Taylor v. School Town of Petersburg

Citation72 N.E. 159,33 Ind.App. 675
Decision Date25 October 1904
Docket Number5,039
CourtCourt of Appeals of Indiana

From Pike Circuit Court; E. A. Ely, Judge.

Action by Frank R. Taylor against the School Town of Petersburg. From a judgment for defendant, plaintiff appeals.


E. P Richardson, A. H. Taylor and J. E. McCullough, for appellant.

J. W Wilson, for appellee.



Appellant, who was the plaintiff below, filed her amended complaint in one paragraph, in which she alleged that "on the 24th day of May, 1901, she was a resident of the town of Petersburg, in said county and state, and had been employed as a teacher in the schools of said town for ten years prior thereto; that at said time she was a regularly licensed teacher of said county, and had held and now holds the necessary license and certificate from the county superintendent of schools of said county, which authorized her to be employed in any of the schools of said county; that the defendant is a school corporation under the corporate name of the town of Petersburg, Indiana; that on the 24th day of May, 1901, Leslie Lamb, Simeon J. Haines, and Sylvester Thompson were the duly elected, qualified and acting board of trustees of said school corporation, and Simeon J. Haines was the secretary of said board of trustees; that on the 24th day of May, 1901, the plaintiff, by the style of F. R. Taylor, made her application in writing to the defendant for a position as teacher in the public schools of said town for the ensuing year in the words and figures following: Petersburg, Indiana, May 24, 1901. Mr. S. J. Haines, Secretary School Board: Dear Sir: Will you please place this, my application for the position of teacher in the Petersburg public schools for the ensuing year, before the board of trustees at their annual meeting? Acting on the suggestion of Prof. W. H. Foreman, I wish to say to the board that I will take advantage of a course in some educational institution during the coming vacation. I have not decided yet just where or when, but will give the subject my attention as soon as possible. Hoping this will be satisfactory, I remain, yours respectfully, F. R. Taylor.' Which application was duly received by said board; that said trustees met in said regular session on the 25th day of May, 1901, when all were present, at which time they passed an ordinance and contract, entered of record, employing the superintendent and teachers for said defendant to teach in all the departments of said school of said town for the then ensuing school year, and, after having duly considered the application of the plaintiff, employed her in writing as a teacher in said school for the ensuing school year, as follows: Petersburg, May 25, 1901. School board met in regular session. Members present: S. Thompson, Leslie Lamb, and S. J. Haines. It is moved and seconded that William H. Foreman and J. H. Risley be elected superintendent and high principal, respectively, for the ensuing year--carried. Moved and seconded that the following teachers be employed for the ensuing year: Misses Serepta Deen, Grigsby, Coats, Higgins, Thirza Deen, Taylor, and Bassinger--carried. The above teachers are to be retained on condition that each attend, at some place of learning this summer, a teachers' training school. Motion made and seconded that teachers employed in public schools are forbidden from dancing, card playing, and using tobacco--carried. S. J. Haines, secretary.

"That in making the record of employment the secretary of said board omitted to insert the given name of the plaintiff in said record, but that she was the person referred to, and the one who was intended to be and was employed by said board; that pursuant to her application and the order of said board the plaintiff attended a teachers' training school at the city of Terre Haute, Indiana, and expended the sum of $ 50 in expenses and tuition therefor; that the plaintiff fully complied with all the conditions of her said contract, and did not engage in any of the acts forbidden by said defendant; that afterwards, after the beginning of said school year, William H. Foreman, superintendent of said schools, and while acting as such, assigned the plaintiff to the eighth grade or grammar department of said school, which position the plaintiff accepted as the teacher thereof. And the plaintiff says, that on the day of August, 1901, the said defendant, by said board of trustees, repudiated said contract hereinbefore set forth, and employed another teacher in the place of the plaintiff, without her consent, and refused to recognize the plaintiff as a teacher in said school, although she was ready, able, and willing to perform her said contract with the defendant, and so informed said board of trustees of the defendant, but the defendant refused to perform its part of said contract; that the defendant brought against her no charges or accusations of immorality or incompetency, but without any cause whatever violated said contract as aforesaid; that when she learned that said defendant had repudiated said contract it was at a season of the year when she could not obtain similar employment as a teacher elsewhere, although she made diligent effort to obtain such employment; that she was compelled to and did lose from her said business as teacher all of the time of said school year as aforesaid; that at the beginning of said school she was present and tendered her services as teacher in said schools, and offered to teach therein as she had agreed to, and the defendant refused to accept her said services as such teacher; that her services as such teacher as fixed by law is $ 50 per month, or $ 2.50 per day for each day's service as teacher in any and all of the schools of said county; that the school of the defendant for the school year 1901 continued nine months, being 180 days of school taught therein; that plaintiff is damaged in the sum of $ 500, which is due and unpaid. Wherefore, the plaintiff demands judgment," etc.

The court sustained the defendant's demurrer for want of facts to the complaint. Failing to plead further, judgment was rendered against the appellant for costs. The ruling upon the demurrer is assigned as error.

The General Assembly of the State of Indiana (Acts 1899, p. 173, §§ 5989a, 5989b Burns 1901) passed an act to provide for contracts between teachers and school corporations, as follows: "Section 1. That all contracts hereafter made by and between teachers and school corporations of the State of Indiana shall be in writing, signed by the parties to be charged thereby, and no action shall be brought upon any contract not made in conformity to the provisions of this act. Section 2. For the purpose of carrying this act into effect the school trustees of the several school corporations of this State shall provide a public record of uniform blank contracts to be carefully worded under the direction of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, and cause such contracts to be signed therein, which record shall be deemed a public record open to inspection by the people of their several school corporations." This act was in force at the time that the alleged contract was made. Is the contract valid and enforceable under the statute? It is not conclusive against the validity of the contract that it consists of more than one instrument of writing. Leach v. Rains, 149 Ind. 152, 48 N.E. 858.

Nor do we regard the fact that the order of the school board mentions "Taylor" as one of the teachers, giving no Christian name, as a serious omission. The identity of a party referred to in a contract is the legitimate subject of averment and of proof. Zann v. Haller, 71 Ind. 136, 36 Am. Rep. 193.

The language of the act is free from ambiguity. Its enactment doubtless had origin in the opinion of the legislature of the importance to prevent misunderstandings in contracts between school boards and teachers. It is a matter of judicial history that much litigation has grown out of verbal contracts for teaching in the public schools. The writer of the opinion, Davis, C. J., in Jackson School Tp. v Shera, 8 Ind.App. 330, 35 N.E. 842, says: "The writer not only agrees with Judge Elliott that there is much reason for scrutinizing with care contracts made so far in advance of the opening of the school year as was that here sued on, and sound policy requires that the terms should be so definitely fixed and made known that all interested may have full and reliable information,' but is also of the opinion that sound policy requires that the lawmaking power should prescribe that when the minds of the parties meet as to the terms of such...

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