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Kinney v. County Board of School Trustees

OCTOBER 11, 1955.

HOWARD KINNEY ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

COUNTY BOARD OF SCHOOL TRUSTEES OF LA SALLE COUNTY, ILLINOIS ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of La Salle county; the Hon. ROBERT E. LARKIN, Judge, presiding. Judgment affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE EOVALDI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is an action under the Administrative Review Act for review of the decision of the County Board of School Trustees of La Salle County, Illinois, wherein 6 1/4 sections of territory were detached from Magnolia-Swaney Consolidated High School District No. 533 of Putnam, Marshall and La Salle Counties, Illinois, and annexed to Lostant Community High School District No. 400 of La Salle and Marshall Counties. Plaintiffs appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of La Salle County affirming the decision of the County Board of School Trustees.

The complaint was filed by three plaintiffs as taxpayers in High School District No. 533, one plaintiff being the owner of real property in the territory detached. The defendants were the County Board; the individuals who filed their petition to detach from said High School District No. 533 and to annex to High School District No. 400; Charles Kaiser, individually and as Principal of Magnolia-Swaney High School; William H. Glover, individually and as County Superintendent of Schools of Putnam County, and J. Frank Short, individually and as Assistant to Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Pursuant to the provisions of Article 4B of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 122, par. 4B-1 et seq. [Jones Ill. Stats. Ann. 123.754B(1) et seq.]), a petition was filed with the County Board of School Trustees of La Salle County requesting a detachment of 6 1/4 sections of land from the Magnolia-Swaney High School District No. 533 and annexation of same to Lostant High School District No. 400 signed by more than two-thirds of the voters of the territory. After timely notice, a hearing was conducted, at which evidence was heard, which resulted in a decision granting the petition to detach and annex.

The County Board of School Trustees for answer to plaintiffs' complaint filed the record of the proceedings before it, including a transcript of the evidence heard by it. The case was heard by the circuit court on this record.

Appellants contend that the decision of the County Board of School Trustees is against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that the decision is in violation of the statute involved.

Article 4B-5 of the School Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 122, par. 4B-5 [Jones Ill. Stats. Ann. 123.754B (5)]) provides for review of decisions of the County Boards of School Trustees in accordance with the provisions of the "Administrative Review Act," and provides further that "The decision of the County Board of School Trustees shall be deemed an `administrative decision' as defined in section 1 of the `Administrative Review Act'" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953, chap. 110, par. 264 et seq. [Jones Ill. Stats. Ann. 104.094(1) et seq.]), the latter act providing (par. 274 [Jones Ill. Stats. Ann. 104.094(11)], sec. 11, Scope of Review) as follows:

"The findings and conclusions of the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held to be prima facie true and correct."

The changing of boundaries of a school district is a legislative act, and in performing this function the County Board of School Trustees is acting as an agent of the legislature. Sec. 1, Article VIII, Constitution of Illinois, 1870; chap. 122, par. 4B-1 et seq., Ill. Rev. Stat. 1953; People v. Deatherage, 401 Ill. 25, Husser v. Fouth, 386 Ill. 188. The findings of an administrative agency are deemed to be prima facie correct and the court is not authorized or privileged to substitute its judgment for that of the agency unless the findings of the agency are not supported by substantial evidence. Produce Terminal Corp. v. Illinois Commerce Commission ex rel. Peoples Gas Light & Coke Co., 414 Ill. 582; Department of Public Works & Bldgs. v. Lewis, 411 Ill. 242; Mohler v. Department of Labor, 409 Ill. 79; People ex rel. Loughry v. Board of Education of Chicago, 342 Ill. App. 610. This is particularly true where the administrative body is vested with discretion in making a determination. Smith v. Board of Education of Oswego Community High School Dist., 405 Ill. 143; People ex rel. Loughry v. Board of Education of Chicago, supra.

Appellants contend that there is no evidence that the change by the County Board of School Trustees will be for the best interests of the schools of the area and for the educational welfare of the pupils. No requirements are set forth in the statute that the County Board of School Trustees should make certain specific findings of fact in arriving at its conclusions. In the case of People ex rel. Harty v. Gulley, 2 Ill. App.2d 321, the Appellate Court for the Fourth District construed section 8-6 of the School Code of 1949 which was then in force, which authorized the county judge to determine whether or not a petition for the change of boundaries for a school district should be granted. The court there held that inasmuch as the statute did not require the county judge to make any specific findings upon which his determination was based, none could be read into the statute by judicial construction.

It is admitted that these standards are general rather than specific in nature and the standards set forth grant to the County Board of School Trustees a certain amount of discretion. As stated by our Supreme Court in School District No. 79 v. County Board of School Trustees of Lake County, 4 Ill.2d 533, pp. 537 and 538, in upholding the constitutionality of the sections of the statute in question, "It would be both impossible and undesirable for the legislature to draft rigid non-discretionary standards which would embrace each and every school district boundary change, for conditions surrounding the changes are seldom the same."

The petition which was filed with the County Board of School Trustees of La Salle County was signed by all of the voters residing in the disputed territory except two. One was in Detroit for a visit and the other could not be found at home. However, the wife of the latter signed. Forty-nine residents of the territory signed the petition.

All of the territory described in the petition is in the Lostant Grade School District and the Magnolia-Swaney High School District (hereinafter referred to as Swaney). There are three students of high school age residing in the disputed territory and several children of grade and pregrade school age. Most of the territory is considerably closer to Lostant than it is to the Swaney school. The people living in the territory do most of their trading and banking, and attend church, in Lostant, La Salle or Streator. In going to La Salle or Streator they travel through or towards Lostant and in the opposite direction from Swaney. All of the high school students in this territory now attend and for years past have attended Lostant High School even though the territory is in the Swaney High School District. No student from this territory has attended the Magnolia-Swaney High School in the past ten years, and only one in the past twenty years. She went to Magnolia High School before it was consolidated with Swaney. The same school buses are used by both the Lostant Grade School and the Lostant High School carrying both grade and high school students. These buses from Lostant now cover the territory in dispute and give very good service. The children going to Lostant schools do not have to change buses. The children in the Swaney High School District who attend the Swaney High School ride the bus to the Village of McNabb where they change buses to go to the high school. In bad weather, no shelter is provided for them to wait in unless they go in to the bank building in McNabb. The roads running through this territory east to Lostant are good gravel roads that are always open. There are times in the winter and spring when the roads running west from the territory to the Swaney High School are impassable. At times the Swaney buses did not operate when the roads were posted by the Road Commissioner, but the Lostant buses never missed a day. There are no restaurants or business establishments close to the Swaney High School, the closest business being a tavern about a mile from the school. Neither school has a hot-lunch program, but there are two restaurants about two blocks from the Lostant High School where quite a few children eat.

All of the residents of the disputed territory who testified were in favor of granting the petition. They all had children and they wanted their children to go to high school where they went to grade school, namely in Lostant. No resident of the disputed ...


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