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Carrao v. Bd. of Educ. of City of Chicago





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.


This is an appeal pursuant to the Administrative Review Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1975, ch. 110, par. 264 et seq.) to review the decision of the circuit court affirming the action of the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board) dismissing plaintiff from the teaching service for conduct unbecoming a teacher.

Plaintiff presents the following issues for review: (1) whether he was denied due process of law because of various procedural deficiencies in the hearing process; (2) whether the superintendent's attorney (prosecutor) also assisted and advised the trial committee and, hence, functioned unlawfully in multiple capacities; (3) whether a member of the trial committee was biased and prejudged the facts; (4) whether specific findings of facts were submitted and filed by the trial committee; and (5) whether the Board's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

The complaint charging conduct unbecoming a teacher in the Chicago public schools filed against plaintiff by the acting general superintendent of schools specified that "on or about June 30, 1974, Joseph N. Carrao, a teacher at the McCutcheon Elementary School, took indecent liberties with a minor, a student at the McCutcheon School, while on a trip to Minnesota." The complaint also charged that such conduct was not remediable.

A hearing was conducted before a trial committee of three Board members appointed to hear the charges. The first witness called on behalf of the general superintendent was eight-year-old Susan Vander Vieren. She testified that when she went on vacation to Minnesota with her family, plaintiff drove them in a van, pulling a camp trailer. Upon arrival at the vacation site, he parked his trailer near their cabin and, although she stayed in the family cabin most of the time, on two occasions she slept in the trailer. One night, while she was sleeping in the trailer, she awakened and found that her sleeping bag had been partially unzipped, her pants were down, and plaintiff was touching her "front and back" with his hands. (The record reflects that Susan, for purposes of explanation, pointed to her private parts.) She also stated that she was afraid to tell him to stop, but eventually she left the trailer and went to the cabin.

Mrs. Lois VanderVieren, Susan's mother, testified that she had known plaintiff for some time, as he had been a teacher of four of her five children. He drove them to their cabin in Minnesota and was permitted to set up his camp trailer near the cabin and stay for a few weeks. On occasion, the children would sleep in his trailer. On the night in question, Susan returned from the trailer and, after a short period of time, she began crying. When Susan told her what happened, she dressed and went to the trailer with her oldest son to get Melinda, another daughter who was also sleeping there. When she asked, "How could you?" plaintiff answered, "I must have been dreaming." He then left the premises at her request. The next day, she reported the incident to the local sheriff and to the principal of the McCutcheon School. The following week, she received a letter from plaintiff, mailed from Chicago, stating he was sorry and that he hoped for the children's sake the whole thing was "not a permanent scar." Several days after receipt of the letter, she received another note from plaintiff — this time pinned to the cabin door — accompanied by bags of groceries and a carpet sweeper, stating that plaintiff was at a nearby motel and wanted to talk with her. She notified the local sheriff that plaintiff was back.

Sheriff John Lyght, of Cook County, Minnesota, testified that after Mrs. VanderVieren notified him of plaintiff's presence in a nearby motel, he proceeded there and confronted him with her complaint of child molesting. According to the sheriff, plaintiff responded by saying, "I don't know what got into me. I know I shouldn't have did [sic] it."

Ten-year-old Melinda VanderVieren, called as a witness by plaintiff, testified she was Susan's sister and that, on the night in question, she was also sleeping in the trailer but did not see the incident. She also stated that on occasions Susan had lied to her.

Several witnesses were then called who testified that plaintiff was a conscientious teacher and of good character. Plaintiff then testified on his own behalf and denied taking any indecent liberties with Susan or any other child. He said that on two occasions he found Susan out of her sleeping bag in the trailer and, because it was cold, he helped her back into her bag. He also said that Susan attempted to get into his sleeping bag with him on the night in question, and he scolded her for doing so. Later, she left the trailer and went to the cabin. Shortly thereafter, Mrs. VanderVieren appeared with one of her sons and requested that he leave the property. Although plaintiff first stated at the hearing that he was not sure what he had done to upset Mrs. VanderVieren, he later acknowledged that she said something about bothering the children. The week after he left, he sent a note expressing his sorrow and, later, a note asking to see her at a nearby motel. The sheriff then came to the motel, accused him of child molesting and asked him to leave the county.

Following the hearing and upon recommendation of the trial committee, the Board dismissed plaintiff from the teaching service. The decision was affirmed in the trial court, and this appeal was taken from its judgment.


The points raised by plaintiff on appeal appear in his brief as Arguments I to V and to assist in an understanding of their content, we will refer to pertinent portions of each.

In Argument I, plaintiff contends he "was denied substantive and procedural due process of law" because of various procedural deficiencies in the hearing process. He argues that the complaint was insufficient because it did not state all essential elements of a cause of action, and that he did not receive an answer to his motions for a bill of particulars, a list of witnesses, or copies of their statements. We find no merit to these contentions.

• 1, 2 The charges in administrative proceedings need not be drawn with the same precision required of pleadings in judicial actions but need only be sufficiently clear and specific to allow the preparation of a defense. (Kelly v. Police Board (1975), 25 Ill. App.3d 559, 323 N.E.2d 624.) In the instant case, we believe the charge was sufficiently specific. The record reflects that not only was plaintiff provided with a bill of particulars, but he was also given additional information — which included copies of plaintiff's written notes, a written summary of plaintiff's oral statements, an extensive typewritten narrative account of the incident by ...

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