Tucker v. Board of Ed. of Town of Norfolk

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtBefore COTTER; LONGO; COTTER
Citation418 A.2d 933,177 Conn. 572
PartiesCynthia TUCKER v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the TOWN OF NORFOLK.
Decision Date29 May 1979

Page 933

418 A.2d 933
177 Conn. 572
Cynthia TUCKER
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF the TOWN OF NORFOLK.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Oct. 17, 1978.
Decided May 29, 1979.

Page 934

[177 Conn. 573] Thomas N. Sullivan, Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

Martin A. Gould, Hartford, for appellee (plaintiff).

Before [177 Conn. 572] COTTER, C. J., and LOISELLE, BOGDANSKI, LONGO and PETERS, JJ.

[177 Conn. 573] LONGO, Associate Justice.

The defendant board of education of the town of Norfolk has appealed to this court from the judgment of the Court of Common Pleas sustaining the plaintiff's appeal from the action of the board terminating her contract of employment to teach in the town's school system.

The trial court's limited finding 1 and the record disclose the following: The plaintiff, Cynthia Tucker, commenced her teaching employment in 1971 and achieved tenure status in September, 1975, when she began her fourth continuous year of employment as a special education teacher. On or about August 21, 1975, she requested from her immediate supervisor, in writing, a four-day leave of absence to allow her to accompany her husband to San Francisco for a fully paid business conference for which he had successfully competed. The plaintiff stated that the first two days of leave would be covered through the use of her personal days as granted in the teachers' contract. As for the remaining two days of her requested leave, the plaintiff expected that her salary would be prorated and deducted. The request was denied, and the plaintiff made a second request which was also denied for the sole [177 Conn. 574] reason that it was too early in the school year for such a leave. The plaintiff was warned that in the event she took the leave of absence without permission, she would be subject to the penalties provided in § 10-151 of the General Statutes. The plaintiff took the leave of absence 2 despite the defendant board's denial of her request.

Following her return, the plaintiff was notified that the termination of her contract of employment with the board of education was under consideration "because of insubordination." The plaintiff requested a private hearing before an impartial hearing panel and in a unanimous decision dated February 9, 1976, the panel made a finding "that the conduct in question constituted insubordination and that nonetheless under the circumstances in this case the Board of Education is not justified in terminating her employment contract for reason of insubordination." The hearing panel recommended that, instead of dismissing the plaintiff, the board of education give her a letter of reprimand and a five-day disciplinary suspension without pay "for defying its determination on her requested leave of absence." Nevertheless, by letter dated

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February 26, 1976, the plaintiff was notified that the board, at a meeting, voted not "to renew" her contract for the 1976-1977 school year. The plaintiff's appeal to the Court of Common Pleas was sustained and it is from that judgment that the defendant board has taken the present appeal to this court.

[177 Conn. 575] Section 10-151 3 of the General Statutes provides that a tenured teacher's contract of employment may be terminated at any time for one or more of five specific reasons, including "insubordination against reasonable rules of the board of education." General Statutes § 10-151(b)(2). At the impartial panel hearing the plaintiff argued that, having been notified that termination of her contract was under consideration based on insubordination, she was entitled to have her termination based solely on the reason stated in subsection (b)(2), namely, that she had been insubordinate "against reasonable rules of the board of education." (Emphasis added.)

The trial court concluded that the board's denial of the plaintiff's request for a leave of absence was a decision and not a rule and could not be construed as an established standard or regulation. We agree. By definition, a rule is an "established standard, guide, or regulation; a principle or regulation set up by authority, prescribing or directing action or forbearance; as, the rules of a legislative body, of a company, court, public office, of the law, of ethics." Black's Law Dictionary, p. 1496; the term "imports [177 Conn. 576] something of permanence and fixity in general with respect to all factual situations coming within it." 77 C.J.S. Rule p. 544; see Kirby v. Nolte, 349 Mo. 1015, 164 S.W.2d 1 (1942). The board's decision denying the plaintiff's request for a leave of absence did not have the qualities described above. It was, rather, a decision applicable only to the particular facts concerning the plaintiff's request. 4 Absent a specific rule, the board was without a valid basis to support a finding that the plaintiff's conduct constituted "insubordination against reasonable rules of the board of education." The decision of the board must be based upon the evidence directed to the specific charge, and the burden was on the board to allege and prove the specific ground for termination. See Conley v. Board of Education, 143 Conn. 488, 496, 123 A.2d 747 (1956). On the basis of the record before us, we conclude that absent a specific "rule" of the board, the statutory ground for the termination of the plaintiff's contract of employment under § 10-151(b)(2) did not exist, and the court did not err in its decision to that effect.

We next consider the defendant board's assignment of error relating to the applicability of § 10-151(b)(6) as a valid ground for termination of the plaintiff's contract of employment. As a general rule, where statutes specifically enumerate the causes for which a teacher may be removed or dismissed, a teacher cannot be removed or dismissed for any other cause. Conley v. Board of Education, supra; see McQuaid v. State, 211 Ind. 595, 6 N.E.2d 547 (1937); Jameson v. Board of Education, 74 W.Va. 389, 81 S.E. 1126 (1914); State ex rel. [177 Conn. 577] Thompson v. School Directors, 179 Wis. 284,

Page 936

191 N.W. 746 (1923). As we have initially indicated, the statute provides that a tenured teacher's contract may be terminated at any time for any one or more of the five specific reasons stated in §§ 10-151(b)(1) through 10-151(b)(5) or "(6) other due and sufficient cause." (Emphasis added.) The trial court concluded that in order for "other due and sufficient cause" to form the basis for the termination of the plaintiff's contract of employment as provided by § 10-151(b)(6) of the General Statutes, the defendant was required to state "other due and sufficient cause" as the reason for considering termination. The board contends that insubordination in and of itself constitutes "other due and sufficient cause" for the termination of the plaintiff's contract and is a valid statutory basis for dismissal under the provisions of § 10-151(b)(6). We agree with the board's contention.

In interpreting teacher tenure statutes similar, and in some instances identical, to General Statutes § 10-151, other courts have held that, in addition to the specifically enumerated causes for dismissal, a tenured teacher's contract may be terminated...

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39 practice notes
  • Trimble v. West Virginia Bd. of Directors, No. 28490.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 6, 2001
    ...in light of an employee's otherwise excellent employment record. For example, in Tucker v. Board of Education of the Town of Norfolk, 177 Conn. 572, 418 A.2d 933 (1979), a tenured teacher was fired for insubordination when she took a two-day leave of absence after her superiors had denied p......
  • Lee v. Board of Ed. of City of Bristol
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 3, 1980
    ...Cf. General Statutes § 4-183(g); see Obeda v. Board of Selectmen, 180 Conn. 521, 523, 429 A.2d 956 (1980); Tucker v. Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 582, 418 A.2d 933 (1979); 63 Am.Jur.2d, Public Officers and Employees § 202; annot., 4 A.L.R.3d 1090; note, "Teacher Tenure in Connecticut:......
  • Mendillo v. Board of Educ. of Town of East Haddam, No. 15757
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 1998
    ...389 A.2d 754 (1978). At that hearing, moreover, the burden of proof is on the superintendent. Tucker v. Norfolk Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 576, 418 A.2d 933 (1979); Zanavich v. Board of Education, 8 Conn.App. 508, 510, 513 A.2d 196, cert. denied, 201 Conn. 809, 515 A.2d 381 To requi......
  • Rado v. Board of Educ. of Borough of Naugatuck, 14057
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 4, 1990
    ...respect to the additional ground relied on by the board, "other due and sufficient cause," this court, in Tucker v. Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 577, 418 A.2d 933 (1979), has treated that phrase as equivalent to good cause, citing with evident approval a definition of that term taken ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • Trimble v. West Virginia Bd. of Directors, No. 28490.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • April 6, 2001
    ...in light of an employee's otherwise excellent employment record. For example, in Tucker v. Board of Education of the Town of Norfolk, 177 Conn. 572, 418 A.2d 933 (1979), a tenured teacher was fired for insubordination when she took a two-day leave of absence after her superiors had denied p......
  • Lee v. Board of Ed. of City of Bristol
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • June 3, 1980
    ...Cf. General Statutes § 4-183(g); see Obeda v. Board of Selectmen, 180 Conn. 521, 523, 429 A.2d 956 (1980); Tucker v. Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 582, 418 A.2d 933 (1979); 63 Am.Jur.2d, Public Officers and Employees § 202; annot., 4 A.L.R.3d 1090; note, "Teacher Tenure in Connecticut:......
  • Mendillo v. Board of Educ. of Town of East Haddam, No. 15757
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 25, 1998
    ...389 A.2d 754 (1978). At that hearing, moreover, the burden of proof is on the superintendent. Tucker v. Norfolk Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 576, 418 A.2d 933 (1979); Zanavich v. Board of Education, 8 Conn.App. 508, 510, 513 A.2d 196, cert. denied, 201 Conn. 809, 515 A.2d 381 To requi......
  • Rado v. Board of Educ. of Borough of Naugatuck, 14057
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • December 4, 1990
    ...respect to the additional ground relied on by the board, "other due and sufficient cause," this court, in Tucker v. Board of Education, 177 Conn. 572, 577, 418 A.2d 933 (1979), has treated that phrase as equivalent to good cause, citing with evident approval a definition of that term taken ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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