Articles Posted in Education Law

by
Illinois High School Association (IHSA), which governs interscholastic athletic competitions for public and private secondary schools, is not a “public body” under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), 5 ILCS 140/2. Founded in 1900, IHSA is a private, not-for-profit, unincorporated association with over 800 public and private high school members. IHSA establishes bylaws and rules for interscholastic sports competition, enforces those rules, and sponsors and coordinates post-season tournaments for certain sports in which member schools choose to compete. Any Illinois private or public high school may join IHSA if it agrees to abide by IHSA rules. There is no requirement that public schools constitute a certain percentage of IHSA membership and no requirement that public schools join IHSA. IHSA does not govern all sports or extracurricular activities of the member schools. It does not supervise intramural sports or most club sports. It is not involved in regular season interscholastic contests among the member schools. The Better Government Association submitted a FOIA request to IHSA for all of its contracts for accounting, legal, sponsorship, and public relations/crisis communications services and all licensed vendor applications for two fiscal years. The trial, appellate, and Illinois Supreme Court agreed that IHSA is a not-for-profit charitable organization and not subject to the FOIA. View "Better Government Association v. Illinois High School Association" on Justia Law

by
In 2010, plaintiff (age 15) was playing floor hockey with 11 other students in his physical education class when a “squishy” ball bounced off his stick and hit him in the eye, causing permanent injury to his eye. Plaintiff alleged that Cunningham, the instructor, was willful and wanton in failing to require the students to wear protective eyewear. Goggles were available, but plaintiff testified that he probably would not have worn them, had he been aware that they were an option. Cunningham testified that she thought the use of plastic sticks and squishy balls negated the need for goggles and that there were safety rules in place. Defendants asserted affirmative defenses alleging statutory immunity under the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act, 745 ILCS 10/2-201, 3-108. The trial court directed a verdict for defendants. The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, reinstating the directed verdict. There was no evidence that defendants were aware of facts which would have put a reasonable person on notice of the risk of serious harm from the activity, which would have triggered the “willful and wanton” exception to the Act. View "Barr v. Cunningham" on Justia Law

by
The Springfield School District Board of Education met in closed sessions to discuss a separation agreement with then-superintendent Milton. At the January 31 closed meeting, Milton signed and dated a proposed agreement. At a February 4 closed session, six (of seven) Board members signed, but did not date the agreement. The Board’s attorney explained that they would have to take a public vote but that they were bound by the agreement not to publicly disclose the details of their discussions or the agreement’s terms. A reporter filed a request under 5 ILCS 120/3.5(a), for review of alleged violations of the Open Meetings Act. Meanwhile, the Board announced the agenda for a March 5 public meeting; its website included item 9.1, approval of the separation agreement, with a link to the resolution, which linked to the separation agreement itself, containing Milton’s dated signature and the undated Board member signatures. At the public meeting, a dissenting Board member objected that neither she nor the public were aware of the reasons for the action. The resolution was approved. The agreement was then dated March 5. The Attorney General subsequently concluded: the February 4 signing constituted taking a final action in violation of the Act; even if it was permissible to ratify that action by an open-meeting vote, the Board failed to adequately inform the public of the nature of the matter; the Board failed to create and maintain verbatim recordings of closed sessions; and the Board failed to summarize discussions of the separation agreement in the minutes of closed meetings. The Illinois Supreme Court upheld lower court conclusions that the Board did not violate the Act because final action was taken at the March 5 open meeting, and that the website posting adequately informed the public of the nature of the matter. View "Board of Education of Springfield School District No. 186 v. Attorney General of Illinois" on Justia Law

by
Beggs, a tenured teacher, was dismissed from her employment by Murphysboro Community Unit School District. Caring for her parents, Beggs had accrued several absences and was tardy several days. She had received a “letter of concern” and a “remedial warning,” had taken sick leave, and had been suspended before her termination. Beggs requested a hearing, Illinois School Code, 105 ILCS 5/24-12. A hearing officer issued findings of fact and recommended that Beggs be reinstated with back pay and benefits because the Board failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that she had violated the notice of remedial warning or that she had engaged in irremediable conduct that constituted grounds for dismissal. The Board nonetheless dismissed her. The circuit court ordered Beggs reinstated with back pay and benefits. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. While the Board’s frustration with Beggs before the notice of remedial warning was “understandable and well documented,” it was unclear from the Board’s decision whether it would have found cause for discharge based on a tardiness incident of March 19, 2012, alone. Only a clear and material breach of the warning notice that was causally related to her past deficiencies would support dismissal. That single incident was not a clear and material breach of the warning notice. The court expressed “a definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.” View "Beggs v. Board of Education of Murphysboro Community Unit School District No. 186" on Justia Law

by
The Chicago Board of Education and the Teachers Union 2007-2012 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) established a grievance procedure that culminated in binding arbitration. In 2010, the Board notified the Union of a new policy: designating as ineligible for rehire probationary appointed teachers (PATs) who have been non-renewed twice, or have had an unsatisfactory performance rating. The Board began implementing this policy and notified PATs that they were being non-renewed, but did not inform them that it had placed a “do not hire” (DNH) designation in their personnel files. The Union presented grievances and demanded arbitration. The Board refused to arbitrate, claiming that Board hiring decisions were exclusive management rights. The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act found that, under the Act and the CBA, the Board had a duty to arbitrate the DNH grievances and, by refusing, had violated 115 ILCS 5/14(a)(1). The appellate court reversed. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. PATs are employed for a single school-year; the Board alone is vested with selection of such employees as a matter of inherent managerial policy. The policy of placing a DNH designation in PAT files following two nonrenewals or an unsatisfactory performance rating was within the Board’s authority because it directly relates to its exclusive right to determine hiring guidelines. View "Bd. of Educ. of the City of Chicago v. Ill. Educ. Labor Relations Bd." on Justia Law

by
Crystal Lake South High School is surrounded by land zoned “R-2 residential single family,” and constitutes a legal, nonconforming use. The campus is owned by District 155. In 2013, the District’s Board decided to replace the bleachers at the Crystal Lake South football stadium after a failed structural inspection. The plan involved relocating new, larger, home bleachers to be adjacent to residential property and closer to the property line than existing bleachers. The McHenry County Regional Superintendent of Schools approved the plans and issued a building permit under the School Code, 105 ILCS 5/3-14.20. The District began work without notifying the city of Crystal Lake or seeking a building permit, zoning approval, or storm water management approval. The city ordered the Board to stop construction until it obtained a special-use permit, a stormwater permit, and zoning variances. The Board disregarded the order and proceeded with construction. Owners of adjoining residential properties sought to privately enforce the zoning restrictions under the Illinois Municipal Code, 65 ILCS 5/11-13-15. The Board sought declaratory judgment. The circuit court awarded the city summary judgment. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed, holding that a school district is subject to, and its school board must comply with, local governmental zoning and storm water restrictions. View "Gurba v. Cmty. High Sch. Dist. No. 155" on Justia Law

by
Leetaru, a graduate student at and former employee of the University of Illinois, sought to enjoin the University from taking further action in an investigation of him, as a student, regarding allegations that he violated the University’s “Policy and Procedures on Academic Integrity in Research and Publication.” Leetaru alleged that the defendants failed to comply with the University’s rules and regulations governing student discipline and that their actions exceeded their lawful authority, were arbitrary, resulted in a gross injustice, and deprived him of due process. The circuit court dismissed, finding that exclusive jurisdiction lay in the Court of Claims. The appellate court affirmed. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, citing the right to seek injunctive relief in circuit court to prevent unauthorized or unconstitutional conduct by the state, its agencies, boards, departments, commissions and agents, or to compel their compliance with legal or constitutional requirements, which includes actions to require compliance with administrative rules and regulations. Leetaru’s claims may proceed in circuit court without offending principles of sovereign immunity. Leetaru does not question the right of defendants to investigate research misconduct, but only claims that in investigating misconduct, defendants are obligated to adhere to policies and procedures promulgated by the University and that they have failed to do so. View "Leetaru v. Bd of Trs. of the Univ. of Ill." on Justia Law

by
Resident taxpayers of Lemont-Bromberek Combined School District 113A filed three taxpayer derivative actions on behalf of the District, asserting that certain officers and employees of the District and current and former members of its board of education had improperly transferred money from the District’s Working Cash Fund, in violation of the School Code (105 ILCS 5/20-1). Plaintiffs also sought recovery against the surety that issued the bond for the District’s treasurer and against the accounting firm that performed audits of the District’s finances. The circuit court of Cook County dismissed. The appellate court and Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. To seek recovery under section 20-6 for the unlawful diversion of funds or for breach of fiduciary duty, a plaintiff must allege that money improperly transferred from the Working Cash Fund was used for an improper purpose, resulting in an actual loss to the school district. View "Lutkauskas v. Ricker" on Justia Law

by
In 2012, the North Mac School District adopted a resolution of intent to issue working cash bonds in the amount of $2,000,000. Bettis filed a petition, seeking to submit the proposition to the voters at the April, 2013 election. Marsaglia and O’Neal filed objections to the petition on seven bases, including that the petition sheets were neither numbered nor securely bound, as required by the Election Code, 10 ILCS 5/28-3. The electoral board sustained the objections. Bettis sought judicial review. The caption of the petition identified only Marsaglia and O’Neal as opposing parties, but Bettis also served, by certified mail, all members of the electoral board, counsel for the board, counsel for the objectors, and the District Secretary. The circuit court dismissed. The appellate court affirmed, noting that the appeal was moot because the election had passed, but holding that failure to serve the electoral board as a separate legal entity required dismissal. The Illinois Supreme Court reversed, stating that courts may not add to or subtract from the requirements listed in the statute, which does not require the naming of parties and does not require that a copy of the electoral board’s decision be attached. View "Bettis v. Marsaglia" on Justia Law

by
WRB owns the Wood River Petroleum Refinery in Madison County. Following major renovations, WRB applied to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency under the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/11-25) to have 28 of the refinery’s systems, methods, devices, and facilities certified as “pollution control facilities” for preferential tax assessment. IEPA recommended approval of two of the requests by the Pollution Control Board (PCB), which accepted the IEPA’s recommendations. The Board of Education sought to intervene in the proceedings where certification had been granted, arguing that it had a legally cognizable interest because the certifications would ultimately deprive it of tax revenue. PCB denied the petitions as moot. While requests to reconsider were pending, the IEPA recommended that the PCB approve WRB’s applications to certify the remaining 26 systems. Before PCB took action on those cases, the Board of Education sought to intervene. PCB denied the motion and granted certification in each case. The appellate court dismissed the Board of Education’s consolidated appeal for lack of jurisdiction under section 41 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, under which the Board of Education sought review The court noted the specific provision for appeals in proceedings involving PCB’s “issuance, refusal to issue, denial, revocation, modification or restriction of a pollution control certificate,” contained in the Property Tax Code,35 ILCS 200/11-60. That provision requires that proceedings originate in the circuit court, rather than by direct administrative review in the appellate court. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed. View "Bd of Educ. of Roxana Cmty. Unit Sch. Dist/ No. 1 v. Pollution Control Bd." on Justia Law