Court upholds Dist. 214's firing of teacher who attacked son's molester
District 214 dismissed Rolling Meadows teacher after he beat his son's abuser
An Illinois appeals court this week upheld Northwest Suburban High School District 214's right to fire a Rolling Meadows High School teacher who was charged with attacking his son's molester.
The Rolling Meadows teacher -- whom the Daily Herald is not naming to protect his son's identity -- was fired in 2011 shortly after he attacked Ronald D. Culver of Inverness. Culver was an English and drama teacher at Lake Zurich High School who was charged with sexually abusing the man's son, a special education student, and another boy.
The Rolling Meadows teacher learned of the sexual abuse of his son in November 2010, shortly after Culver was charged and resigned from his Lake Zurich teaching position.
A few months later, on Jan. 18, 2011, the Rolling Meadows teacher went to Culver's house, forced his way inside, screamed at Culver, threatened him with an unloaded gun and then hit him with the weapon, according to court documents.
"He started screaming, 'You're a child molester!' 'You ruined my child's life!'" Inverness Police Chief Bob Haas told the Daily Herald at the time.
The teacher turned himself in to police the next day and was immediately placed on administrative leave by District 214.
A therapist for the teacher said that the attack was a "post-traumatic stress response" and that alcohol contributed to the "impulsive lapse in judgment," according to the appellate court ruling issued Tuesday.
However, on March 17, 2011, the District 214 school board fired the teacher by a vote of 5-2.
"Your actions have shown you to be unfit to serve as a role model to any District 214 students and, in particular, to the behavior-disordered students whom you teach," read a school board resolution adopted to fire the teacher. "Your actions have damaged the reputation of High School District 214. In the opinion of the board of education, your actions on Jan. 18, 2011, were cruel and immoral and are sufficient cause for your discharge."
The teacher appealed the board's decision to the State Board of Education, which held a hearing on his dismissal in April and May 2012. The hearing officer from the state board ruled in June 2013 that dismissal was "too severe a penalty" given the context of the attack and the therapy the teacher had undergone since his arrest.
The Rolling Meadows teacher was temporarily reinstated without back pay but never returned to school.
"After his initial dismissal, at no time did (the teacher) re-enter or teach in school at District 214," district spokeswoman Jennifer Delgado said.
A month after the hearing officer's findings, District 214 asked a Cook County judge to review the decision. The judge reversed the hearing officer's ruling and affirmed the district's original decision to fire the teacher.
The teacher appealed that ruling, which led to this week's Illinois Appellate Court unanimous decision.
"The tragic circumstances that gave rise to the underlying basis for (the Rolling Meadows teacher's) dismissal, given his popularity, favorable reputation, and the positive impact he had on his students over the years, do not provide a basis for a contrary finding," the ruling states. "We live in a society with rules and our system of justice requires everyone to respect the manner in which justice is dispensed. It is the well established law of this state that the (school) board is entitled to dismiss a teacher who has engaged in criminal misconduct in order to protect the integrity of its schools."
The teacher had been working in District 214 for 25 years prior to his dismissal. Soon after his arrest he pleaded guilty to aggravated battery with a weapon. He was sentenced to 24 months probation, 240 hours of community service and anger management counseling, according to Tuesday's ruling.
In August 2011, Culver pleaded guilty to one count of criminal sexual abuse. Records show he was freed from prison Aug. 8, 2012, after serving half of his two-year sentence, but he remains on parole and is registered as a sex offender.
District 214 officials said they were happy with this week's ruling.
"We were pleased with the outcomes from the proceedings and felt the merits of the case were on our side from the beginning," Delgado said.