CAN A TEACHER BE DISMISSED FOR VIOLATING SCHOOL RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS?

The answer is yes, but it is important to read your school district’s policies carefully to understand all the ins and outs of the rules.

For example, the Chicago Public Schools Policy Manual Sec. 502.1 requires teachers hired after November 20, 1996 to move into the City within six months from the day their employment begins unless they have otherwise been granted a waiver. The Board considers any tenured teacher who intentionally lies by act or omission about their residency to have engaged in irremediable conduct and may be dismissed without warning. Where no misrepresentations have occurred, the Board may still dismiss a teacher who does not move to the city after a warning giving the teacher 60 days to comply.

A teacher can apply for a waiver of the residency requirement at the time of hire for special needs positions. These waivers must be renewed every three years.

Any teacher hired before November 20, 1996 who has remained continuously employed by the Board need not live in the city. However, if the teacher has a break in service, he or she will be regarded as a new employee and will be required to move to Chicago within six months.

Illinois law defines residency as physical presence in the district along with an intent to make the district your permanent home. Generally, this means your fixed nighttime abode. The Chicago Board of Education defines “Residency” as an employee’s domicile, the one actual place where an employee lives and has his or her true, permanent home to which, whenever he or she is absent, he or she has an intention of returning. Merely owning a building where you pay taxes does not establish residency.

The fluid nature of a modern family’s living situation can confuse a school district and result in a residency challenge, such as where a teacher is starting or ending a marriage.

The Chicago Employee Discipline And Due Process Policy For Union, Sec. 500A1 contains a policy where the Board waives its right to discipline an employee for staleness if the Board fails to act within a reasonable time after it should have known of the rule’s infraction. Unfortunately, in Crowley v. Bd. of Educ., the Court rejected this defense stating that two teachers’ residence outside the district formed a continuing violation of the residency rule. It is possible, however, that the staleness policy might apply to a different set of facts.

If you are a teacher facing a residency challenge, contact an education law attorney (unless you prefer to use your union’s representation). An attorney can help you present your case in its most favorable light before an administrative hearing judge. It is critical that any available evidence is introduced at the administrative level in order to provide a strong record in case an appeal becomes necessary.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois education matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHAT IS “CAUSE” UNDER ILLINOIS LAW WHEN TERMINATING A TEACHER?

Under Illinois law, a teacher who is past their probationary period cannot be removed except for cause. But what is cause?

Cause may be remediable or irremediable. Remediable conduct may include substandard teaching. Irremediable conduct may include conduct that is cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal or in any way causes psychological or physical harm to a student.

For example, in Ahmad v. Board of Education of the City of Chicago, a teacher falsely represented herself as a school district agent to obtain over $33,000 in free school supplies from a nonprofit organization that she intended to sell for her own profit; concealed her conduct from the district and refused to cooperate in the investigation. The court held that the teacher’s conduct was immoral and thus, irremediable. Immoral conduct is defined as shameless conduct showing moral indifference to the opinions of the good and respectable members of the community.

In contrast, the court in Jackson v. Bd. of Educ. did not find conduct immoral where a teacher failed to list his discharge from a police department on his employment application and failed to immediately report testing irregularities. The court stated that the board had failed to prove that the omission was intentional. Nor did the board have a procedure on how irregularities could be reported.

If you are a teacher facing termination, contact an school law attorney immediately. (You may wish to seek representation from your union.) You are entitled to different procedures depending on whether your conduct was remediable. An attorney can help prepare your case for hearing and help to define whether your conduct was in fact cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois education matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

See: 105 ILCS 5/34-85.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

WHAT ARE MY RIGHTS IN A TEACHER TERMINATION PROCEEDING UNDER ILLINOIS LAW?

Under Illinois law, you may only be terminated as a teacher for cause once your probationary period has expired. To do so, however, the school district must follow certain procedures. See: 105 ILCS 5/34-85.

If the alleged “cause” is remediable, you must receive a reasonable written warning specifically stating that such cause may result in charges unless you take steps to remove the problem. There are a couple exceptions to this rule, such as if you have failed a remediation plan or if the district and your union have agreed on an alternative system of remediation.

No written warning is required for irremediable conduct that is cruel, immoral, negligent or criminal or in any way causes psychological or physical harm a student. The language of the statute leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Before starting dismissal proceedings, the general superintendent must approve written charges and then serve notice upon you. Charges may be served by certified mail, return receipt requested, at your last known address. The notice must inform you of your rights regarding a hearing officer. If you wish to have a say in selecting a hearing officer from the school board’s list, you will have to pay half the hearing officer’s fees and costs. Otherwise, the district will pay any hearing officer selected solely by the board.

The hearing officer shall set a schedule which includes a deadline for you to answer the charges and state any affirmative defenses. Both you and the board must make certain disclosures at least ten calendar days before hearing including names of witnesses who will testify and other documentation. Failure to disclose such evidence on time may prevent you from using it at hearing. Procedures involving witnesses differ somewhat where the charges involve sexual or severe physical abuse of a student or someone under age 18.

You may attend the hearing with an attorney, testify on your own behalf, present and cross-examine witnesses. The hearing officer must begin the hearing within 75 calendar days and conclude within 120 calendar days after their selection although this schedule can be modified for cause or by mutual agreement. Each side has up to three days to present their case.

After the hearing, you have 21 days from receipt of a hearing transcript to submit a post-hearing brief. You must pay for your copy of the transcript, which may cost several hundred dollars. The hearing officer has 30 calendar days after the hearing to report their recommendation and factual findings on whether you should be dismissed. The board then has 45 days from receipt of that recommendation to make a decision.

If the board retains you, you may be entitled to back pay at that time. If the board dismisses you, an appeal to the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District may be advised.

If you are a teacher facing termination, contact your union immediately for help. If you do not wish to proceed with the union’s attorney, you may retain a private attorney. Either way, an attorney can help present the facts of your case to the hearing officer in their best possible light. Because the Court of Appeals only reviews evidence from the hearing, it is critical that you submit every fact and argument in your favor at that time.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois education matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)