Last week, the Illinois Appellate Court’s Second District held that a teacher subject to dismissal based on a reduction in force (RIF) did not have recall rights because she was in RIF Grouping 2, and that the school district was entitled to hire a new teacher without first reinstating her. The court’s ruling in Segobiano-Morris v. Grayslake Community Consolidated School District No. 46 reaffirms one of the primary changes made in the 2011 amendments to Section 24-12 of the Illinois School Code, commonly referred to as Senate Bill 7.

The plaintiff was a tenured teacher in Grayslake Community Consolidated School District 46 (the District). In April 2013, the Board of Education honorably dismissed 20 teachers, including the plaintiff, based on economic necessity. The District complied with the procedures of Section 24-12(b) which requires that teachers be categorized in numerical groups based on their most recent performance evaluations when determining the order of dismissals pursuant to a RIF. Teachers must be dismissed in order of their groupings, with teachers in Group 1 dismissed first, and teachers in Group 4 dismissed last.

Of the 20 teachers dismissed by the District, the plaintiff was the only Group 2 teacher. The other 19 teachers were in Group 3. In August 2013, the District hired a new elementary school teacher for the new school year. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit, claiming in part that the District had violated her “recall rights” and that the District could not hire a new teacher before offering her reinstatement to her position.

The court found that the District dismissed teachers in the proper order, beginning with the plaintiff, and provided timely notice regarding her dismissal. As a Group 2 teacher, the plaintiff was not entitled to any recall rights. As the court explained, “[the] plaintiff has conflated the right not to be dismissed in favor of a Group 1 teacher with the right to be recalled before any new teacher is hired.” The court noted that Section 24-12(b) specifically withholds recall rights from teachers in Groups 1 and 2 while providing recall rights to teachers in Group 3 and Group 4. Therefore, the District did not have to reinstate the plaintiff before it could hire a new teacher.

The court’s ruling is consistent with the intent of the 2011 amendments to the School Code, which intentionally removed tenure and length of service as the main consideration during RIFs, instead shifting the focus to teacher performance. As the court noted, the sponsor of Senate Bill 7, Senator Kim Lightford, specifically stated that the purpose of the changes to the RIF procedures was to “tie tenure to teacher performance evaluations” and to create “an easier dismissal process for teachers who are not highly qualified.”