[authors: Scott Metcalf and Respicio Vazquez]
Last week the Second District Illinois Appellate Court overturned a decision by the Regional Board of School Trustees of DuPage County to grant a detachment petition. The Appellate Court’s decision in Board of Education of Glenbard Township High School District No. 87 v. Regional Board of School Trustees of DuPage County, which is still subject to appeal, found there was insufficient evidence to support granting the petition. According to the Appellate Court, rather than showing that the legal factors for granting a detachment petition were met, the evidence primarily demonstrated the petitioner’s personal desires to associate with other school districts. The Appellate Court decision, if it stands, may benefit school districts opposing detachment petitions.
In detachment proceedings, petitioners must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the benefits of granting the petition clearly outweigh the detriments. The factors to be considered include the differences between school facilities and curricula, distances from the petitioners’ homes to the respective schools, the effect of the detachment on the ability of the school districts to meet state standards, the impact of the detachment on the tax revenues of the school districts, and the impact of the detachment on the financial health of the school districts. Additionally, the “educational welfare” of students in the area and the “community of interest” of those students must be considered.
The Appellate Court found that the petitioners failed to present any concrete evidence in support of the community of interest factor. According to the Appellate Court, there was no evidence the children in the area participated in extracurricular activities in the other school districts, or that the children were prevented from visiting their schoolmates, or that the children would be more likely to participate in school and extracurricular activities if the petition were granted. Instead, the Appellate Court found that the evidence presented by the school districts opposing the detachment demonstrated that the true community of interest was with the school districts in which the petitioners were currently located.
The Appellate Court also found that the evidence did not support the Regional Board’s finding that granting the petition would benefit the educational welfare of the children in the area. It was undisputed that all of the school districts offered academic curricula and facilities of comparable quality. No public students resided in the territory making it difficult for the petitioners to meet its burden of any educational benefit. In terms of transportation, the distances to the elementary school and the high schools of the current school districts were shorter and offset the distances to the middle schools. The Appellate Court found the weight of the evidence demonstrated that the schools currently serving the area could provide safe and convenient transportation to and from the area.
Franczek Radelet represented Glenbard Township High School District No. 87 throughout these proceedings. The Regional Board and the petitioners have 21 days to request a rehearing or 35 days to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.