233 S.E.2d 538 (N.C. 1977), 29, Thompson v. Wake County Bd. of Ed.

Docket Nº:29.
Citation:233 S.E.2d 538, 292 N.C. 406
Party Name:Leonard K. THOMPSON v. WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION.
Case Date:April 14, 1977
Court:Supreme Court of North Carolina
 
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Page 538

233 S.E.2d 538 (N.C. 1977)

292 N.C. 406

Leonard K. THOMPSON

v.

WAKE COUNTY BOARD OF EDUCATION.

No. 29.

Supreme Court of North Carolina.

April 14, 1977

Page 539

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 540

Chambers, Stein, Ferguson & Becton by Charles L. Becton and Adam Stein, Chapel Hill, for plaintiff.

Boyce, Mitchell, Burns & Smith by James M. Day and G. Eugene Boyce, Raleigh, for defendant.

COPELAND, Justice.

G.S. 115-142 provides greater job security for career public school teachers, as defined, than existed under prior law. Taylor v. Crisp, 286 N.C. 488, 212 S.E.2d 381 (1975). G.S. 115-142(e)(1) lists the only twelve grounds upon which a career teacher may be dismissed, demoted or employed on a part-time basis. In this case, defendant Wake County School Board relied on four charges in dismissing the plaintiff immorality, insubordination, neglect of duty and mental incapacity. G.S. 115-142(e)(1)(b), (c), (d) and (e). In support of these charges, the Board reached seven conclusions of law based on seven findings of fact.

The trial judge found that "the Board did not reach a single conclusion of law, supported by competent evidence, which gave lawful support to its order of dismissal." The Court of Appeals held that Judge Alvis properly overruled all the Board's conclusions of law except for Conclusion of Law No. 5 relating to neglect of duty in the encouragement of order and discipline. The Court of Appeals felt this conclusion was supported by a finding based on sufficient competent evidence.

Page 541

Suffice it to say, that after careful scrutiny of the record, we concur in the result reached by the Court of Appeals on the charges of immorality, insubordination and mental incapacity for the reasons stated in the opinion below. As pointed out by the Court of Appeals, several of the Board's findings of fact were supported by substantial, competent and material evidence in the light of the entire record. However, these findings while they paint a portrait of a teacher whose conduct was at times imprudent and ill-advised, do not, as a matter of law, constitute immorality, insubordination or mental incapacity so as to justify the dismissal of a career teacher. The majority opinion below has dealt with these issues in detail. We believe it would serve no useful purpose for us to plow again the same ground.

[292 N.C. 410] Before turning to the charge of neglect of duty sustained by the Court of Appeals, we need to examine the applicable scope of judicial review. At the time of the plaintiff's hearing before Judge Alvis, the scope of judicial review of the Board's actions was set out in G.S. 143-315 (now G.S. 150A-51). This general judicial review statute allows a court to reverse a school board decision if:

"(t)he substantial rights of the petitioners may have been prejudiced because the administrative findings, inferences, conclusions, or decisions are:

"(5) Unsupported by competent, material, and substantial evidence in view of the entire record as submitted ; . . ." (Emphasis added.)

This standard of judicial review is known as the "whole record" test and must be distinguished from both de novo review and the "any competent evidence" standard of review. Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B., 340 U.S. 474, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951); Underwood v. Board of Alcoholic Control, 278 N.C. 623, 181 S.E.2d 1 (1971); Hanft, Some Aspects of Evidence in Adjudications by Administrative Agencies in North Carolina, 49 N.C.L.Rev. 635, 668-74 (1971); Hanft, Administrative Law, 45 N.C.L.Rev. 816, 816-19 (1967). The "whole record" test does not allow the reviewing court to replace the Board's judgment...

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