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SCOVILLE v. BOARD OF EDUCATION OF JOLIET TP. H.S. DIST. 204

July 19, 1968

RAYMOND SCOVILLE, A MINOR, AND MERRILL SCOVILLE, AS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND; ARTHUR BREEN, A MINOR, AND JERRY BREEN, AS FATHER AND NEXT FRIEND, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
BOARD OF EDUCATION OF JOLIET TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL DISTRICT 204, COUNTY OF WILL, STATE OF ILLINOIS: ARTHUR L. BRUNING, DAVID R. ROSS, HOWARD JOHNSON AND CLAYTON WINTERSTEEN, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Napoli, District Judge.

OPINION

On January 15, 1968, minor plaintiffs Raymond Scoville and Arthur Breen, 17 year old students at Joliet Central High School, distributed 60 copies of a 14 page mimeographed "literary journal", entitled "Grass High", to other students and faculty members at Joliet Central High School. A copy of "Grass High" attached as an exhibit to the complaint shows that it contained various editorials, poetry, motion picture and record album reviews, and miscellaneous anecdotes. One prominent editorial, entitled "My Reply," read in part:

  * * * The pamphlet started with a message from the
  principal, David Ross. This is logical because the
  entire pamphlet is supposed to be "The Principal's
  Report to Parents." In this article Ross states why
  the pamphlet was put out and the purpose it is
  supposed to accomplish namely, the improvement of
  communication between parents and administration. He
  has got to be kidding. Surely, he realizes that a
  great majority of these pamphlets are thrown away by
  the students, and in this case that is how it should
  have been. I urge all students in the future to
  either refuse to accept or destroy upon acceptance
  all propaganda that Central's administration
  publishes * * *

The editorial went on to criticize school attendance regulations as "utterly idiotic and asinine", and concluded that "Our whole system of education with all its arbitrary rules and schedules seems dedicated to nothing but wasting time." Elsewhere, the editorial accused the senior dean of the school of having a "sick mind." It is alleged in the complaint, and must be assumed true in passing on the pending motion to dismiss, that the distribution of "Grass High" created no disturbance which did, or could have caused, any commotion or disruption of classes at Joliet Central High School.

On January 18, 1968, minor plaintiffs were instructed not to report for their final examinations for the Fall semester, 1967/1968. On January 20, 1968, minor plaintiffs were told they could no longer participate in debate team activity. On January 22, 1968, minor plaintiffs were told that they were to be suspended for the first five days of the spring 1968 semester at Joliet Central High School. On January 31, 1968, minor plaintiff Scoville was removed as editor of the school newspaper. Thereafter, recommendations were sent to the Joliet School Board that minor plaintiffs be expelled from Joliet Central for the remainder of the term ending in June, 1968. Parents of the minor plaintiffs, including plaintiffs Merrill Scoville and Jerry Breen, were notified that expulsion of the boys would be recommended at a school board meeting on February 23, 1968; and that as parents of the boys they were invited to attend. The parents of the boys did not attend, but instead sent letters to the school board asking for clemency. At the Board meeting on February 23, a resolution was adopted, expelling minor plaintiffs from the day school at the high school for the Spring 1968 term. The Board found that the publication of "Grass High" constituted a public use of inappropriate and indecent language; a violation of established rules of the school district; a disregard of and contempt for the authorities charged with the administration of Joliet Central campus and the school district; an encouragement to disregard and disobey orders promulgated by the duly constituted authorities of the school and the school district; and an involvement of other students as parties to the preparation and distribution of "Grass High" who were in fact not parties thereto.

Thereafter, a plan was worked out whereby the boys attended night school at Joliet Central, where they were able to make up some, but not all, of the subjects they were formerly taking. They were also permitted to take their physics course, on a "probationary basis," at the day school. They were obliged to pay tuition for the night school classes.

On April 17, 1968, plaintiffs filed this action against the Joliet school authorities, seeking a declaratory judgment that the action of the school board was in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights; and seeking a permanent injunction against enforcement of the expulsion order. Plaintiffs contend that the expulsion order constituted a denial of the rights of the minor plaintiffs of free speech and free press; and that the expulsion order constituted an exercise of authority in excess of the power delegated to the school board by the State of Illinois.

Plaintiffs did not present their motion for a temporary restraining order until May 3, 1968. At various hearings on that date and thereafter, this Court has indicated its belief that some of the relief sought, in particular the request for reinstatement for the Spring semester, was moot, due to plaintiffs' delay in pressing the litigation here. Although minor plaintiffs will be readmitted to Joliet Central High School for the Autumn 1968/1969 semester, this cause is not entirely moot, since plaintiffs also pray for an injunction against defendants, to restrain them from communicating the substance of the events alleged to various colleges or employers to whom the boys may apply in the future; and for an order expunging from the records of Joliet Central High School any evidence of the occurrences alleged. Plaintiffs also seek incidental damages.

The sole authority cited by defendants for their actions here is Illinois Revised Statutes, Chapter 122, § 10-22, which provides,

§ 10-22. Powers of the Board.

    The school board shall have the powers enumerated
  in sections 10-22.1 through 10-22.34 * * *

§ 10-22.6 Suspension or expulsion of pupils

  (a) to expel pupils guilty of gross disobedience or
  misconduct, and no action shall lie against them for
  such expulsion. Expulsion shall take place only after
  the parents have been requested to appear at a
  meeting of the board to discuss their child's
  behavior. Such request shall be made by registered or
  certified mail and shall state the time, place and
  purpose of the meeting. The board at such meeting
  shall state the

  reasons for dismissal and the date on which the
  expulsion is to become effective.
  (b) To suspend or by regulation to authorize the
  superintendent of the district or the principal of
  any school to suspend pupils guilty of gross
  disobedience or misconduct for a period not to exceed
  7 days or until the next regular meeting of the
  board, whichever ...

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