you assisting them and supervising them?

4. Are you still keeping pupils in from recesses as a course of punishment if they do not have work completed or for other valid reasons?

5. Are your daily assignments being clearly explained?

6. Jerking youngsters by the arm on first contact for disciplinary purposes may not be the best approach on first contact to let that pupil know he has done something wrong."

At no place in either the November 13, or November 14, letter is any mention made that if the complained-of items were not remedied, the plaintiff would be dismissed. There is also no showing in the testimony of Superintendent Pullen or any board member that during discussions with plaintiff she was warned to correct the complained-of defects or face dismissal.

On March 19, 1973, a special meeting of the Board of Education was held. The meeting was continued to Mach 21, 1973, and on that date a resolution was passed asking for the plaintiff's resignation. The original minutes of the March 19 and 21, 1973, meetings reflect that only a motion to request plaintiff's resignation was carried. The record indicates that the plaintiff declined to accept the defendant's offer to resign. Subsequently on March 30, 1973, defendant notified plaintiff by letter of her dismissal as a tenured teacher. That notification letter set up the following causes for her dismissal:

"1. Incompetency

(a) ruining pupil's attitude ...


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