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Ashcraft v. Bd. of Education of Danville

OPINION FILED MAY 5, 1980.

KEITH ASHCRAFT ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

BOARD OF EDUCATION OF DANVILLE COMMUNITY CONSOLIDATED SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 118 OF VERMILION COUNTY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE. — (STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.)



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon. CARL A. LUND, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE MILLS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Teachers' strike case.

To all teachers who would sign an affidavit that they would have taught if it had not been for the strike, the school board paid salaries for the four days of the strike.

Proper?

Yes — we affirm.

On August 21, 1977, the Danville Education Association and the Illinois Education Association voted to strike the Danville school system beginning on August 22, 1977. Upon being notified of the strike vote, the superintendent of schools made a public announcement closing the schools. The schools remained closed on August 22, 23, 24, and 25. Although some teachers attempted to come to school during this time, they were not permitted to do so, and no teachers performed any work on these days. On August 26, pursuant to a court order, the teachers resumed their duties and taught the balance of the school year.

Upon their return to work, the teachers resumed negotiations with the board. In a meeting held September 22, 1977, a committee from the school district met with a negotiating committee from the teachers' association. At that meeting, the district informed the teachers that it was the desire of the district to compensate those teachers who would have worked during the strike period but who were unable to do so because of the closure of the schools. The district did not wish to pay those teachers who had participated in the strike. To implement this salary classification, the district offered to pay those teachers who would sign an affidavit stating that they would have taught if the schools had not been closed and if there had been no strike. The teachers' representatives accepted this proposal and the agreement was signed by both negotiating teams.

The proposal was ultimately manifested in the following form:

"E. An affidavit to be signed and notarized by certified employees verifying that they would have worked August 22, 23, 24, and 25, 1977, if there had been no strike, the certificate to verify that the said individual did not participate in the strike. All affidavits — except for emergencies — shall be returned to the director of personnel by 5 p.m. Friday, September 30, 1977. The affidavit will cover the strike action only of August 22, 23, 24, 25 of 1977."

The plaintiffs in this action are teachers who did not receive payment from the board. They filed their complaint which alleged a violation by the board of rights which are guaranteed by the first and fourteenth amendments to the United States Constitution and article I, sections 1, 2, 4, and 24 of the Illinois Constitution of 1970. Following a hearing, the circuit court entered judgment on behalf of the board and the plaintiff teachers appeal. (No issue has been raised in this court concerning whether the board has fulfilled its obligations under the contract.)

On appeal, the plaintiff teachers argue that the board's failure to pay them for the four days of the strike violated the due process and equal protection clauses of the Illinois and the United States constitutions. Each argument will be examined separately.

DUE PROCESS

The term "due process of law" is not susceptible of exact or comprehensive definition. (16A C.J.S. Constitutional Law § 567 (1956).) There have evolved, however, certain general guidelines to which we can look for guidance. The due process clause imposes its procedural safeguards to protect certain vital interests — life, liberty, and property. (Lipp v. Board of Education (7th Cir. 1972), 470 F.2d 802.) Substantive due process has been erected by the Supreme Court as the essential bulwark against arbitrary governmental action. (Schwartz, Constitutional Law, 165 (MacMillan 1972).) Arbitrary action, in the due process sense, means action that is wilful and unreasonable — depending on the will alone and not done according to reason or judgment. (Schwartz.) Arbitrary action is synonymous with unreasonableness and thus due process becomes a test of reasonableness. Schwartz, at 166.

• 1 Having defined the standards by which we are guided, we narrow our inquiry to whether the plaintiffs have shown an arbitrary or unreasonable governmental action which has deprived them of a guaranteed property interest. We hold that no such showing has been made. We need not address the questions of whether the board's actions in this case constituted a State action, or whether plaintiffs had a vested property right in being paid for the days ...


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