McWhirter v. Cherokee County School Dist. No. 1, 21098

Citation261 S.E.2d 157,274 S.C. 66
Decision Date17 December 1979
Docket NumberNo. 21098,21098
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of South Carolina
PartiesJoe N. McWHIRTER, Appellant, v. CHEROKEE COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 1, Respondent.

George H. Thomason of Thomason & French, Spartanburg, for appellant.

James R. Thompson of Saint-Amand, Thompson & Brown, Gaffney, for respondent.

NESS, Justice:

This appeal is from an order affirming appellant McWhirter's dismissal from employment by respondent Cherokee County School District No. 1. We affirm.

Appellant was hired to teach mathematics at Cherokee High School during the 1977-1978 school term. On November 11, 1977, the school's principal, Thomas O. Huffman, delivered a letter to appellant citing some eleven "critical deficiencies" in his performance and calling for his resignation. One week later respondent's superintendent, John W. Baucum, suspended appellant from his teaching duties. Respondent's board of trustees affirmed appellant's suspension and subsequently held a hearing resulting in his dismissal.

Appellant first argues he was not allowed a reasonable time to correct his alleged deficiencies prior to his dismissal as required by § 59-25-440, Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976). 1 This argument overlooks the express language of that section, which allows a reasonable time for improvement "Except as provided in § 59-25-450." (Emphasis supplied).

Section 59-25-450 (1978 Cum.Supp.) provides in relevant part:

"Whenever a superintendent has reason to believe that cause exists for the dismissal of a teacher and when he is of the opinion that the immediate suspension of the teacher is necessary to protect the well-being of the children of the district or is necessary to remove substantial and material disruptive influences in the educational process, in the best interest of the children in the district, the superintendent may suspend the teacher without notice or without a hearing."

Since Baucum proceeded under this provision, appellant's first argument is without merit.

Appellant next argues he lacked sufficient notice of the charges against him as required by § 59-25-460 and the Due Process Clause. We disagree.

Baucum wrote appellant two letters setting forth five fairly specific and unambiguous reasons for his suspension and eventual dismissal. We hold these letters met the requirements of § 59-25-440 and the Due Process Clause. See Intercontinental Industries, Inc. v. American Stock Exchange, 452 F.2d 935 (5th Cir. 1971), cert. denied, 409 U.S. 842, 93 S.Ct. 41, 34 L.Ed.2d 81 (1972); Bass v. Bass, 272 S.C. 177, 249 S.E.2d 905 (1978).

Appellant's principal argument is that the record lacks evidence sufficient to support the board's decision. We disagree.

In Law v. Richland County School District No. 1, 270 S.C. 493, 243 S.E.2d 192 (1978), we held that if any of the charges against a teacher are supported by substantial evidence, the school board's decision to dismiss must be sustained. We defined "substantial evidence" as "evidence which, considering the record as a whole, would allow reasonable minds to reach the conclusion that the administrative agency reached or must have reached in order to justify its action." 270 S.C. at 495-496, 243 S.E.2d at 193.

Here, there was substantial evidence appellant had been unable to maintain order in his classroom. Both Huffman and the school's guidance counselor testified appellant's disciplinary referrals increased rather than decreased after he was made aware of the problem and he appeared unable to control his pupils. Appellant failed to effectively rebut this evidence. We believe this constituted a "good and sufficient reason" for the board's action. See Adams v. Clarendon County School District No. 2, 270 S.C. 266, 241 S.E.2d 897 (1978); § 59-19-90(2), Code of Laws of South Carolina (1976). 2

Appellant further asserts the board's refusal to adjourn the proceedings at his request denied him the right to a fair and impartial hearing. Conceding that the hearing extended...

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7 cases
  • Brown v. James
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • April 12, 2010
    ...County Sch. Dist., 371 S.C. at 567, 641 S.E.2d at 28. (emphasis added). Further, in McWhirter v. Cherokee County School District No. 1, 274 S.C. 66, 261 S.E.2d 157 (1979), our Supreme Court referred to the actions of a local school board in language that indicates that the board is held to ......
  • SC LABOR, LICENSING & REG. v. Girgis
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • June 23, 1998
    ...where University gave doctor notice in three separate letters which detailed his alleged misconduct); McWhirter v. Cherokee County Sch. Dist. No. 1, 274 S.C. 66, 261 S.E.2d 157 (1979) (holding that two letters setting forth five fairly specific and unambiguous reasons for teacher's dismissa......
  • Brown v. Cherokee County School District
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ...first is given to the teacher by the superintendent and the teacher is given an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing."); McWhirter, 274 S.C. at 68, 261 S.E.2d at 158 (holding two letters sent to a principal "setting five fairly specific and unambiguous reasons for his suspension and event......
  • Brown v. Cherokee Cnty. Sch. Dist.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    • January 15, 2020
    ...are supported by substantial evidence, the school board's decision to dismiss must be sustained." McWhirter v. Cherokee Cty. Sch. Dist. No. 1, 274 S.C. 66, 68, 261 S.E.2d 157, 158 (1979).III. BROWN'S APPEAL A. Brown's Unfitness to TeachBrown argues substantial evidence did not support a fin......
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