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People v. Community High School Dist. No. 128

JULY 28, 1964.

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, ON THE RELATION OF W.C. PETTY, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF SCHOOLS OF LAKE COUNTY, ILLINOIS, APPELLANT,

v.

COMMUNITY HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 128, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, ET AL., APPELLEES, AND CONSOLIDATED HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 120, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. PHILIP W. YAGER, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

CARROLL, J.

This is a quo warrantor proceeding brought by the State's Attorney of Lake County on the relation of the Superintendent of Schools of that county attacking the legality of the organization of Community High School District No. 128 (referred to herein as District 128).

The complaint charges that all of the proceedings under which said District was organized are null and void; that Consolidated High School District No. 120 (referred to herein as District 120) is the duly constituted school district embracing all of the territory comprising District 128, the legal description of which is set out in full; and certain individuals were purportedly elected as the Board of Education of District 128 and without authority are exercising the powers and duties of such a Board over the territory described in the complaint. Both districts and the individual members of the Board of Education of District 128 were joined as defendants. All of the defendants answered. In substance the answer of District 128 and the individual defendants denied that the organization proceedings establishing the new district were null and void and averred that such district was legally and properly organized and that the individual defendants were duly elected members of its Board of Education. In addition to its answer District 120 filed a cross complaint against District 128 praying that the latter and the individual defendants be ousted from exercising any jurisdiction over the territory described in the complaint.

The Circuit court of Lake County heard the cause on the pleadings and a written stipulation of facts and entered judgment for District 128 and the individual defendants, holding that said district is the duly constituted high school district governing the territory described in the complaint; that the individual defendants are the duly elected members of the Board of Education of District 128 and ordering that the prayer of the cross complaint be denied. Both the plaintiff and defendant District 120 have appealed.

District 120 embraces, generally, Fremont and Libertyville Townships in Lake County, including the Villages of Libertyville and Mundelein. It has been operating two high schools, one in Libertyville and the other in Mundelein. The Libertyville High School is located in the territory described in the complaint the boundaries of which coincide with the attendance boundaries of District 128. On May 16, 1963 a petition was filed with W.C. Petty, County Superintendent of Schools of Lake County, signed by 128 legal voters residing in the territory described in the complaint, in which the said county superintendent, pursuant to the provisions of sections 12-1 to 12-4 of Article 12 of the Illinois School Code was petitioned to call an election in said territory for the purpose of voting for or against the proposition to establish a Community High School for the benefit of the residents of said territory. As required by section 12-4 of the School Code a copy of the petition was forwarded to the State Superintendent of Public Instruction for his consideration. He in turn filed a report in which he held the territory involved to be compact and contiguous and that the petition contained proper facts for submitting to the voters the proposition to establish a community high school in said territory. In addition the report dealt at some length with the financial problems which the proposed new district might encounter. Having determined the petition to be sufficient to meet the requirements of section 12-4, these and the additional observations of the State Superintendent would not appear to be pertinent to the issue we are called upon to resolve. An election was held October 26, 1963 with the following results: 1826 voted in favor of the proposition and 1205 against it. All those voting in the election were legal voters residing in the territory described in the petition. On October 28, 1963 the County Superintendent declared that as a result of the said election the territory described in the petition was duly created into a community high school district which he designated Number 128 of Lake County, Illinois. On November 23, 1963, the individuals named as defendants herein were elected as the Board of Education of said district.

The basic question involved in this case may be thus stated: Does the Community High School District Act (Article 12, sections 12-1 to 12-4 of the School Code) allow the inclusion of territory of an operating high school district within the boundaries of a new community high school district?

Section 12-1 of the School Code is as follows:

"Upon receipt of a petition signed by 100 or more voters residing in any contiguous and compact territory having a population of not less than 2000 persons and an equalized assessed valuation of not less than $6,000,000 based upon full, fair cash value as equalized or assessed by the Department of Revenue for the year immediately prior to the filing of said petition, whether in the same or different townships described in the petition and after compliance with Section 12-4, the county superintendent of schools of the county in which the territory or the greater part thereof is situated shall order an election to be held for the purpose of voting for or against the proposition to establish a community high school. . . ." Ill Rev Stats 1963, chap 122, 21-1.

That in establishing District 128 full compliance was had with the code sections 12-1 to 12-4 appears to be conceded by plaintiff. However, it is contended that the authority to establish a community high school as set out in said sections of the code may not be exercised where, as in this case, the territory involved is a part of an existing high school district. Plaintiff insists that under such conditions the applicable authority is that found only in section 7-1 Article 7 of the School Code. The portion of said section referred to reads as follows:

"New school districts lying entirely within any county may be created and the boundaries of existing school districts lying entirely within any county may be changed by detachment, annexation, division, dissolution or consolidation or any combination thereof by the county board of school trustees of such county when petitioned by the boards of each district affected or by a majority of the legal voters residing in each district affected or by two-thirds of the legal voters residing in any territory proposed to be detached from one or more districts or in each of one or more districts proposed to be annexed to or consolidated with another district. . . ."

That the procedure outlined in section 7-1 could have been followed in organizing District 128 is not disputed by defendants. However, they do not agree with plaintiff's theory that the power vested in the County Board of school trustees to create new school districts or change school district boundaries represents the exclusive authority to create a new community high school where it includes territory of an existing high school district.

Present in the controversy between the parties to this action are certain factors beyond the realm of argument which we think mitigate strongly against defendants' argument. The Community High School District Act was adopted in 1919. It has remained in full force and effect without change since its enactment. In plain and unambiguous language it grants authority to organize a community high school in any contiguous and compact territory having a population of not less than 2,000 persons and an equalized assessed valuation of not less than $6,000 (emphasis supplied). Admittedly there can be no argument concerning the meaning of such language. Hence we have a situation which leaves no room for construction by a court. Where words are plain and the legislative intention is manifest courts are required to give effect to such intention. Sup v. Cervenka, 331 Ill. 459, 163 N.E. 396; Downs v. Curry, 296 Ill. 277, 129 N.E. 761. It would also seem pertinent to note that when the School Code was rewritten in 1961 the language of said section 12-1 was not changed. If, as plaintiff argues, the territory upon which section 12-1 may operate must not include any part of an existing high school district we think it logical to assume that the failure of the 1961 legislature to impose such a restriction demonstrates a legislative determination that the method of establishing a community high school as originally designed required no modification. The history of school legislation in Illinois indicates no reluctance on the part of the legislature to change the procedures for creating school districts or altering the boundaries of the same. For example the Community Unit School District Act as adopted in 1947 contained the following: "Upon receipt of a petition signed by one hundred (100) or more legal voters residing in any contiguous or compact territory. . . ." (Section 8-9, c 122 Revised Statutes, 1947). These are the exact words which appear in the Community High School Act. In 1949 the legislature amended said section 8-9 by adding after the word territory the following: "no part of which is included within any community unit school district." We think the action of the legislature in changing the requirements of a petition under the Unit District Act is significant in considering plaintiff's contention that a court should read into the Community High School Act a restriction limiting the same to territory not included in a high school district. In People ex rel. Roan v. Wilson, 405 Ill. 122, 90 N.E.2d 224, the court was confronted with the identical argument advanced by plaintiff in the case at bar, where a new community unit district had been organized in 1948 under the 1947 Act. The validity of the organization of the new district was challenged on the ground that it took in territory contained in two existing community unit districts. It was argued that there should be read into the 1947 Act a limitation as to the territory to which it should apply. In rejecting such argument the court said:

"The very fact that in 1949 the legislature amended the School Code in section 8-9 to read: `Upon the receipt of a petition signed by 200 or more voters residing in any contiguous and compact territory, no part of which is included within any community unit school district' is indicative of the attitude of the General Assembly toward this Section. (Ill Rev Stats 1949, chap 122, par 8-9) It is obvious that the legislature knew that the very thing objected to by the plaintiffs here was possible under the plain meaning of the words contained in the section. Had it been as apparent as the plaintiffs contend that the section did not allow the action complained of here, the amendment of 1949 would have been unnecessary and worthless to add to, or detract from, the powers given by the act itself.

"It is impossible to understand any plainer meaning than that given by the very words themselves, that an election must be called by the county superintendent of schools upon the requisite petition being filed with him. Under these circumstances, and where there is no limitation given, school districts could be formed incorporating portions of ...


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