Beilan v. Board of Education,
357 U.S. 399 (1958)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Beilan v. Board of Education, 357 U.S. 399 (1958)

Beilan v. Board of Education, School District of Philadelphia

No. 63

Argued March 4, 1958

Decided June 30, 1958

357 U.S. 399


Petitioner, a teacher in the public schools of Philadelphia, refused to answer questions relating to Communistic affiliations and activities asked by his Superintendent, after being warned that the inquiry related to his fitness to be a teacher, and that refusal to answer might lead to his dismissal. After administrative proceedings in which his loyalty and his political beliefs and associations were not in issue, the Board of Education found that his refusal to answer his Superintendent's questions constituted "incompetency," a ground for discharge under the state tenure statute, and discharged him. The State Supreme Court sustained this action.

Held: his discharge did not violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 357 U. S. 400-409.

(a) By engaging in teaching in public schools, petitioner did not give up his right to freedom of belief, speech or association, but he did undertake obligations of frankness, candor, and cooperation in answering inquiries made by his superior examining into his fitness to serve as a public school teacher. P. 357 U. S. 405.

(b) A municipal employer is not disabled, because it is an agency of the State, from inquiry of its employees as to matters that may prove relevant to their fitness and suitability for the public service. Garner v. Board of Public Works, 341 U. S. 716. P. 357 U. S. 405.

(c) The questions petitioner refused to answer were relevant to his fitness and suitability as a teacher, and his discharge was based upon his insubordination and lack of frankness and candor in refusing to answer such questions -- not upon disloyalty or any of the activities inquired about. Pp. 357 U. S. 405-406.

(d) The Federal Constitution does not require that a teacher's classroom conduct be the sole basis for determining his fitness. P. 357 U. S. 406.

(e) The State Supreme Court held that "incompetency," within the meaning of the relevant state statute, includes petitioner's

Page 357 U. S. 400

"deliberate and insubordinate refusal to answer the questions of his administrative superior in a vitally important matter pertaining to his fitness," and this interpretation is not inconsistent with the Federal Constitution. Pp. 357 U. S. 406-408.

(f) Petitioner's claim that he was denied due process because he was not sufficiently warned of the consequences of his refusal to answer his Superintendent's questions is not supported by the record. P. 357 U. S. 408.

(g) Slochower v. Board of Education, 350 U. S. 551, and Konigsberg v. State Bar of California, 353 U. S. 252, distinguished. Pp. 357 U. S. 408-409.

386 Pa. 82, 125 A.2d 327, affirmed.

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