Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Illinois

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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