The deadline for an appeal of a judge’s order in the case of Nori McCall-Fasse versus Urbana City School District’s Board of Education has passed without an appeal.
McCall-Fasse was terminated last fall after admitting to sending a text message and photo that the district’s administration and the Board of Education ruled threatening.
The text message referenced using a CCW permit and the photo depicted McCall-Fasse at a shooting range with her supervisor’s face superimposed over the target.
Judge Nick Selvaggio overruled McCall-Fasse’s assignments of error in a lawsuit filed in December of 2018 and affirmed the Board of Education’s order to terminate McCall-Fasse.
McCall-Fasse filed the civil action and in her merit brief argued that the termination was without good and just cause because her communications pertaining to the principal were not threats by law or under the BOE’s guidelines, because Superintendent Charles Thiel did not investigate thoroughly enough and because the Board failed to consider her employment record and doled out inconsistent punishment to another employee.
A referee in the matter had previously recommended discipline short of termination. However, the Board was not legally bound to that recommendation.
In Judge Selvaggio’s decision, he notes the different interpretations of policy while ruling on McCall-Fasse’s first assignment of error.
“Unlike the Referee, who focused on the intent of McCall-Fasse when she sent the communications, the Board chose to focus on how the communications were perceived by others. More particularly, the Board found that the text message was perceived to be threatening, and mentioned that (the victim) was visibly upset and felt threatened upon learning of the text. The Board further found that the photograph implied physical violence towards (the victim) and caused her anxiety regarding her physical well-being,” Selvaggio wrote.
“In effect, two conflicting interpretations of the Board’s policies are before the Court. Since the Board’s interpretation of its policies is reasonable, the Court is bound to follow it. (…) Having reviewed Board Policies 3310 and 3362.01 and Administrative Guideline 3362A, the Court finds that the Board’s interpretation of these provisions is reasonable and does not amount to an abuse of its discretion. The Board’s conclusion that a person does not have to intend to harm, in order to engage in threatening behavior, is consistent with the language contained within these provisions,” Selvaggio continued. “The language contained in Administrative Guideline 3362A further supports the Board’s conclusion that the threatening behavior does not have to be actually directed towards the staff member. Instead, the staff member need only be the subject of threatening behavior.
“As the Board states in its brief, a person’s true intent may only become apparent after the harm has taken place. The Referee’s interpretation also ignores that the policies seek to prevent emotional upset to staff members, such as (the victim), who may be the subject of the action or communication.”
In the second assignment of error, Selvaggio again overruled McCall-Fasse, noting that there was substantial and credible evidence for the Board’s decision and that Thiel had met his burden of proof during the investigation.
“McCall-Fasse ignores, however, that there was a four-day evidentiary hearing held for the very purpose of determining whether she had committed the actions alleged in the charges brought by the Board. The very persons who McCall-Fasse contends should have been interviewed by Thiel testified under oath and were subject to cross-examination at the hearing she requested. McCall-Fasse does not explain how or why the hearing was adversely affected by Thiel’s allegedly incomplete investigation,” Selvaggio writes.
In her third assignment of error, McCall-Fasse compares her case to other cases within and outside of the district. However, Selvaggio noted several factual differences and pointed out that the Board had considered her employment history in its decision.
“Given the seriousness of McCall-Fasse’s actions, i.e., threatening to use a firearm against the principal of the school where she was employed, the Board’s finding that her record of employment does not negate the seriousness of her conduct is not against the manifest weight of the evidence, and likewise its decision to terminate her employment, instead of imposing a less severe disciplinary sanction, is also supported by the record,” Selvaggio wrote. “Having overruled McCall-Fasse’s assignments of error, the Board’s order terminating her employment is affirmed.”