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Schoneberg v. Grundy County Special Educ.





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Grundy County; the Hon. ROBERT W. MALMQUIST, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied February 22, 1979.

Plaintiff, Barbara Schoneberg, began this action by filing a charge of unfair employment practices with the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (Commission). As is pertinent to this appeal, the plaintiff alleged that male teachers received extra pay for duties which she was required to perform without additional compensation and plaintiff was refused employment because of her sex. On March 15, 1974, the Commission issued a complaint against the defendants Grundy County Special Education Co-Operative (Co-Operative) and Board of Education District Number 54 (Board), based upon the charge filed by plaintiff. After a hearing on the merits of the complaint, the hearing examiner issued an order recommending that the complaint be dismissed. Following a review hearing, the Commission, with one dissent, adopted the recommendations of the hearing examiner and dismissed the complaint. Plaintiff then filed a complaint for administrative review with the circuit court of Grundy County. The circuit court affirmed the decision of the Commission and this appeal followed. We reverse and remand.

The primary matters before us involve plaintiff's application and qualification for a fourth-grade teaching position and the extent of extra duty she was required to perform prior to her termination from defendant's employ. Due to the nature of our decision, a lengthy exposition of the facts is required.

Plaintiff is a female teacher with certificates for teaching elementary education, educably mentally handicapped children, and children with learning disabilities. She received a bachelor of science degree in education in the summer of 1972. In August of 1972 plaintiff entered into a contract with the Board to teach a special education class at Center School in Morris, Illinois. Plaintiff's immediate superior at Center School was Steven Black, who is the principal of the school. Plaintiff also worked under the supervision of Doris Heino, director of the Special Education Co-Operative. The number of students initially in plaintiff's class was one less than the maximum allowed by State law and when that number exceeded the legal limit, a teacher's aid assisted plaintiff.

Apart from teaching, all teachers at Center School were required to fulfill without extra pay certain additional responsibilities in the nature of supervising nonclassroom activities. Aside from these responsibilities, District No. 54 had an "extra-duty" program which provided a maximum of $600 additional compensation for teachers working 120 hours over the responsibilities assigned all teachers. Prior to the 1972-73 school year, the extra pay program was limited to persons who were a head of a household. Pursuant to a professional negotiating agreement between teachers and the Board, the program was modified for the 1972-73 school year to eliminate the head of household requirement, but any teacher with prior experience while the head of a household requirement was in effect would be preferred over other teachers. Of the 18 teachers receiving extra duty pay of $600 in District No. 54 for the year 1972-73, 17 were male.

For the first two months of the 1972-73 school year, plaintiff was required to supervise loading and unloading of school buses every third or fourth week in rotation with other teachers. In December of 1972 plaintiff was requested by Black to perform additional recess and lunch duty. At that time, plaintiff asked Black for extra pay because she was aware that William Johnson, another teacher at Center School, was receiving extra pay. Black refused her request, giving as a reason that plaintiff's nonteaching duties were no more than what other teachers were required to perform.

The events culminating in plaintiff's charge of discrimination in hiring occurred the following spring.

According to plaintiff's testimony, in the middle of March of 1973 plaintiff was informed by Principal Black that her special education class would not be continued for the following year. The following day plaintiff spoke to Doris Heino concerning the same matter. Heino informed plaintiff that her class was going to be phased out after the 1972-73 school year because the four learning disabilities classes would be reduced to three such classes the following year. Since plaintiff was the last learning disabilities teacher hired, she would be the one let go.

The next day plaintiff approached Black about a teaching position for the fourth grade which plaintiff had learned was going to be available for the next school year. It is for this position that plaintiff claims she was discriminated against. When plaintiff requested the job for the fourth grade, Black responded that he had already offered the job to William Johnson and Brent McCardle and that he would prefer to have a man for that class. Approximately a week later, plaintiff approached Black again after learning that Johnson had rejected the offer. She again requested the job and Black responded that even if the people he had offered it to were not going to take it, he would still prefer to have a man for the job. Plaintiff's testimony of Black's preference for a man was never rebutted or in any way challenged, but to the contrary, Black admitted such a preference.

During Black's testimony, when asked if he had a reason for preferring a male teacher for the fourth-grade position, Black responded affirmatively. He gave as a reason for such a preference that it was an educational advantage to have a strong male influence in environment "and so this is why I was looking for a male." He also indicated that the school relied on men teachers to handle the bulk of extra duties and athletic programs.

According to Principal Black's testimony, William Johnson, a teacher at Center School with similar experience as plaintiff, was given the option of returning to the school district for the year 1973-74 if he wished, but Johnson didn't. Black testified Johnson could have the job if he wanted it. Black did not ask Johnson to fill out a written application before offering him the job. Larry Walker, the male teacher who eventually filled the vacancy, was hired after being recommended by Black. However, the record is silent as to whether Walker filled out a written application.

In searching for a teacher to fill the fourth-grade teaching position, Black had the following advertisement placed in the placement service bulletin for the Illinois State University:

"Center School District #54, 720 Division Street, 60450, fourth grade teacher, prefer man. ...

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