Under the law, public schoolteachers cannot be fired except for cause. In many cases, a teacher may go through a remediation process in order to keep their job. But some types of conduct are not eligible for that process.

What kind of charges allow a Board of Education to bypass the remediation process and go straight for termination? The answer is less clear than you might think.

Generally, a board must first issue a written warning for conduct that is remediable, unless a teacher displays conduct that is “cruel, immoral, negligent, or criminal or that in any way causes psychological or physical harm or injury to a student.” According to Illinois case law, this encompasses behavior that is “immoral at best, and criminal or quasi-criminal at worst.” That definition leaves a lot of wiggle room. For that reason, the answer can vary quite a bit from case to case, and the decision reached may depend a great deal on your particular hearing officer or judge.

For example, in Younge v. Board of Education, the court held that a teacher who reported to work under the influence of marijuana had engaged in criminal conduct was not entitled to remediation. However in Jackson v. Board of Education, a teacher who allegedly falsified his employment application and failed to report cheating on a test had not engaged in irremediable conduct. In part, the court found that the Board had not sustained its burden of proof and had not shown that the teacher’s omission of past work history was intentional.

More recently, the appellate court in Crawley v. Board of Education held that a teacher who had “misused” a total of eight sick days, two of them to take vacations, was guilty of irremediable behavior. The court noted that her students had been damaged ‘because their lesson plans and pedagogical continuity” were disrupted.

The definition of what or is not irremediable is anything but clear. Therefore, if you are faced with termination, it is important to contact an attorney (privately or through your union) as quickly as possible. An attorney can help present your situation in its most favorable light. School districts sometimes seem to play a game of “gotcha.” An attorney can highlight such loopholes in the Board’s case.

If you have questions about this or another related school 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.)