Appellate Court Upholds RIFs Under SB7 Despite Allegedly Incomplete Evaluations

The Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld a school district’s actions in dismissing teachers pursuant to a reduction in force under SB7 against the plaintiffs’ claims that the district had not properly completed their evaluations.

The case, successfully defended by Stan Eisenhammer and Jeff Goelitz, is one of the first appellate court decisions upholding RIF’s under SB7. Inthe August 2014Extra Mile, we reported on the trial court ruling upholding the RIFs.

In Holmes v. Board of Education of Belvidere Community School District No. 100, 2015 IL App (2d) 140731-U, an unpublished (i.e., official, but not binding precedent) opinion, tenured teachers unsuccessfully challenged their dismissals due to reduction in force by disputing the underlying evaluation that led to their dismissal.

The key in the case was that the allegedly incomplete component of the evaluation, under the District’s Evaluation Plan, could not have changed the overall rating for the teachers. The court recognized that even if the component were completed the teachers still would have received low ratings and still would have ended up in Group 2 of the Sequence of Honorable Dismissal List. As a result, any alleged procedural violation of the evaluation process did not lead to their honorable dismissal, and the district was not required to complete a step that—in the court’s words—would have been “pointless.”

Although the district prevailed in the case, it highlights the significance of the evaluation process on RIFs under SB 7. As evaluations have become the driving force for RIF dismissals, the establishment of an Evaluation Plan for your district and compliance with that plan are now more important than ever.

Contact any of our “RIF Team” attorneys with your employee dismissal and reduction-in-force inquiries or Stan or Jeff with questions regarding the impact of the Belvidere ruling on your school district.

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