Posted on September 9, 2023

Can An Illinois Teacher Be Fired For An Order Of Protection?

Nobody is perfect…even teachers. Teachers have relationships. Teachers have arguments with people they are in relationships with. Teachers say things or do things which can cause the person they are in a relationship with to file a petition for order of protection.

An order of protection has no criminal penalties in itself (unless that order of protection is subsequently violated). However, there can be consequences to a person’s employment because of the order of protection. A person included in an order of protection can even lose their job because of the order of protection…even a teacher in Illinois.

Getting Fired Because Of An Order Of Protection

Illinois is an at will state for the purposes of employment.

Employment at will is “employment that is usually undertaken without a contract and that may be terminated at any time, by either the employer or the employee without cause.” Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019)

In Illinois an “employer retains the right to fire workers at will in cases where no clear mandate of public policy is involved.”  Palmateer v. International Harvester Co., 421 NE 2d 876 – Ill: Supreme Court 1981(citation omitted)

Most people do not have a contract with their employer. Their employer can fire them for any reason that does not have a wrongful purpose.

Teachers in Illinois, however, have a contract with their employer. Dismissal of a teacher is governed by the Illinois School Code.

“If a dismissal of a teacher in contractual continued service is sought for any reason or cause other than an honorable dismissal…the board must first approve a motion containing specific charges by a majority vote of all its members.” 105 ILCS 5/24-12(d)(1)

An Illinois school board has the power “[t]o dismiss a teacher for incompetency, cruelty, negligence, immorality or other sufficient cause *** whenever, in its opinion, the interests of the schools require it.” 105 ILCS 5/10-22.4

Illinois teachers then have a series of warnings and protections that prevent them from being fired if the issue is remediable. If the issue is deemed to be “irremediable” an Illinois teacher can be fired immediately.

“Nothing in this Section [of the Illinois School Code]…shall be construed as preventing immediate dismissal of a teacher for deficiencies which are deemed irremediable” 105 ILCS 5/24-12

“[W]here the teacher’s conduct is irremediable, no written warning is required before initiating a dismissal action.” Pacernick v. BD. OF ED. OF WAUKEGAN, 176 NE 3d 940 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 2020

“To dismiss a teacher without [the Illinois School Code’s] safeguards…a board must demonstrate that a teacher’s conduct is “irremediable.” To do so, the Board must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that: (1) the teacher’s conduct caused significant damage to students, faculty, or the school; and (2) the teacher would not have corrected his conduct, even if he had been issued a written warning and afforded a period of time for remediation” Ahmad v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 847 NE 2d 810 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 6th Div. 2006

The first test of “damage to students, faculty, or the school” holds teachers to a high standard.

“[T]eachers occupy a special position of trust in our society. As leaders and role models, it is the teacher’s responsibility to instill basic societal values and qualities of good citizenship in the students.” Board of Education of Argo-Summit School District No. 104 v. State Board of Education, 138 Ill. App. 3d 947, 952 (1985).

The second test is whether a warning and a time for reflection could “remediate” the situation.”

If the dismissal is related to a criminal case, “the second prong [whether the teacher would not have corrected his conduct, even if he had been issued a written warning and afforded a time for remediation] is altered to assess whether the effects of the conduct could have been corrected.” Pacernick v. BD. OF ED. OF WAUKEGAN, 176 NE 3d 940 – Ill: Appellate Court, 2nd Dist. 2020

There is no warning that can undo a past criminal action. “[W]e are not persuaded that a warning could correct the psychological damage to the students or the damage to the reputation of the faculty and school district that was precipitated by [the teacher’s] immoral conduct.” Board of Education of Argo-Summit School District No. 104 v. State Board of Education, 138 Ill. App. 3d 947, 952 (1985).

A criminal action is, therefore, grounds for dismissal if you are a teacher in Illinois.

Is An Order Of Protection Considered Criminal When Firing An Illinois Teacher?

An order of protection is not a finding of guilt. An “”Order of protection” means an emergency order, interim order or plenary order, granted pursuant to this Act, which includes any or all of the remedies authorized by Section 214 of this Act.” 750 ILCS 60/103(12)

“If the court finds that petitioner has been abused by a family or household member or that petitioner is a high-risk adult who has been abused, neglected, or exploited… an order of protection prohibiting the abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall issue.” 750 ILCS 60/214

The definition of abuse is incredibly broad. ““’Abuse’ means physical abuse, harassment, intimidation of a dependent, interference with personal liberty or willful deprivation” 750 ILCS 60/103(1)

Proving this broad definition of abuse for the purposes of an order of protection is not held to the same high standard as a criminal case requires: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

“The standard of proof [to get an order of protection in Illinois] is proof by a preponderance of the evidence” 750 ILCS 60/205(a)

Is an order of protection, which is not a criminal conviction, treated as a criminal reason to dismiss an Illinois teacher?

Criminal is “of, relating to, or involving a crime; in the nature of a crime…Wrong, dishonest, and unacceptable.” Black’s Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019)

“As such, the word “criminal” encompasses more than a criminal conviction” Wagner v. Board of Education of North Shore School District 112, 2023 IL App (2d) 220453

Cause for dismissal has been defined as “that which law and public policy deem as some substantial shortcoming which renders a teacher’s continued employment detrimental to discipline and effectiveness.” Pacernick v. Board of Education of the Waukegan Community Unit School District No. 60, 2020 IL App (2d) 190959 (citations omitted)

Illinois courts have “affirmed the dismissal of a tenured teacher who has engaged in unethical conduct, although the offending conduct did not involve students and did not occur on the school premises.” Ahmad v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, 847 NE 2d 810 – Ill: Appellate Court, 1st Dist., 6th Div. 2006

Once the order of protection is issued, the hearing officer can take the findings made in the order of protection as fact under collateral estoppel.

“The doctrine of collateral estoppel provides that an issue which has been addressed by a court of competent jurisdiction cannot be relitigated in a later action between the same parties or their privies in the same or a different cause of action.” Simcox v. Simcox, 546 NE 2d 609 – Ill: Supreme Court 1989

You do not get to explain yourself a second time in an Illinois dismissal hearing if an order of protection has already been issued against you. The findings in an order of protection can and will get you fired if you are a teacher in Illinois.

How To Not Be Fired In Illinois If You Are A Teacher With An Order Of Protection

A teacher with an order of protection case may point out that firing based on criminal history could be a violation of the Illinois Human Rights Act.

“[I]t is a civil rights violation for any employer, employment agency or labor organization to inquire into or to use an arrest record…as a basis to refuse to hire, to segregate, or to act with respect to recruitment, hiring, promotion, renewal of employment, selection for training or apprenticeship, discharge, discipline, tenure or terms, privileges or conditions of employment” 775 ILCS 5/2-103(A)

This seems like a stretch in light of all the case law allowing the dismissal of an Illinois teacher for unsavory out-of-the-classroom activities.

The better solution is to fight the order of protection issuance in the first place. This is going to require the talents of an experienced Illinois order of protection attorney. Often, the best alternative is to negotiate a mutual stay-away order, in lieu of an order of protection.

Petitions for Orders of Protection often quickly bloom into Petitions for Dissolution of Marriage or Petitions for Parentage. How you handle the initial stages of an order of protection will definitely impact any further litigation that will further impact your life.

If you are a teacher an order of protection is not just a piece of paper about a dispute in your past, it is a threat to your livelihood. If you would like to speak with an experienced Illinois order of protection attorney, contact the Law Office of Russell D. Knight today to schedule a free consultation.

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Russell Knight

Russell D. Knight has been practicing family law as a Chicago divorce lawyer since 2006. Russell D. Knight amicably resolves tough cases while remaining a strong advocate for his client’s interests.

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