Lawsuit Compels CPS to Admit to Violating Due Process Rights of Principals
For Immediate Release
Chicago Principals and Administrators Association
William J. Quinlan / (312) 263-7767, ext 131, (312) 217-3833 (mobile) / firstname.lastname@example.org
Troy LaRaviere / (773) 494-2528 / email@example.com
Chicago Public Schools Violates Due Process to Remove Principals
CPS Principal, Michael Beyer, has sued Chicago Public Schools for violating his due-process rights when they removed him from his school and moved to suspend him without pay. In their latest response to Beyer’s lawsuit, CPS has all but admitted they have been suspending principals without pay using a process that is in violation of state and federal law. Furthermore, they have admitted to institutional bias, engaged in delay tactics, and targeted effective principals for removal based on politics rather than performance or adherence to policy.
CPS Brings Politically Motivated Charges Against Principals
Of the more than 1,500 school administrators in CPS, two were targeted and accused of attendance misclassifications. CPS’ attendance record-keeping policies and their communication about these policies--in relationship to the accusations made--are non-existent. Despite the fact that principals have spoken openly about the vagueness of CPS attendance policies, the district has continuously failed to clearly communicate its expectations regarding attendance record keeping. Instead, it has chosen to selectively enforce its own unclear policies as a pretext to remove targeted principals should they or their staff members make the slightest trivial mistake--or simply be accused of making such a mistake--in recording student attendance.
Circumstances indicate both principals charged with attendance missteps were targeted due to politics. Beyer has been critical of district policies and priorities in the past, and the only other principal accused was targeted only after she provided CPAA with original documents regarding the Special Education Funding Appeals Process that CPAA later requested via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Together, those documents revealed that CPS officials manipulated special education funding records in response to our FOIA. That principal also spoke honestly to district officials about the filth left in her school by the district’s privatized janitorial service and allowed a news reporter to talk with her teachers regarding the chaos created following the district’s attempt to “clean up.”
A Lawless Process
State law requires the district to conduct a hearing with written rules that meet due-process standards of the U.S. Constitution when terminating or suspending a principal without pay. On November 14, 2018, CPS attorney James Ciesel represented to a Cook County Circuit Court judge that the school district has rules for their suspension process, but CPS’ own hearing officer, Mary Ernesti, contradicted Ciesel the next day during a pre-suspension hearing when she stated: “there are no written rules for the pre-suspension procedures.” CPS never provided Beyer or his attorney with the basic rules for the conduct of his suspension hearing. They did not provide the rules because they did not exist.
An Institutionally Biased Process
Due process requires hearings to be before neutral decision-makers, but Ernesti herself acknowledged that as an employee of CPS, she is “not a neutral hearing officer,” and could, therefore, communicate with CPS without including Beyer or his attorneys in such communication, and refuse to keep a record of such communication. In addition to this flagrant violation of due-process requirements, CPS redacted an entire section of findings from the OIG report on which Beyer’s removal is based, and gave only the redacted copy to Beyer and his attorney. CPS’ intent is clear: make it impossible for Beyer to defend himself against the charges by keeping evidence hidden from him and his attorney.
CPS Admits Guilt and Uses Delay Tactics
Facing the prospect of a judge ruling on the constitutionality of its suspension process, CPS Attorney James Ciesel effectively prevented the expected ruling against CPS by informing the judge they were canceling the suspension process and would file new charges against Beyer after issuing rules for the process in the following days. In doing so, CPS has admitted this process--which they have been using to suspend principals for years--has no rules. If CPS had rules, per Illinois State Law, they would not have to issue rules. For years, CPS has been removing scores of principals using a process that is in violation of the state and federal law.
CPS used the suspension process to suspend employees without pay and delay termination proceedings in order to force them to resign in order to find other work. By canceling the suspension process only to start a new one, CPS is exacerbating this delay.
A Potential Class Action Lawsuit
The Chicago Principals and Administrators Association will continue to support all of its members, and we are currently gathering information on other victims of CPS’ illegal removals to determine if a class action lawsuit against CPS is feasible.