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05/04/88 Kriss L. Stutzman, v. Board of Education of the

May 4, 1988





525 N.E.2d 903, 171 Ill. App. 3d 670, 121 Ill. Dec. 596 1988.IL.664

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Thomas J. O'Brien, Judge, presiding.


JUSTICE McNAMARA delivered the opinion of the court. WHITE, P.J., and FREEMAN, J., concur.


Defendant Board of Education of the City of Chicago suspended its employee, plaintiff Kriss L. Stutzman, for 24 days. Plaintiff filed suit and, after reviewing the pleadings and motions, and hearing argument, the trial court entered judgment for defendant on count I, which sought a writ of certiorari. The court dismissed count II, alleging due process violations, and count III, alleging first amendment violations. The court also dismissed count IV alleging retaliatory suspension and count V alleging defamation. Plaintiff appeals.

Plaintiff served as a principal in the Chicago school system. In 1982, plaintiff counseled a tenured teacher at the school regarding problems occurring in her classroom. Plaintiff later began a remediation process, and the Board, consistent with his recommendation, issued a notice of remedial warning to the teacher. Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 122, par. 34-85.

A 50-day remediation period followed the warning. During that period, plaintiff made approximately 30 observations of the teacher. Plaintiff wrote contemporaneous notes regarding these observations. On October 1, 1984, plaintiff wrote to the district superintendent that his observations indicated that the teacher failed to correct her deficient teaching performance.

The Board's legal department began preparation for the hearing before an officer appointed by the Illinois State Board of Education. Based upon plaintiff's observations and evaluation of the teacher, the legal department prepared charges and specifications for the suspension and discharge of the tenured teacher. A dismissal hearing was set for June 21, 1985. Throughout May and early June of 1985, plaintiff met with the Board's attorneys numerous times to discuss the charges and review the supporting documentation, which consisted mainly of plaintiff's recorded observations of the teacher. Plaintiff reviewed the chronology of events, the documentation, and the hearing procedure with legal counsel.

Three days before the hearing, the Board's attorneys met with plaintiff to hold a mock direct examination, using plaintiff's observation notes as a basis for the questioning. Plaintiff denied any memory of his observations of the teacher, denied any knowledge as to the dates on which he observed her, and denied that his notes could refresh his recollection of the relevant events. Plaintiff insisted that if he testified based upon his notes he would be lying, and that he could only read the notes verbatim. Despite several other meetings with various attorneys for the Board, plaintiff maintained that he could not recall anything and insisted that his memory could not be refreshed. Plaintiff informed legal counsel that there was no way acceptable to him that he could testify.

The Board's legal counsel directed plaintiff to comply with the law department in the preparation of his testimony and then went on to begin a mock direct examination with a district superintendent. When she set forth an observation which she had made of the teacher, plaintiff interrupted, insisting that the superintendent was lying and could not remember such an observation.

The Board's legal department determined that it could not proceed against the teacher, absent the cooperation of plaintiff as the observing principal. The charges were dropped and the teacher was transferred out of plaintiff's school.

On October 11, 1985, the general superintendent of schools sought the suspension of plaintiff for 30 school days, stating that the request was "based on allegations that you were guilty of insubordination on more than one occasion and that you deserted your professional responsibility as a Principal in connection with your role as a witness in a recent teacher suspension/dismissal proceeding." In accordance with the relevant procedural requirements, a presuspension hearing was scheduled for October 17, 1985, and plaintiff was advised of his right to counsel. The hearing was postponed until October 24, 1985.

On October 23, plaintiff's counsel requested a more specific statement of the reasons for the suspension. On the same day, the general superintendent ...

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