Can School Administrators Fire a Tenured Teacher in Illinois?

Teachers are some of the most undervalued members of our society. They often put in long hours to help students succeed and receive little in return. Many teachers feel overburdened with too many students and not enough time to adequately prepare for classes and grade work. Offering teachers tenure is a way to protect them from being fired.

Tenured status makes it more difficult, but not impossible, for the school district to fire a teacher. If you have been fired as an Illinois tenured teacher and you are curious about your legal options, the attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help. Contact our Cook County personal injury law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

It is Difficult, But Not Impossible for School Districts to Fire Tenured Teachers

Illinois law allows teachers who have completed a two-year probationary period to be eligible to receive tenure. Usually, a teacher must complete four consecutive school terms to qualify during the probationary period to be eligible for tenure. It is easier for school districts to terminate the employment of non-tenured teachers than tenured teachers.

In 2005, the Illinois-based Small Newspaper Group investigated how many Illinois teachers had been fired. According to their study, only 7% of the states 876 school districts had attempted to fire even a single tenured teacher since the mid-1980s. In the mid-1980s, Illinois passed a school-reform act that promoted teacher accountability. Over 95,000 Illinois public school teachers are tenured and only two a year on average are fired for poor job performance. Another five teachers are fired due to misconduct each year.

School boards can only legally fire a tenured teacher for cause, such as:

  • Immorality
  • Negligence
  • Cruelty
  • Incompetence

Was the Teacher’s Behavior Irremediable or Remediable?

Once the school administration decides to terminate the employment of the tenured teacher, it must determine whether the teacher's behavior is remediable or irremediable. Irremediable conduct is behavior that causes damage that cannot be corrected to the students, school, or faculty. An example of an irremediable behavior would be sexually harassing a student. A teacher who is convicted of a serious crime could be fired for cause as crimes fall into the irremediable behavior category. If a school board determines that the teacher's behavior is irremediable, they must fire the teacher.

If the school administration determines that the teacher's behavior is remediable, the administration must give the teacher a chance to correct his or her behavior. Poor performance in the classroom is an example of remediable behavior that a teacher can fix. Tardiness is another example of remedial behavior that a tenured teacher can fix. The school board must provide the teacher with a written warning about the negative behavior. In some instances, the board must create a "professional development plan" for the teacher. The plan should explain, in detail, the specific ways the teacher needs to improve and how the school district will support the teacher in those areas.

If You are a Tenured Illinois School Teacher Facing Termination, We Can Help

School boards may only legally fire tenured teachers in very narrow circumstances. If you are facing termination as a tenured teacher, the attorneys at Glasgow & Olsson can help you fight for your rights. Contact our Cook County law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.

(image courtesy of Celia Ortega)

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