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Randolph v. School Unit 201

MAY 18, 1971.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Mercer County; the Hon. GEORGE O. HEBEL, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied June 14, 1971.

This cause is before us as a result of an action seeking to force the defendant school district (School Unit 201) to provide bus transportation to plaintiff's children at their home at the end of a dead-end road which was from .4 to .5 of a mile from the through road where the children are being picked up. Plaintiff Curtis Randolph had two children who attended the school.

The defendant school district adopted a rule providing that the school district would not run their school buses on dead-end roads which were less than one and one-half miles in length. The plaintiff's children were picked up at an intersection of a dead-end road and the through highway which was .4 to .5 of a mile from the home where plaintiff's children lived. In plaintiff's action in the Circuit Court of Mercer County the exact nature of the action is not specified, but we have determined that it is in the nature of a mandamus action to force defendant school district to pick up the plaintiff's children referred to. At the hearing in this cause in the Circuit Court, evidence was offered by plaintiff that school buses of defendant school district picked up children of Robert Dunn, Hugh Nesbitt and a Mr. Lower, when they either lived on a dead-end road or where the road beyond their houses was not passable at all times. In these instances there was also evidence that the roads to the houses were either through roads or had been through roads when the pick-up station was originally established.

The problem before us, however, is specifically whether the action of the defendant school board in establishing the rule to pick up school children living less than one and a half miles down a dead-end road was arbitrary or capricious and invalid.

• 1 In the Illinois Revised Statutes (ch. 122, par. 29-3, 1969 Illinois Revised Statutes) it is specified that school boards shall provide free transportation for pupils residing at a distance of one and a half miles or more from any school to which they are assigned or attendance maintained within the district, and that for purposes of that act, "adequate transportation for the public" shall be assumed to exist for such pupils as can reach the school by walking one way less than one and a half miles irrespective of the distance a pupil is transported by public transportation. Within the framework of this statute, the school board may set up reasonable rules and regulations for operation of school buses in their particular districts. The statute does not require that the school district buses pick up every child who lives more than one and a half miles from school at his or her front door. The defendant school board, in the cause before us, established a rule that it would not operate school buses down a dead-end road which was less than one and a half miles long. We believe that this was a reasonable regulation and was not arbitrary or capricious.

• 2 As pointed out in the case of Lombardo v. Board of Education of School District No. 27, 100 Ill. App.2d 108, 241 N.E.2d 495, 498:

"We are not at liberty to interfere with the discretionary authority vested in the School Board absent arbitrary or capricious action."

While the Lombardo case involved a teacher dismissal action, the rule is applicable to the instant case. As we had also indicated in Ottawa Township High School District No. 140 v. County Board of School Trustees, 106 Ill. App.2d 439, 246 N.E.2d 138, the judiciary is ill equipped to act as a super school board in assaying the complex factors involved in determining the best interests of schools and pupils affected. That case involved a boundary change but the principle is still applicable.

Several problems are inherent in turning a large school bus around in a private driveway or dead-end road. Often in bad weather it could become stalled, as private driveways or dead-end roads are usually not as well maintained as through roads are. There is a concern that a dead-end road of less than one and a half miles in length will not, as a practical matter, be maintained as well as a through road, and at times when snow must be removed, through roads are given preference. There is also the problem of driving the bus back onto the through highway from the dead-end road. While there appears to be no Illinois case which has passed directly upon the reasonableness of such regulation, the courts of other states have upheld similar regulations as being reasonable (Flowers v. Independent School District of Tama, (Iowa 1944), 16 N.W.2d 570; 79 CJS, Schools § 481, Page 421). In the Flowers case referred to, the children walked .9 of a mile along a secondary road to catch a bus on the main highway. The court there stated that within reasonable limits and without unreasonable discrimination, the board may determine the route and the times and places for bus stops to receive or discharge passengers.

In the case of People v. School Directors of Dist. No. 108, 58 Ill. App.2d 282, 288, where a mandamus action was brought to force the district to provide transportation for children from a Sterling area to the Willow School, the court stated (at page 286):

"The suit was brought with reference to all children living in The Sterling Estates. It is not necessary for the litigants or the court to concern themselves under this suit with other children living in the district."

The issue before us is whether the school board rule was reasonable. Even if we consider the two instances which plaintiff cites as being discriminatory, it appears that there was evidence in one instance that there was a through road where the pick up was made, and, in the other instance, there had been a through road when the bus route was first established.

• 3, 4 Mandamus itself is an extraordinary remedy and one seeking the writ must show a clear right to it (Daniels v. Cavner, 404 Ill. 372). The mandamus action could not be used to control discretion that a board is properly exercising in adopting a rule such as the one in the present case. The school board had authority to determine the route and the time and place for gathering school children within reasonable limitations. We believe ...

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