School Law Classroom

Don’t fudge the truth when providing a recommendation, reference, or even verification of employment.

School administrators are often asked to provide recommendations or references. Did you know that if you are negligent in providing them that you and your school district may face liability?

The Illinois Supreme Court recently considered a case concerning what is known as “passing.” This involves “passing” a teacher who is known to have committed teacher-on-student sexual harassment, sexual grooming, or sexual abuse to another school district without reporting and even concealing the conduct. The case is Doe-3 v. McLean County Unit District No. 5.

In the case it was alleged that a teacher had been removed from his classroom twice during the school year and his employment ended some time prior to the end of the school year. When another school district sought verification of employment, the previous school district misstated the teacher’s employment history on an employment verification form. The form indicated that the teacher had worked for the entire school year giving the impression that the teacher’s nonrenewal was routine. In fact, according to the allegations made, the nonrenewal was the result of the teacher’s misconduct involving multiple instances of the teacher’s sexual grooming and abuse of his students.

You never have to provide a recommendation, reference, or even verification of employment, but once you do, you have a duty to use reasonable care in ensuring that the information is accurate.

What makes this lesson especially important is that school officials often decline to give recommendations or references when a teacher or employee is terminated due to misconduct or other reasons. Instead, they simply offer verifications of employment. But even then, accuracy is essential.

Education Law Classroom is a service to our clients, friends, and colleagues. This is not intended to be legal advice, but rather, to provide accurate information regarding education law matters. For more information regarding education law matters, please contact any member of our education law group: Dennis W. Gorman (, James A. Rapp (, Harold B. Oakley (, or David G. Penn ( Our telephone number is (217) 223-3030. Please visit our website: We invite and welcome all questions and comments. © 2013 Schmiedeskamp Robertson Neu & Mitchell LLP Vol. 2013-1

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