The Riverside-Brookfield High School District 208 voted unanimously on Jan. 24 to simultaneously suspend without pay and terminate physical education teacher and former varsity baseball coach and varsity girls basketball coach Dallas Till.
However, Till plans to appeal the firing to the Illinois State Board of Education, which will assign an independent hearing officer to conduct a full evidentiary hearing in the case.
After that, hearing the hearing officer will make recommendation and ISBE can uphold, overturn or modify the school board’s decision to fire Till. State law gives Till 17 days to file an appeal. Till technically remains a RBHS employee, hence the school board’s vote to suspend him without pay.
Till had been on paid leave since last summer, when the school board learned that a former player on Till’s girls basketball team at Elmwood Park High School had filed a lawsuit in 2021 alleging that he had a sexual relationship with her while she was a high school student.
Last October, a former Morton East High School student appeared at an RBHS school board meeting and accused Till of trying to groom her when she was a junior at the Cicero school while he was student-teacher there.
The RBHS school board’s action came after a closed-door hearing involving Till and his two lawyers on Jan. 24. A representative of the RBHS teachers’ union was also present. Till reportedly did not speak during the hearing but one of his lawyers did. Till’s wife also reportedly made a statement to the school board and then left the hearing.
“This action is based in charges that Mr. Till engaged in inappropriate conduct of a sexual nature with a student when he was a student teacher in the Morton High district and with another student when he was a teacher at the Elmwood Park High School district and that he was untruthful during the investigation of such conduct,” said school board President Deanna Zalas before the vote to fire Till and suspend him without pay.
Superintendent Kevin Skinkis, Assistant Superintendent Kristin Smetana and Todd Faulkner, a lawyer for the school district, interviewed Till twice last year, once in July after the administration learned of the lawsuit and again in December.
The bill of particulars laid out by District 208 against Till alleges that he was not truthful in the interviews and thus engaged in “immoral, dishonest, insubordinate and/or unprofessional conduct.”
It also charges Till of engaging in “immoral and unprofessional conduct of a sexual nature” with both the former Elmwood Park student the former Morton student while they were high school students.
“Mr. Till is not fit to continue employment in District 208,” Zalas said.
The entire bill of particulars against Till is laid in a copy of a letter posted on the RBHS website as part of the agenda for the Jan 24 school board meeting.
It is not easy to fire a tenured teacher, such as Till, in Illinois. If the ISBE hearing officer upholds Till’s termination, he can appeal it in court. The state board’s evidentiary hearing process, which is similar to a trial, can be lengthy and expensive.
“Under the circumstances, it is the opinion of the board that Mr. Till has irreparably breached his ability to fulfill the responsibility of a teacher to serve as a role model,” Zalas said.
Zalas said the school’s internal investigation of Till uncovered no evidence that he ever acted inappropriately with an RBHS student since coming to the school in 2009. She also said the school has received no complaints against Till for anything he did at RBHS.
Till declined to comment to the Landmark after the hearing, but one of his lawyers made a statement denying the allegations.
“We disagree with the opinion of the board,” said attorney Richard Blass. “We vehemently deny all of the charges. We respect that the board made a decision, and this is the legal process, but we are going to appeal it.”
Blass said police had looked into the allegations against Till and declined to file charges.
The original lawsuit, filed in 2021 by the former Elmwood Park student, is now posted on the RBHS website as part of the agenda for the Jan. 24 school board meeting.
Lawyers for the woman on Jan. 19 filed a motion in Cook County Circuit Court to add Elmhurst University and Morton High School District 201 as defendants after the former Morton student came forward at the RBHS school board meeting.
A transcript of the public comment made in October by the former Morton student is also posted on RBHS website.