Illinois Appellate Court Determines Tenured Teacher Dismissal Statute Does Not Grant School Boards Authority to Suspend a Teacher Without Pay

In the Board of Education of the City of Chicago v. Daphne Moore, the First District Appellate Court determined that the Chicago Board of Education acted against the legislative intent of the tenured teacher dismissal statute[1] when it decided to suspend a teacher without pay instead of dismissing her.

The Chicago Board of Education (“CPS”) brought eight dismissal charges against Daphne Moore, a tenured teacher, for conduct including failure to supervise, failure to perform certain duties, and failure to comply with Board policies and state ethical and professional teaching standards. A hearing on the dismissal charges was held before a mutually selected hearing officer, who determined that CPS failed to establish a cause to dismiss Ms. Moore.

CPS adopted the hearing officer’s findings and agreed that it did not establish cause to dismiss Ms. Moore. Therefore, CPS reinstated Ms. Moore. CPS, however, went on to issue a Warning Resolution and further found that Ms. Moore’s conduct warranted a 90-day time-served suspension, which was to be deducted from her back pay and benefits. Ms. Moore challenged CPS’s decision to issue the suspension because the tenured teacher statute does not grant CPS the authority to suspend her and if CPS was suspending her pursuant to another provision of the School Code, she was denied due process.

The Illinois Appellate Court determined that CPS did not have authority under the tenured teacher dismissal statute to suspend Ms. Moore without pay. Rather, the Court concluded, the tenured teacher dismissal statute only grants CPS the authority to discharge a tenured teacher or decline discharge. If the discharge is declined, CPS shall set the amount of back pay and benefits to award the teacher. The Court emphasized that the legislature does not provide CPS with the option of issuing a suspension under the tenured teacher dismissal statute. Further, the Court noted that the Illinois Supreme Court has held that dismissal and suspension are different; therefore, the statute clearly was not meant to provide CPS with the authority to issue both forms of discipline.

The Court also rejected CPS’s argument that it issued the suspension pursuant to other provisions of the School Code. While the Court acknowledged that CPS has the authority to suspend tenured teachers pursuant to other provisions of the School Code, CPS specifically cited the tenured teacher dismissal statute as the basis for the suspension. Further, CPS brought this justification after appeal was filed, so the Court refused to accept it.

This is a reminder that the tenured teacher dismissal statute grants school boards the authority to dismiss teachers. A suspension or lesser discipline is beyond the scope of the tenured teacher dismissal statute.

[1] The Appellate Court in this case specifically analyzed the language in 105 ILCS 5/34-85, which applies only to the Chicago Board of Education. All other school districts in Illinois are governed by 105 ILCS 24-12, which is similar but not identical to Section 34-85. If your school board opts to suspend a tenured teacher instead of dismiss him or her, after dismissal charges have been brought against the teacher, consult with legal counsel.

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