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Younge v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago

April 04, 2003

WYNONA YOUNGE, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, PAUL VALLAS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, JAMES A. RAPP, HEARING OFFICER, AND ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.
LOUELLA HIGGS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, PAUL G. VALLAS, CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER, EDWARD L. SUNTRUP, HEARING OFFICER, AND ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Stephen A. Schiller Judge Presiding. Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County Honorable Julia M. Nowicki Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Gallagher

UNPUBLISHED

This is a consolidated appeal from two orders of the circuit court of Cook County, each of which affirmed a decision by defendant, the Board of Education of the City of Chicago (Board), to discharge a tenured public school teacher for reporting to work under the influence of marijuana. We affirm.

BACKGROUND

We shall separately discuss the factual background of each plaintiff's case. The record reveals the following relevant facts.

Plaintiff Wynona Younge

Wynona Younge was a tenured teacher who had been employed since 1970. From 1982, she had been assigned to Ruggles Elementary School.

In early October 1997, interim principal Pamela Strain became concerned with Younge's recent behavior. Strain asked her secretary and one of the assistant principals to prepare a log by compiling notes and correspondence that Strain had received about Younge between October 1, 1997, through October 22, 1997.

An entry on October 2, 1997, noted that Younge's sixth- and seventh-grade students complained to assistant principal Myrna Dill-London (Dill) that they were not being allowed to use the washroom. Strain also received calls from parents who made similar complaints on behalf of their children.

Parents also complained that Younge was screaming at their children. The parents threatened to report Strain to the Board's regional office if she did not take action. The parents of one student, who had always been a good student in past years, phoned and met in person with Strain about their child's reluctance to come to school. Although Strain asked the parents to wait a few days to see if the problem could be resolved, the parents insisted on transferring the student from Younge's classroom. Strain granted their request.

On October 17, 1997, a student complained that Younge had called her fat or stupid. Based on these complaints, as well as the fact that Younge had been wearing sunglasses indoors and because her eye pupils were dilated, Strain and Dill had some conferences with Younge.

On October 22, 1997, staff members, who notably were Younge's friends for many years and did not want any harm to come to her, informed Strain that Younge had left her classroom unattended on several occasions. They wanted the confusion to stop and the children to be safe.

On the same day, as a result of these matters, Strain contacted Michelle Quigley, R.N., the medical administrator of the Chicago Public Schools, and requested that Younge have a drug screening test. School policy required that, in order to determine whether reasonable suspicion existed for testing, the assistant principal must concur in the need. Because Dill was uncertain regarding Younge's physical appearance, Quigley declined the request.

Around the same time, the Board's office of investigations looked into a report that Younge had pushed one student and verbally abused other students. A 12-year-old student told investigators that when she tried to enter the classroom, Younge elbowed her in the stomach and pushed her back into the hallway. This report was confirmed by two other students. Another student said Younge told him he was a failure and to shut up. Younge also told another student that she was surprised the student got out of kindergarten.

On October 23, 1997, Strain told the investigator that Younge was having problems, which she believed placed students in her class at risk of harm. The investigator concluded, however, that Younge's actions and speech did not rise to the level of a violation of Board policy.

On October 24, 1997, Strain observed Younge and noticed that Younge's eyes were red, her face was swollen, and she appeared to lack coordination. Strain asked Dill to go to Younge's class and personally observe Younge's appearance and behavior. After observing Younge, Dill concurred with Strain's observations regarding the red eyes and swollen face. Strain and Dill agreed that Younge should be referred for testing. They signed a form requesting drug testing based upon reasonable suspicion. This time, Quigley decided that the circumstances warranted the drug screening and dispatched security personnel to escort Younge to Mercy Works Occupational Medical Center (Mercy Works) for testing.

Younge went to Mercy Works and cooperated in the testing. She provided a urine sample which was then sent to a facility called MedTox Laboratories in St. Paul, Minnesota (MedTox). Results of the analysis showed positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a marijuana metabolite. The concentration in Younge's sample was 39 nanograms per millileter. According to the MedTox ...


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