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Lisa Moore, a tenured teacher in Chicago Public Schools who was dismissed for teaching with a lapsed certificate, was ordered reinstated by the Illinois First District Appellate Court in Moore v. Board of Education, 2016 IL App (1st) 133148.

In this case, CPS conducted an audit of teachers’ certificates in 2010 and discovered that hundreds of teachers, including Moore, did not have valid teaching certificates. Moore was hired by CPS in 2000 and her initial certificate expired in 2004. CPS informed Moore in April 2010 that her certificate was invalid, and Moore applied to the Illinois State Board of Education to have her license reinstated on June 30, 2010. ISBE returned Moore’s application, notifying her that she had to complete five hours of coursework and pay a fee before her certificate could be reinstated.

CPS then brought dismissal charges against Moore on March 16, 2011, for teaching without a valid teaching certificate, and scheduled a dismissal hearing for December 13, 2011. In the meantime, Moore continued to teach in CPS and completed the coursework required by ISBE and re-applied to have her certificate renewed on March 31, 2011. ISBE issued Moore a standard teaching certificate on May 5, 2011.

Although Moore acquired a valid teaching certificate before the scheduled dismissal hearing, CPS proceeded to dismiss Moore. CPS argued that Moore’s failure to renew her initial teaching certificate was irremediable per se such that there was no need for CPS to prove that her conduct caused damage or that it could have been remediated if she had been warned. The hearing officer found that Moore’s conduct was irremediable because she was negligent in failing to timely renew her certificate and recommended that CPS dismiss Moore.

Moore sought administrative review of her dismissal in circuit court. She argued that her conduct was remediable and that CPS’s decision to dismiss her was arbitrary because hundreds of other teachers were also teaching with expired certificates, some for several years, but they received lesser discipline than dismissal. The circuit court found that CPS acted arbitrarily by dismissing Moore where there was evidence that other teachers who were not dismissed also had taught in CPS for years with invalid certificates. CPS appealed the circuit court’s decision to the First District Appellate Court, which upheld the lower court’s decision.

The appellate court first found that Moore’s dismissal was arbitrary in light of the evidence that Moore was the only teacher out of hundreds who was dismissed for having a lapsed certificate. The appellate court also rejected CPS’s argument that Moore’s conduct was irremediable. The court noted that Section 21–14(a) of the School Code provided a remedial mechanism for teachers with lapsed certificates to apply for and receive re-issued certificates from ISBE. The court held that Moore’s conduct could not be considered irremediable where the School Code actually provided a remedial mechanism for her to renew her lapsed certificate.

As this case demonstrates, before a tenured teacher is dismissed for failing to have a required qualification, the school board may need to first issue the teacher a Notice of Remedial Warning to afford the teacher a reasonable opportunity to obtain the missing qualification.