New York (State). Superintendent of Common Schools.

Judicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 online

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to hold it out again, he peremptorily refused. The teacher, then, with a curled
maple rule, over twenty inches long, one and three-quarters wide, and half an
inch thick, struck him from fifteen to twenty blows on his back and thighs, and
in so severe a manner as to disable him from leaving school without assistance.
A physician was called and found his back and limbs badly bruised and swollen.
The teacher on the succeeding day sent to him a physician, who pronounced
him " very badly bruised." It was ten or twelve days before he so far recovered
as to be able to attend school.

The Superintendent expresses his unqualified disapprobation of a punish-
ment so severe and unreasonable. If the disobedience of the boy had been the



JUDICIAL decisions: teachers certificates 1043

result of sheer oljstinancy and wilfulness, it could not justify the infliction of
fifteen or twenty blows with such a bludgeon, upon the back and limbs of the
boy disabling him for a fortnight. Such a measure of punishment for such an
oflfense would be sufficient ground for annulling a certificate.



A teacher's certificate should not be annulled for moral delinquencies known to the com-
missioner at the time of issuing the same, and where no departure from moral rectitude
is shown to have occurred since.

Decided January 2S, 1876

Gilmour, Superintendent

A certificate of qualification was granted to one Parks by the school com-
missioner, notwithstanding it had been charged, and admitted by the teacher,
that twice prior to the time of his examination for said license, he had played
cards for money. The commissioner, in view of this moral delinquency, required
Parks to bring testimonials as to character, which he did, signed by reputable
citizens, and in view of which the previous lapse of the teacher from morality in
the respect noted, was condoned and the certificate issued.

Subsequently, formal complaint was made to the commissioner against
the teacher upon the ground of this previous delinquency, and the commis-
sioner went through the formality of a hearing, upon which, however, nothing,
not previously known to the commissioner, was elicited. The certificate, how-
ever, was annulled.

It does not appear that Parks had violated the dignity of his profession,
by gambling, subsequent to holding said certificate, or that he had the reputation
of being a gambler, which would of course unfit him for the business of teacher,
but that his reputation for morality is good, and he produces strong testimony to
that efi-"ect.

Under these circumstances, I think the commissioner should have over-
looked these two acts of indulgence prior to the granting of the certificate.

The Superintendent would not for a moment countenance the licensing as
teachers, of persons of immoral character; on the other hand, it is very hard to
annul the certificate of a successful teacher, and one whose moral character is
shown to be now good, for acts committed some time ago. In all such cases
there should be charity, and a disposition to help rather than hinder anyone who
is trying to reform and lead a better life, especially in a case of this kind, where
the commis.sioner, with full knowledge of all the facts, issued the certificate.
Order of commissioner annulling- certificate vacated.



3496

The cause assigned for the annulment of the teacher's certificate is " incompetency." This
is a very grave and serious finding, and should not be reached, as it embraces not
merely the ability to teach, but may also look to the moral character of the teacher
and his learning, without a full and fair investigation on the part of the commissioner,



I044 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

after notice to the teacher that such investigation would be had, giving him an opportu-
nity in the presence of the commissioner to show his ability to teach, if that is called
in Question, and to refute any charges made by others and upon whicli the commissioner
proposes to act.
Decidec April 2, 1886

Morrison, Acting Superintendent

The school commissioner annulled the teacher's certificate on the ground of
incompetency on the 14th day of December 1885. This annulment was made by
the cominissioner after a brief visit to the school on the 9th day of December,
just before the close of the schoolhouse, and without previous notice to, or op-
portunity for a hearing on the part of the appellant. The commissioner admits
that his action was taken under the provisions of subdivision 6, section 13, title
2 of the Code of Public Instruction, which provides that every commissioner
shall have power, and it shall be his duty " to reexamine any teacher holding his
or his predecessor's certificate, and, if he find him deficient in learning or ability,
to annul his certificate." In his answer the commissioner sets up the inability of
the teacher to conduct the school; but it would not seem that the commissioner
had sufficient opportunity, from his observation, to determine the ability or in-
ability of the teacher, to whom he had previously granted a certificate of quali-
fication. If the commissioner depended upon his advice and information derived
from others, it is only fair that the teacher should have an opportunity to be
heard in his own behalf in writing, and if possible, refuting the charges touching
his ability to conduct the school. The commissioner, after disclaiming any desire
or intention to entertain or pass upon any charge affecting the moral character
of the teacher, introduces a series of affidavits, directed to the proof of bad
temper and inability to rule his own passions, want of self-control and partiality
in the conduct of the school on the part of the teacher, and I must assume that
it was upon testimony of this character that the commissioner proceeded to
annul the teacher's certificate for incompetency. It has been frequently held by
this Department that where complaints against a teacher of this kind are made,
the teacher should have an opportunity to refute or answer the charges. The
cause assigned for the annulment of the certificate is " incompetency." This is
a very grave and serious finding, a:id should not be reached, as it embraces not
merely the ability to teach, but may also look to the moral character of the
teacher and his learning, without a full and fair investigation on the part of
the commissioner's order revoking the teacher's certificate vacated and set aside,
had, giving him an opportunity in the presence of the commissioner to show his
ability to teach, if that is called in question, and to refute any charges made
by others and upon which the commissioner proposes to act. I look upon the
action of the commissioner as a violation of subdivision 6, section 13, title 2, under
which he assumed to act, as he can not be said, within the language and spirit of
the statute, to have afforded a reexamination to the teacher. Appeal sustained and
the commissioner, after notice to the teacher that such investigation would be



JUDICIAL decisions: teachers certificates 1045

3510

No general charge of immoral character will be sufficient to put a person upon the defensive.

The charges should state the immoral acts of the teacher and should be drawn with

care and distinctness.
The respondent must be given an opportunity to defend; to confront and cross-examine

witnesses produced by the appellant.
The Department can not revoke a license upon charges affecting character, except upon

clear and unquestioned proofs.
Trustees must not rely upon the Department to relieve them from their unwise contracts.
Decided June 11, 1886

Draper, Superintendent

The board of education preferred charges before the school commissioner
of the district, against the teacher, and asked him to revoke her certificate on the
ground of immoral character. The teacher was properly notified of such charges
and given opportunity to defend. A hearing was set and three days occupied by
the commissioner in receiving testimony ofifered by the board to sustain the
charges, at the end of which time the proceedings were withdrawn by the parties
instituting them. The principal reason given for such withdrawal is that the
commissioner refused to receive as evidence affidavits of persons not present-
The commissioner was instructed by the Department that affidavits should not
be received as evidence in an oral examination. Counsel for the teacher asked
the commissioner to render a decision in the matter to the effect that the charges
had not been sustained. This the commissioner refused to do, and the board
was allowed to discontinue without any judgment or decision being rendered
by the commissioner.

On the 28th day of May 1886, the proceedings now before me were com-
menced. A copy of the charges and affidavits submitted in support thereof
was served upoti the respondent. The respondent has filed no answer and the
case must be examined upon the evidence of the moving parties.

In proceedings of this kind, two rules must be complied with: (i) The
charges must be definite and specific. No general charge of immoral character
will be sufficient to put a person upon the defensive. The charges should state
the immoral act of the teacher and should be drawn with as much care and
distinctness as an indictment. (2) The respondent must be given an opportunity
to defend, to confront and cross-examine the witnesses produced by the appellant.

In the examination of the charges and the affidavits filed therewith, it ap-
pears that the principal charges are those of lying, perjury and disrespect toward
the board of education on the part of the respondent. The charges are, in the
main, general, although some statements of the teacher are set out and char-
acterized as false.

A large number of affidavits are filed and similar ones were upon the former
appeal. The board of education entered into a written contract with the teacher
without first having a personal interview with her. During her term of service
as teacher, the exact time does not appear, misunderstandings and contentions
arose between the respondent and the board. The papers are very voluminous,
covering a mass of irrelevant matter. The controversy is a highly unfortunate



CO46 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

one, and it would undoubtedly have been far better if the respondent had
never been employed to teach in this school, but with that the Department has
nothing to do. The only question left for me is, whether the papers in the case
show the respondent to be a person of such immoral character as to rehder it
Improper for her to hold a certificate to teach in the common schools of this
State. It is not whether she lacks judgment; it is not whether she is a successful
teacher; but whether she is of immoral character. The Department can not
revoke a license upon charges affecting character, except upon clear and unques-
tioned proofs. The fact unquestionably is, that there has been a heated con-
troversy, and that disagreeable things have been said on both sides. Undoubt-
edly some things have been said which are not altogether true, as is the case in
all such controversies, but I find no evidence sufficient to justify me in holding
that the respondent is a woman of immoral character. The allegations against
her are, in the main, general and indefinite and such specific allegations of fact
as are contained in the charges are not supported by the proofs.

If trustees will employ teachers without sufficient caution, without previous
acquaintance or inquiry, they must not rely upon the Department to relieve
them from their unwise contracts, and particularly so when the most that can
be said against a teacher so employed is that she lacks tact and management,
or talks offensively under opposition and criticism.

The charges are dismissed.



3501

A state certificate while unrevoked " shall be conclusive evidence that the person to whom
it was granted was qualified by moral character, learning and ability to teach any
common school in the State." For this reason a board of education can not discharge,
upon the ground of incompetency, a teacher who was hired for a stated time and who
holds a state certificate.

Decided April s, 1886

Morrison, Acting Superintendent

The teacher was employed in pursuance of a certain contract dated June
16, 1885, for the school year beginning September 7, 1885, at a salary of $500
a year. The teacher continued in her engagement as principal of the school,
until the 2d day of February 1886, when she was disinissed by order of the
trustees. A tender of $5 was then offered to her which at first she refused to
accept, but afterward did accept ; she gave the board credit for that amount, but
claimed that they owed her the balance of the $500, the contract price, which
they had not paid, and held herself in readiness to teach the school. It appears
that the amount which will be due her at the expiration of her term, and for
the unexpired term, is $257. She asks that the action of the board in dis-
charging her be set aside, or that she be paid the amount of the salary due and
to become due to her on 'the contract. In answer, the board of education urge
as reasons for the dismissal of the teacher, her deceit in misstating her age; her
unjustifiable interference witli, and the annoyance to which she subjected an



JUDICIAL decisions: teachers certificates 1047

assistant teacher in tlie school; conduct on her part tending to destroy the dis-
cipline of the school; interference with the comfort and convenience of the
pupils, according to whim or caprice; inability to perform or conduct the affairs
of the school, and a want of moral rectitude.

I find that the appellant holds a state certificate, granted to her in 1S67,
at which time, as at present, the provision of section 15, title i of the Code of
Public Instruction, was operative and controlling. This section distinctly
provides that the Superintendent's certificate while unrevoked " shall be
conclusive evidence that the person to whom it was granted was qualified by
moral character, learning and ability to teach any common school in the State."
The case cited by the respondents, therefore, decided by Superintendent \'an
Dyck in 1S58, which holds that the teacher's license from the proper officer is
prima facie evidence only, that the applicant possesses the reciuisites of moral
character, learning and ability to teach, but it is not conclusive вАФ does not
apply to the holder of a certificate granted by the State Superintendent. I am
debarred, therefore, by the statute from considering the allegations of the re-
spondents touching the moral character, learning and ability of the appellant,
and the respondents are concluded from offering any testimony on this point.
It must be shown that there was an express violation of the terms of the con-
tract made with the teacher, in order to justify her dismissal during the term for
which she was engaged. An attempt is made to do this by showing that she was
negligent in the matter of keeping the register, but this seems to have been an
afterthought of the board of education, and the register, it appears, was properly
completed before the time of the answer to the appeal. I am, therefore, con-
strained to sustain the appeal, and to set aside the action of the board of edu-
cation in dismissing the appellant. The respondents are, therefore, ordered
forthwith to restore the teacher to her position and to permit her to continue
her contract until the expiration thereof ; or, if they deem continuance in the
school will not be for the best interests of the district, they are ordered, from
time to time, and at such times as payments are usually made by the board, to
pay her the amount of her salary, named in the contract as the same would be
due, had she been permitted to continue her services as teacher, subject to the
deduction of any amounts of money which the said appellant may have recei\-cd
for services elsewhere during said unexpired term and up to the time of any
such payment as herein ordered.



Holders of state certificates are not exempted from examinations, by scliool commis-
sioners or city superintendents, in tlie places wliere tliey scel'C situations as teachers.
Decided April 13, 1864

Rice, Superintendent

A state certificate does not of course authorize the holder to demand employ-
ment of right, from any school oflker, or board of officers. These have the right
to demand just such evidence of qualification as they deem proper. Hence they
may say to any applicant for a position who holds a state certificate, " we will
employ you if you can procure a certificate from the local commissioner or from



1048 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

the city superintendent."' If he refuses to comply, of course they may refuse to
employ him. Hence it follows that the board of education in the city of New
York may prescribe such conditions of qualification as they see fit, as a precedent
condition to employment. If they require examination by the city superintendent,
the teacher has no alternative but to comply. The holder of a state certificate is
supposed to be so thoroughly qualified in all respects, that he is ready to pass an
examination at any time. He should seek, rather than avoid, the application of
the several tests that can be applied to his character and scholarship.



3885

In the matter of the appeal of William W. Durfee v. Joseph B. Thyne, school
commissioner of Fulton county.

The annulment of a teacher's certificate will not be upheld when the commissioner's action
was based solely on the ground that the teacher was impecunious and had failed to
liquidate certain debts at the time he had promised to do so.

Decided May 19, 1888

Draper, Superintendent

This is an appeal from an order made by the respondent upon the 3d day
of February 1888, annulling a teacher's certificate issued to the appellant by the
respondent on the loth day of September 1887. The action of the commissioner
was the result of an investigation into certain charges made against the teacher
in which it was alleged that he was indebted to dift'erent persons for small sums
of money which he had promised to pay from time to time, but had failed to
keep his promises. The appellant admits the debts and the promises to pay them,
but alleges that the failure to make his word good was because of his inability to
do so. The annulment of a license is a step which should only be taken for the
protection of the schools. . It is no part of the duty of school officials to aid in
the collection of debts or to punish for misconduct. The only ground upon
which the act of the commissioner in the present case could be upheld would
be that the teacher was shown to be so untruthful as to render it improper for
him to continue as an instructor of youth.

This is not shown to my satisfaction. It appears that Durfee has been a
teacher in Fulton county for nineteen years. Many of the most prominent and
reputable citizens of that county, including the district attorney, the superintend-
ent of the poor, two ex-members of the Legislature, and several ex-school com-
missioners, furnish affidavits in which they swear that the appellant is a man of
good moral character, with good general repute as to truth and veracity.

Taking these facts in connection with the nature of the charges against
him, and also remembering that the certificate which it is undertaken to annul
is one which was issued less than a year ago by the present commissioner, I
come to the conclusion that there is not sufficient reason to justify me in uphold-
ing the order of annulment.

The appeal is sustained and the order of the commissioner declared to be
of no effect.



JUDICIAL decisions: TEACHERS CERTIFICATES IO49

3572

In the matter of the appeal of Jessica Wells from the order of Perrin A. Strough,

school commissioner of the third district of Jefferson county, annulling the

appellant's certificate to teach.

A school commissioner's order annulling a teacher's license will not be sustained, unless

for some cause sufficiently grave to justify a public and permanent revocation of the

right to teach.

This proceeding is not to be resorted to in order to get rid of Sk teacher, because people

in a district are dissatisfied with her.
Decided March 2, 18S7

H. E. & G. E. Maise, attorneys for appellant

Draper, Superintendent

This is an appeal by Jessica Wells, a teacher, from the order of the school
commissioner, dated December 28, 1S86, annulling a certificate to teach, issued
to her by said commissioner. The teacher was engaged in teaching the district
school in district no. 6, town of Cape Vincent, in the third commissioner district
of Jeft'erson county.

The order of annulment was made upon charges against the teacher after
an examination by the commissioner, upon which examination the appellant and
her counsel were present, and witnesses were examined.

All the proceedings had upon such examination are before me, the exhibits
showing the same forming part of the papers submitted upon the appeal.

There is no charge made against the appellant, affecting her character.
The charge seems to be that she neglected classes and scholars, and that her
methods of teaching were faulty. I am unable to find that she was not intelli-
gent, active, and did not give all her time during school hours to the instruc-
tion of the pupils under her charge.

As bearing upon the allegation that her methods were faulty, I find that the
commissioner, as late as the 13th day of December last, just two weeks prior to
the order of annulment, visited the school taught by appellant, and made the
following entry upon the teacher's register :

Visited this school December 13, 1886. I am well pleased with all the school
work, and believe that if the teacher had the full and hearty cooperation and
support of the parents, this would be a term of school marked with more progress
than any school I ever visited here.

[Signed~\ Perrin A. Strough

School Commissioner

After this visit it appears that the commissioner did not visit the school,
but upon the examination relied mainly upon the testimony of several pupils
of the school, who had not attended school very regularly.

It may be that the teacher has not managed the school as well as some
other might have done, but, assuming that to be the case, is it just to subject her
to the public humiliation of an annulment of her certificate, in the nn'ddlc of a



1050 THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK

term, without any charge against her character, and within a few days of the
time when the commissioner had made an official record indicating his satis-
faction with her work, and his belief that the cooperation of parents was the
only thing necessary to make the school a better one than any he had ever
before visited there? If her school is not as well classified and arranged as it
might be, why not aid her to do it better? If her methods are fatilty, why not
help her to improve them? There is nothing to indicate any effort to do so,
either by the trustee or commissioner, and nothing to show her imwillingness to
be guided by the suggestions of these officers, or to do the best she can.

The annulment of a license is a severe penalty to inflict upon a teacher.
It ought not to be imposed except for a cause sufficiently grave to justify a
public and permanent revocation of the right to teach. It is not to be resorted
to for the purpose of removing a teacher from the school because people in the
district are dissatisfied with her. Moral delinquency, or a deliberate infraction
of school laws, or the wilful defiance of the proper suggestions or directions of
supervisory officers, or utter inability to follow them, may be sufficient grotuid
for annulling licenses, but nothing less grave than this is.

The case of the appellant does not come within this rule, and her appeal
must, therefore, be sustained.

The order of annulment of the commissioner is vacated and set aside.



3959

In the matter of the appeal of Frank F. Gray v. Arthur P. Nichols, school
commissioner of Chemung county.

Order of a school commissioner annulling a teacher's certificate in the middle of his
term of employment, because of the " want of sufficient ability to teach," set aside
when it appears that the teacher is a man of sufficient general ability to teach school
successfully, and is able to do so, provided he receives the support of the community.

Decided February 4, 18S7

Draper, Superintendent

The appellant is principal of the school in district no. i in the town of Ash-



Online LibraryNew York (State). Superintendent of Common SchoolsJudicial decisions of the State Superintendent of Common Schools, State Superintendent of Public Instruction, State Commissioner of Education, from 1822 to 1913 → online text (page 130 of 188)